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Blacktip Island Easter Crab Hunt Slated For Sunday

Easter crab

Blacktip Island residents were busy this week collecting land crabs to dye for Sunday’s Easter Crab Hunt. (photo courtesy of B.C. Flote)

Blacktip Island’s children will crowd the Heritage House grounds Sunday afternoon for the Caribbean island’s annual Easter Crab Hunt.

“It’s a tradition from generations ago that teaches kids foraging skills,” organizer Doris Blenny said. “We dye land crabs bright Easter colors, dump them on the lawn, give them a five-minute head start, then turn the kids loose.

“Only four children live on the island, so it doesn’t have much impact on the crab population,” Blenny said. “Plus, we use water-soluble food coloring that doesn’t harm the crabs. And non-colored crabs don’t count.”

The hunt is not without its hazards.

“A kid’ll get pinched every once in a while, but that just toughens them up,” Hunt Marshal B.C. Flote said. “It’s part of the learning process. And they won’t make that same mistake twice.

“We fit the smaller kiddos out with oven mitts and baseball gloves,” Flote said. “It’s a hoot watching them run around in their Sunday-best clothes, diving willy-nilly for crabs under the sea grapes.”

Prizes will be awarded to whoever collects the most crabs and whoever finds the biggest crab.

“The biggest challenge is keeping the crabs in the Easter baskets,” Blenny said. “Last year several children lined five-gallon buckets with plastic Easter grass. No crabs got out, but afterward it was impossible to separate the crabs from the grass, and some good chocolate got ruined.”

Adult residents are looking forward to the hunt as well.

“It just isn’t Easter without it,” resident Olive Beaugregory said. “My little ones so love getting together to dye the crabs the night before. And you should hear them scream as they chase the crabs. Even before anyone gets pinched.

“They love seeing Dermott dressed as the Easter Crab, too, handing out the chocolate crabs,” Beaugregory said. “Even if Mr. Crabby does smell a bit like feet. And rum.”

As ever, island authorities cautioned residents to be on guard against crab-related vandalism.

“Every year we get folks – kids and adults – slipping painted crabs inside peoples cars and houses,” Island Police Constable Rafe Marquette said. “It’s the only time of year people lock their doors and windows. Those crabs can be a messy surprise.”

The traditional Easter Crab Hunt will be followed by the traditional Easter Crab Boil.

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Blacktip Derby Aims To Polish Its Tarnished Image

Krabb Kakes, the 7-5 favorite in this year’s Blacktip Land Crab Derby, in his Blacktip Downs stable.

Krabb Kakes, the 7-5 favorite in this year’s Blacktip Land Crab Derby, in his Blacktip Downs stable.

Sunday marks the 39th annual Blacktip Land Crab Derby, featuring three-year-old thoroughbred crabs from every stable on Blacktip Island as well as international crab farms.

The Derby is the final race in land crabbing’s unofficial Triple Crown.

Organizers of this year’s Run For the Sea Grapes have instituted sweeping changes to restore the race’s image, sullied in years past by allegations of crab-doping, extortion and race fixing.

“It was mooks from the big island muscling in,” Derby chairperson Ledford Waite said. “Popping crabs with phenylbutazone. Rattling trainers with vats of drawn butter.

“This year we’ve sprung for extra muscle. Banned known gamers from the venue. Upped our drug and cholesterol testing to guarantee a clean race. Takes a while to rebuild a reputation, though.”

Island police have stepped up their presence as well.

“Wagering on the Derby won’t be tolerated,” Island Police Constable Rafe Marquette said. “We’ve loads of plainclothes officers in the crowd this weekend. If you place a bet, odds are you’ll be caught.”

Off-track and internet betting has proved impossible to stamp out.

Krabb Kakes is this year’s favorite with 7-5 odds, but will face stiff competition from Scuttlebutt, winner of last month’s Breeder’s Cup, at 8-1, and Fanny Wigglesworth, the Tiperon Stakes winner, at 9-1.

As ever, each crab is required to carry a cockroach jockey affixed to its carapace.

“Last year, Up Yer Address had a record time, but was disqualified for finishing without his rider,” trainer Marina DeLow said. “We suspected foul play, but nothing could be proven. That flypaper was awfully dry, though.”

Trainers with brooms will line the racetrack to ensure all crabs stay on the course.

“Your heart races hearing the scuttle of all those exoskeleton feet on the asphalt oval,” said racing enthusiast Wendy Beaufort. “There’s no other event quite like this. Anywhere.”

A crowd of several dozen is expected to pack the infield and lawn chair seating, traditionally dressed in their finest cargo shorts and sleeved t-shirts.

“Folks dress to the nines for this,” Ledford Waite said. “It’s the first gala fête of the season. Last year some folks even showed up in shirts with collars and buttons.”

Traditional Derby mojitos will be served throughout the day.

The post-race dinner will feature a Caribbean crab rundown, crab Rangoon and fresh crab legs courtesy of the losing crabs, Waite said.

“Losers provide the food? Hell, the losers are the food.”

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