Sunday's ideal weather was doubtless a factor in drawing what may have been the biggest crowd ever to the 20th annual Lowcountry Cajun Festival.

It was a perfect spring day on the green grass at James Island County Park, with cloudless blue skies and temperatures in the low 70s.

It was the culmination of a busy spring weekend that also included the Flowertown Festival in Summerville and the Cooper River Bridge Run from Mount Pleasant to Charleston.

Ruby Godley and Matt McChesney of James Island said they have been coming to the festival for years, and it was the biggest crowd they had ever seen.

"We love the Cajun Festival," Godley said. "It is absolutely our favorite thing to do. We look for it all year long. This is the beginning of the summer season to go hang out with your friends and get out in the sun, and we love it. I think this is the biggest crowd ever."

"The beer lines are definitely longer," McChesney said.

Festival organizers estimated the crowd at 9,000 late in the afternoon.

Last year about 6,000 people came out under cloudy skies.

Hundreds waited in line to sample fried alligator and spicy shrimp and crawfish, to name a few of the dishes.

JJ Caillier & the Zydeco Knockouts of Lafayette, La., and Lil Pookie & the Zydeco Sensations of Opelousas, La., kept the crowds dancing near the stage. Children's rides were set up at the other end of the green.

John Rowe, a Bosch engineer, came out with his family for the first time in seven or eight years. He said the weather was too good to pass up.

"It's a lot bigger than it used to be, maybe too big," he said. "We tried to catch up with some friends, but the crowd is too big to catch them."

Ann Spann is over from Russia for a master's program in accounting at the College of Charleston. It was the first time she had eaten Cajun crawfish.

"I think they're pretty good," she said. "They go well with the beer."

Then there were those who just wanted to show off how many crawfish they could peel and wolf down in 30 seconds. Craig Browdy of West Ashley downed 24 to win the annual contest. He won a Gold Pass to the park and a half-hour massage at Health Source.

"I know crustaceans," Browdy said after the event. "The secret is to eat them two at a time."

Carolyn Haggerty of Summerville was the only woman to make it to the final round. She ate 21.

"I like a good eating contest as long it's seafood," she said. "The technique is to break them fast and kind of push them against your teeth and squeeze, because it was hard to get a grip on them because they were soft this year."

Reach Dave Munday at 937-5553.