What do you get when you mix a concert with blue crabs, carnival rides, fireworks, community vendors and craft booths? The Palatka Blue Crab Festival of course! We packed up for a day of fun and adventure over the Memorial Day Weekend to checkout this historical community event located right on the St. Johns River. This is a three-day event that hosts all sorts of things including live music, fireworks and more.
We loaded up the family along with a small cooler of drinks. Before we left town, we stopped at Subway to we could “pre-eat” at the festival. It’s one of my general rules for food festivals to keep it frugal. It turns out those there is a Subway literally right in the middle of the festival, so next year we won’t need to pack ahead of time. We drove around downtown Palatka for quite a bit looking for parking, but eventually found a free spot. There where businesses and organizations that charged anywhere from $5 to $10 for private parking, but there are ample spots, just depending on how far you want to walk. We scarfed down our lunch in the car as we arrived around 1pm and slathered on the sun screen! In retrospect next year, we may either eat the local Subway or if we do a picnic lunch head over to Ravine Gardens State Park to enjoy some lunch at a picnic table before we go to the Palatka Blue Crab Festival. We would probably feel less rushed and would have had a great time at the gardens.
Being a new visitor to the Palatka Blue Crab Festival, we didn’t really know what to do or where to start, so we just sorta started walking torwards the riverfront. There was an entire streets cape filled with crag vendors and local artisans selling everything from marshmallow shooters to really cool outdoor furniture. There was a great mix of local and out-of-town talent peddling their wares. At about every street corner, there were food vendors selling all sorts of yummy smelling treats, drinks and more. The prices were reasonable for a street fair, and bottled drinks were being sold for around $2 all across the Palatka Blue Crab Festival. Not too bad, as many of these booths were fundraisers from everything from the Boys Scouts to local civic organizations.
As we made our way to the riverfront, the two kiddos were focused on the Ferris Wheel! We got closer and closer to the rides and to our surprise the ride lines were empty! It was walk on, walk off kinda service. It was nice actually because the rides were close together, there weren’t tons of people packed into such a small area. Of course they had standard carnival games but was surprised at just how happy the carnival workers were. Usually we see at these community events pushy salesman who guilt trip you into trying to win a stuffed banana or other minimally priced prize you’ll be stuck carrying around all day, but at the Palatka Blue Crab Festival, they were very respectful, and took no for an answer. I’m not sure if they had issues with this in the past, but everyone seemed to be having a good time, patrons and employees alike. The cost of the rides were $3 or more, so it could really rack up. We were happy to see though that the Palatka Blue Crab Festival offered $20 all you can ride bracelets. Obviously if your little ones want to go on all the rides or do the slides multiple times, a wrist band would be the way to go. Unfortunately the ferris wheel didn’t accept the bands and cost $5 per person. Surprisingly this was really the only ride my niece and her friend were really interested in so we didn’t get the wristbands. Again in another example of the type of mood the employees were in, my sister paid for the ride, and the gentleman was kind enough to mention that if the girls weren’t tall enough to ride, he would gladly refund her money. They were just above the minimum height requirement so we didn’t need to put his offer to the test. While we were waiting for the girls to ride though, we did see a family get a full refund. We thought this was a nice touch and really set the Palatka Blue Crab Festival apart from some of the other carnivals we have been to. Now that’s what I call service!
So at this point we had been walking around the Palatka Blue Crab Festival for quite some time, and stopped to get some drinks. It was really hot outside, but the river breeze felt good as we sipped on some cold stuff. Something I had never been to a festival were drinks under $1. That’s right, there were a few booths selling sweet tea for $.75 a cup! Yepp, less than a buck. They also had a special where you could buy a jug for a few bucks and get free refills all day. We found this to be an incredible value and I happen to love sweet tea, so it was a good fit.
We were expecting a petting zoo at the Palatka Blue Crab Festival, as I thought their website had mentioned something about it, but sadly there were no animals to pet. There were however some very well-behaved dogs on leashes throughout the event. I would consider the Palatka Blue Crab Festival to be pet friendly, but would stress caution, that most of the event takes place out in the middle of the street where there is very little shade throughout the day. While you certainly can take Fido along for the ride, you probably shouldn’t. At the very least be sure to bring plenty of water for your four legged friend.
Running parallel to the riverfront of the Palatka Blue Crab Festival, I took little man to see the memorial to the USS Tang. I’ll be honest, I didn’t realize the historical connection and even after researching it, I’m not quite sure what the connection to Palatka is. I suppose there need not be any reason other than being thankful that a memorial should exist. Right in the middle of the Palatka riverfront park is a striking memorial to the USS Tang where visitors can see a replica of a WWII submarine torpedo and stop to take a few moments to honor those lives lost during WWII. I did some research and the USS Tang was quite a formidable opponent in WWII, with five battle tours and plant of damage done to Japanese shipping. On her final day, she fired her last torpedo which circled around and struck the USS Tang herself. A handful of men were rescued including the skipper and they suffered greatly at the hands of their rescuers. Many of the Japanese were survivors of previous attacks of the USS Tang and were now the captors of these brave men. Because of the often times emotional and physical scarring of surviving an attack during war time, the survivors were beaten severely. It’s interesting how the Palatka Blue Crab Festival many years after WWII actually enlightened me to our own history. This type of discovery is why we pursue Frugal Florida Fun, to experience new things with our kids.e live entertainment tent, and found lots more local business vendors who were participating in the festival and found everything from pocket knives to hats being sold at very reasonable prices.
After the memorial we finally made it to the live entertainment tent and the star of the Palatka Blue Crab Festival: the Blue Crabs! On the way to this area, we also saw the local church handing out FREE water. It wasn’t bottled water or anything, but I was glad to see that people were linen yup to stay hydrated. It was also a great community service to the Palatka Blue Crab Festival. There were multiple food trucks that had various blue crab dishes, like crab cakes and steamed crab. There was definitely an emphasis on this delicious ingredient! While many of the food prices were reasonable, just a single blue crab alone was $5, or $25 for a half-dozen steamed crabs. To me this seems a bit high, but locally we have a restaurant that hosts an all you can eat Blue Crab Feast for only $18.95. I suppose if you were to have one to sample, it wouldn’t be too bad, but you probably wouldn’t want to come with a huge appetite for Blue Crab. Other entrées throughout the festival were anywhere from $5 to $8 which is about standard at many of the festival we have seen.
Even being on the river font, the Palatka Blue Crab Festival was a very hot location. The entertainment tent, was setup like a big circus tent and was probably the coolest place for blocks! We just stayed on the outskirts, but found that the shade and the breeze made this a great place to stop and take a break. We had a chance to listed to some great live music which was really good. I couldn’t tell you who the band was, but it seemed almost perfect. The tent itself muffled some of the music so it wasn’t blaring throughout the festival, and there were plenty of seats and tables to hang out at. This too would have made a perfect place to break out the picnic basket.
So what was the final word on the Palatka Blue Crab Festival? I would certainly go again next year as I thought it was a great value for my family. I would either pack a picnic lunch and hang out by the riverfront or enjoy a meal at the entertainment tent in the shade or even checkout the local state park instead of eating in the car. In addition I would make sure to bring my little guy’s wagon next year. We covered quite a few city blocks and without a stroller he did great! Because they offered an unlimited ride option, I would treat this like I do most of the county fairs we attend, and use this as a learning experience for little ones and the value of money. $20 isn’t too terribly expensive to cover to cost, but find this to be a great financial goal for kids to help then learn about the opportunity costs of entertainment. Since there weren’t any lines, they would get an awesome value for their money! I’ll be listing the Palatka Blue Crab Festival under both FREE and moderately priced listings, as it all depends on how you plan ahead for this event. Since there is no admission you are free to bring your own lunch and enjoy some great vendors, and music at no charge, or spend a few dollars on drinks, rides, and some delicious looking food! We would love to checkout the fireworks next year at the Palatka Blue Crab Festival which are usually Saturday night. Memorial Day itself even hosts the annual local parade, so be sure to plan accordingly.
Palatka Blue Crab Festival Details:
|Date(s):||Memorial Day Weekend||Time(s):||Varies By Day|
|Estimated Cost For A Family of 4:||FREE up to $60|
|FREE admission, $20 ride bands, and $20 in food/drink included above.|