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NORTH BEND — Music, laughter and lots and lots of crab filled the North Bend Community Center on Saturday, Feb. 9 as hundreds of people showed up to celebrate the 35th annual “Crack Up” Charleston Crab Feed.

The event, which raises funds for the Charleston Visitor Center, featured about 1,000 pounds of crab bought entirely from Charleston fishermen in support of its community and local economy.

Volunteer Mel Campbell, who has been a part of the feed for over 20 years, said the feed is all about reuniting with friends, supporting one another and enjoying a delicious crab dinner.

“We’re here to promote Charleston,” said Campbell. “We bought all the crab at market price to let the fishermen know that we value them.”

Meat recovery testing conducted late last year showed crab had not filled up with enough meat to open the season as scheduled. As a result, the season opening was delayed later than expected and fishermen were halted from setting their gear.

Oregon Dungeness Crab Commission spokesman Tim Novotny, who emceed Saturday’s event, said having celebrations like the Charleston Crab Feed is a tremendously positive experience for communities and fishermen who rely heavily on the fishing industry.

“You get to see people come in with their big smiles enjoying themselves and the crab that our fishermen have worked hard on bringing in,” said Novotny. “It kind of puts everyone in a good, happy vibe and it’s a great way to start the season.”

In early January, re-testing of crab showed meat recovery rates had increased and areas north of Cape Arago opened up for fisherman to begin setting their gear.

However, areas south of Cape Arago toward the California boarder had remained closed due to domoic acid found in certain areas.

On Feb. 1, the Oregon Department of Fish and Wildlife and the Department of Agriculture announced those areas are now open. According to Novotny, so far over 11 million pounds of crab has been brought in throughout the entire state.

The Charleston Merchants Association, the Wild Women of Charleston and the Marshfield Key Club all participated and volunteered in Saturday’s crab feed. A number of Charleston businesses, local organizations and non-profit groups were also in attendance.

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Reporter Amanda Linares can be reached at 541-266-2039 or by email at amanda.linares@theworldlink.com.

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