A Maryland Tradition

One of my favorite afternoons during the year is the annual crab feast at the Baltimore Streetcar Museum. Held in July, it always seems to fall on one of the hottest weekends of the year. But, it matters not - Baltimoreans still come out for an occasion that is consistently satisfying. Held in the museum itself, the feast includes an unlimited amount of steamed crabs, plus sandwiches, salads and sodas. It's BYOB for adult beverages.

We have been regulars at this event for several years since another couple invited us to join them a few years ago. They bring their little girls along, mostly for the museum. Over the years, though, they have developed a proficiency for the Maryland tradition of picking crabs. You have not really picked crabs until you've been able to teach a child how to do it. I started picking crabs with their oldest. Now seven, this year she graduated from claws to full-blown crab-picking when she successfully pried apart the shells covering the crab's body. I got her younger sisters - age 5 and 3 - started on the claws. All three girls approach the claws with much enthusiasm, whacking their wooden mallets until the shells gave way and the claw meat could be picked out with their tiny fingers. It is not just about the satisfaction of being allowed to bang on the dinner table. While that is certainly an attraction, these girls are also fairly serious about the crab meat.

About an hour into the feast, the museum, provides rides on some old Baltimore streetcars. The cars have been restored and retain the advertisements from their era. The museum has restored cars from several generations, including one of the first cars they ran over 100 years ago to one of the last cars during the 1960's. A small line of track runs about a mile up the road. With bells ringing a driver provides historical details about the car, as well as the city during the time the car was on the rails.

Our favorite is one of the original streetcars. Made of wood, its benches run the width of the car without a center aisle. The sides are open for people to enter. As the car runs up the track, the evening breeze flows through, providing some gentler after-dinner relief. At the end of the line, everyone stands up and pulls the back of their bench over so that all the benches face the opposite direction. We all sit down again, and the streetcar heads back to the museum.

An ice cream truck arrives to provide a free cone for all. This tradition was started about five years ago when the crab feast fell on the birthday of one of the board members. It added to the festivities, so they kept it, along with a sheet cake decorated with the museum in sugar icing.

There is also a live band - a local act that plays top 40 from the seventies and eighties. There is definitely singing along, and even dancing, provided it is not too hot. This weekend, it was 103 in Baltimore. The band played a short set to a small crowd before everyone retreated indoors.

A silent auction of Baltimore memorabilia and a 50-50 raffle complete the evening.

The Baltimore Streetcar Museum is small and tucked away near the Baltimore River at the end of Falls Road where it empties into the city. It preserves the history of Baltimore's old streetcars and the impact they had on the city's growth and development. If you are in the area, it is worth visiting.

The Crab Feast is held every year in July.