Feeling crabby? It's the right time of year.
Across the county, tens of clubs and non-profits are firing up the butter warmers and steaming thousands of pounds of crab for all-you-can-eat feed fundraisers.
And for some county residents, attending crab feeds isn't just a charitable way to spend the evening. It's an outright hobby, with near-weekly crab feeds on their season schedule.
Crab feed aficionado Johnny Tafolla, of Denair, was never a big fan of seafood. But after attending a Denair Lions Club crab feed in high school, he was hooked.
"Being able to eat all you can, for $40 was just too good of a deal to pass up," Tafolla said. "You're able to eat it pretty much until you're ready to pop."
In college, Tafolla expanded his crab feed schedule, attending a crab feed every-other week in the season. He learned the different kinds of crab served, either cold or in an Italian-style cioppino stew.
"They're all good," Tafolla said. "I like crab now."
College friends started asking if they could tag along. Now, Tafolla rolls up to a crab feed with eight or 10 friends in tow, staking claim to a table themselves.
Tafolla will oftentimes work with planners in advance to ensure his group can secure the in-demand seats. As crab feeds are traditionally held from November to March, there are only a limited number of chances for crab crazies to attend, and many sell out.
Four crab feeds will be held in Turlock the remainder of this month alone, giving burgeoning crab eaters and crab fanatics alike a chance to eat their fill.
• The Police Athletics League will hold the 2nd annual Turlock PAL Crab Feed from 6 p.m. to 11 p.m. Saturday at the War Memorial, 247 E. Canal Dr. Tickets are $45 and can be purchased at Reed Reality, 5 E. Main St., FirstCal Mortgage, 319 Main St., or Turlock Parks and Recreation, 144 S. Broadway.
• The American Legion Post 88 will hold a crab feed at 6 p.m. Jan. 18 in the Legion Hall, 75 Bothun Rd. Tickets are $40, and are available by calling 634-4204 or 535-7542.
• The Turlock Firefighters Local 2434 will hold a crab and pasta feed from 5:30 p.m. to 10 p.m. Jan 19 at the War Memorial, benefitting the Random Acts of Kindness charity program. Tickets are $40 and can be purchased by e-mailing email@example.com.
• The Pitman FFA Alumni will hold at crab feed at 5:30 p.m. Jan. 25 at the Stanislaus County Ag Center Harvest Hall, 3800 Cornucopia Way, Modesto. Tickets are $45 per person and includes all you can eat cold, cracked crab, pasta and salad. Proceeds to benefit Pitman FFA members selling livestock at 2013 Stanislaus County Fair's Junior Livestock Auction. To purchase tickets, call Randee, Krista or Troy at 656-1592.
A few crab feeds have already come and gone. The Turlock Rural Fire, Kiwanis Club of Turlock, and Friends of the Stanislaus County Fair crab feed fundraiser held Saturday at the fairgrounds drew a crowd of about 350, up from the 200 attendees at last year's event.
"We've been looking forward to it for while," said Turlock Rural Fire spokesperson Steven Williams. "The support of the community is amazing."
This was the sixth year Turlock Rural Fire and the Kiwanis Club of Turlock teamed up for the crab feed, but the first year to bring aboard the Friends of the Stanislaus County Fair. In preparation for the growing number of attendees, firefighters traveled to the Bay at 3 a.m. Saturday to pick up 560 pounds of fresh crab and 240 pounds of shrimp.
There's more to a crab feed than just crab, however. There's usually dancing, with a DJ or a band providing music. Oftentimes, raffles are involved, raising additional money for the organization.
Crab feeds are an event, Tafolla said, that's enjoyable for all involved.
"The money's going to a good cause, and I get to have fun," Tafolla said.
But make no mistake: The main event of the evening is the crab.
While some feeds offer shrimp, pasta, salad, and rolls, the true diehards come prepared for the crab wielding sauce, limes, butter warmers, and personalized crab crackers and utensils.
"I don't know how they make money off of us," Tafolla said with a laugh. "We eat a lot."
- Kristina Hacker contributed to this report.