The threat of rain cut attendance in half at the 23rd annual Lowcountry Cajun Festival Sunday.
It was not the best news for the Charleston County Parks and Recreation Commission, which looks to the festival at James Island County Park as its biggest moneymaker. Organizers reported attendance at 4,143. That's less than half of the more than 9,000 people who came out last year, when it was sunny and warm. Admission was $10 a ticket.
The Cajun Festival was the culmination of a weekend that drew tens of thousands people outside for the Cooper River Bridge Run from Mount Pleasant to Charleston, the Family Circle Cup on Daniel Island and the Flowertown Festival in Summerville.
The National Weather Service sent out a tweet at 3 p.m. Sunday that temperatures were in the mid- to low 60s, noting that was 20 degrees cooler than 24 hours earlier. Skies were gray Sunday, and a light drizzle fell a couple times at the park.
That's the bad news. On the other hand, the rain was not really that much of a factor for those who did come out.
"I think it's great weather," said Jeff Widener of West Ashley. "It's better than having the sun beat down on you."
The ground was dry enough in the afternoon for Justa Debnam of Wadmalaw Island to sit on while she downed a plate of crawfish.
"We were determined to come," she said. "I grew up in Mobile, Ala. This is what we used to have at birthday parties."
One spot where the crowd was as big as ever was in front of the stage for the annual crawfish-eating contest. The usual number of contestants - eight for each of the six heats - signed up to see how many crustaceans they could suck down in 30 seconds. The throng in front of the stage cheered as loud as ever.
Mike Thompson of James Island, a 48-year-old bike shop mechanic, said he has entered the contest every year since it started and has finished in second place almost every time. First prize has always been a Gold Pass, a year's free admission to any Charleston County park.
Thompson finally won this year, with 26 crawfish. He got a hat. No Gold Pass this year.
"I finally win and I get a hat?" he asked whoever might be listening.
Reach Dave Munday at 937-5553.
Mike Thompson of James Island finally won the annual crawfish-eating contest, to find out the prize was a hat instead of a Gold Pass this year.×
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