For decades, the J. Millard Tawes Crab and Clam Bake has been a midsummer “must” for anyone running for office in Maryland, with hundreds flocking to the town of Crisfield on the Eastern Shore. But things will be a bit different with the coronavirus pandemic interjecting itself months before Election Day.
Crisfield — which bills itself “The Crab Capital of the World” — in Somerset County, is the southernmost town in Maryland, located on the Chesapeake Bay.
“It’s a one-of-a-kind event that combines great food and schmoozing,” said journalist Bruce DePuyt, of Maryland Matters. “There’s a lot of politicians, would-be-office-seekers and former elected officials.”
Typically, the Tawes event is held in the hottest part of the summer — on a huge parking lot.
“Food is the main attraction. People enter through the gate and check out the food offerings,” said DePuyt.” They get whatever looks good and find a place to sit, or just stand, and talk and eat.”
The all-you-can-eat event includes fried fish, a raw bar, corn on the cob, onion rings, watermelon, beer and soda.
This week, the Crisfield Area Chamber of Commerce announced on its Facebook page that the Tawes event, which had been scheduled for July 15, has been rescheduled to Wednesday, Oct. 14 — less than a month before Election Day.
From a comfort standpoint, DePuyt is looking forward to the change.
“It’s usually very hot, very steamy, very humid, very sweaty and it’s pretty draining, frankly, to be on a parking lot for a few hours during the heat,” DePuyt said.
“After this period of isolation we’ve all had, if the event goes off on Oct. 14 and people are able to be with one another again, I think it’s going to be fantastic,” he added.
In most years, a candidate is able to exploit whatever inroads he makes in midsummer at the Tawes event for several months, until Election Day.
Does DePuyt think the “Tawes effect” will be less important this year, with a shorter duration between crabs and sample ballots?
“You know, in polarized times like these, I don’t think you sway many voters in an event like this,” he said. “But this is an important place, just to be seen, to pop-up on the radar and remind people that you’re around.”