Print Crawdads draw crowds to town
Written by Mark Lineberger   
Wednesday, 09 June 2010 01:00
As the sun went down, the people arrived in downtown Camp Verde for a little taste of the Cajun life in the desert.

A native of Metarie, La., Village of Oak Creek resident Tom White talks about eating crawfish earlier this year in his home state while chowing down on a big plate of the freshwater crustaceans at the Camp Verde Crawdad Festival on Friday, June 4. Before sitting down to eat himself, White helped several people at his table figure out how to crack open the crawdads. The annual Crawdad Festival has become a Camp Verde tradition over the past several years, but for many of those years, the town was the chief sponsor.

Tight budgets caused the town to pull out of sponsoring local events, but the Verde Valley Rangers Sheriff’s Posse stepped up once again to make the event a success.

Last year, the posse worked with the town to keep its right to sell beer at the festival. A money maker, beer sales help the rangers establish a fund for public service projects throughout the year.

It was smooth sailing this year, as the rangers had everything in place to pull off a memorable festival. The group went a step beyond this time around when it came to giving back to the community. The rangers offered thousands of dollars in cash and prizes to lucky winners of a raffle held both nights of the festival, Friday and Saturday, June 4 and 5.

Friday night, around 600 to 700 people showed up, according to organizer Kirk Smith.

“We had a good crowd,” Smith said. “Everyone seemed to be having fun.”

While the smell of cooking crawdads and shrimp dominated the ramada where visitors were chowing down, a fresher selection of the festival’s namesake arthropods were spending time at the bottom of a tub of murky water. Young Bryan Peoples was among several children doing his best to put an end to their relaxation. Peoples was crowded around the tub with a fishing rod in hand, baited with just a bit of hot dog.

“I’ve caught four already,” Peoples said.

He was lucky to have an expert on hand. Peoples’ dad, Sam Peoples, calls Glendale home. But he was raised in Louisiana, and is no stranger to catching the critters.

Hot dogs may work fair to middlin’ for catching crawdads in Camp Verde, but back in Louisiana, Sam Peoples used to use bacon to draw the critters out. The fact that crawdads seem to enjoy pork products aside, Sam Peoples said the trick is in keeping a steady hand.

“You’ve got to keep it steady,” Peoples said. “If you jerk your hand too much they won’t come out.”

His methods were seemingly on the mark, if his son’s record was any indication.

While the festival was a family-friendly event, the organizers still made an effort to keep a little Louisiana in the atmosphere. Right at the gate, the rangers were handing out beads, masks and other bits of flair for folks to get into that “laissez les bon temps rouler” spirit. And the good times did indeed roll as folks enjoyed a meal and a cold beverage listening to Aces ’N’ Eights, a regional band that knows how to draw a crowd.

There was even a costume contest just to make sure everyone was in the mood.

“It’s been fun,” said Sandy Walsh, visiting the Verde Valley over the weekend on a getaway from Phoenix. “We couldn’t pass up some good eats.”