Crawfish Festival draws a crowd to the Red Mile

kward1@herald-leader.comMay 11, 2013 

Brad Rusk is a welder by trade, but on Saturday night he was stirring a boiling pot filled with 150 pounds of crawfish, onions, lemons and plenty of seasoning.

"I'm 41 years old," he said. "Been boiling crawfish all my life."

Rusk and a buddy left their homes in Louisiana late Thursday afternoon and drove all night to Lexington in a pickup truck with a bed full of ice and 1,500 pounds of live crawfish.

It didn't take long for Lexingtonians to eat them all at the First Annual Crawfish Festival on Saturday at The Red Mile.

The event was organized by Bayou Bluegrass Catering, Bourbon n' Toulouse and Regard Law Group.

"I'm so excited that they started this," said Myrna Hebert Miller, a Louisiana native who now lives in Danville. "You have to get it fresh. ... You don't get boiled crawfish here."

Miller, who said her family owns a sugar cane farm and also raises crawfish, twisted the head off a crawfish and sucked the juicy meat from the tail.

"If they're cooked good, it just slides right out," she said.

Miller was overjoyed to meet fellow Louisianans everywhere she turned, and she said live music added to the fun atmosphere: "It spells party before you start."

Matt Falcone, owner of Bayou Bluegrass Catering, said that for several years he did a similar event at Keene-land, but it was primarily for horse owners, trainers and jockeys.

He said he brought in 3,000 pounds of crawfish for those crawfish boils, and when the decision was made to stop holding them, "everybody just screamed and yelled."

So, he and some friends decided to give it another try with a public event at The Red Mile.

Cathy Smith, a native of New Orleans who lives in Lexington, said coming to the crawfish boil was her Mother's Day present.

She and her family went through 8 pounds of crawfish — $50 worth — in short order.

"It was well worth it," she said, noting that her lips were numb from the spices. "I don't know who's doing the cooking, but it's fabulous."

At 7 p.m. — just two hours into the seven-hour festival — Jenn Moore, who was helping with the event, ran over to Rusk and his crawfish vat.

"We're all out," she said. "Is there any ready?"

Rusk dumped out the last vat of boiled crawfish. There was no more to cook.

Scores of people were still in line, and cars continued to pour into The Red Mile.

"We were hoping to run out of crawfish — just not this early," said Moore, who works for Regard Law Group.

The crawfish boilers filled a now-empty vat with hot dogs, and Bourbon n' Toulouse brought in more jambalaya, chicken étouffée and such.

"We've got lots of catfish," Moore said, smiling. "We've got music and beer and catfish."

Karla Ward: (859) 231-3314. Twitter: @HLpublicsafety

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