More than a ton crawfish is hitting the road Saturday to help families cope with autism.
“I’m calling it ‘The Year That We Did It Anyway,’” said Stefania Jones, event chair for the 16th annual Autism Crawfish Boil.
Because of coronavirus restrictions, this year’s boil has been reconfigured from the usual street party into a drive-through only event in front of downtown Montgomery’s Riverwalk Stadium, the home of the Montgomery Biscuits baseball team.
“I’m just really grateful that the Biscuits were willing to support us,” Jones said. “Also, several of our sponsors stayed with us.”
Jones said they’ll have 2,400 pounds of crawfish bagged up for sale, plus the sides – corn, potatoes and sausage.
“This is just new territory,” Jones said. “It’s uncharted. We don’t really know what to expect, but we’ll keep selling it until it’s gone.”
As always, this event is a fundraiser for the autism programs at Easter Seals Central Alabama.
“We’re their largest fundraiser for unrestricted giving, which these days is so important,” Jones said.
Because this is a drive-through only event, they won’t be able to offer beer or have any of the event’s usual live music.
“Hopefully next year we’ll be back in business, doing things the old way and have all the fun and music, beer truck and all that good stuff, out there” Jones said.
When, where & how much
The crawfish boil was originally scheduled in April, but had to be delayed because of the virus. Anyone who bought VIP and Early Bug tickets ahead of time for the originally-scheduled event is invited to come through the drive-through starting at 11 a.m.
At noon, the line will be open to everybody else who would like to buy. Jones said it’s fine to pay on site Saturday. The plan is to have the line running until 3 p.m., or until they sell out.
Jones said they’d have two side-by-side drive-through lines going one way down Tallapoosa Street in front of Riverwalk Stadium. The lines will begin a couple of blocks away at the intersection of Columbus and North Lawrence streets.
“That’s where our people will be getting everyone into the correct lines,” Jones said.
The lines should move through fairly quickly, Jones said.
“Once you get past Court Street, and you’re right in front of the Biscuits stadium, that’s where we’ll have people coming up to the cars, taking their orders,” Jones said. “It’s just going to be a matter of how many bags do you want.”
For $20, you get a bag of crawfish that’s 4 to 5 pounds, plus a separate bag that has all the sides.
T-shirts are also available for $10.
“Once you hit the roundabout at Tallapoosa and Coosa streets, you’ll be able to exit,” Jones said.
All customers will get individually-wrapped hand sanitizing wipes.
Along with buying crawfish, direct donations will also be accepted.
“We’ll take them day of as well,” Jones said.
They’ve reduced the number of volunteers to about 50 for this year, and all of them will be wearing masks and gloves. They will also have hand washing stations and hand sanitizer.
“We have tried throughout this process to make sure that we’re being responsible, and not doing anything that’s going to put anybody in any kind of danger,” Jones said.
Jones said volunteers come from across the country to participate. The majority of them are on the cooking team, which will be set up on the sidewalk in front of the stadium so drivers can see them in action. Jones urged drivers to wave and yell thanks at the team.
“They run a really tight ship,” Jones said. “It takes a lot of people to run all 16 of those pots.”
What it’s for
While nonprofits like Easter Seals are able to receive grant money, those funds are often earmarked for certain programs. Funds from the crawfish boil are different, because the money to be used where Easter Seals needs it.
“The only thing we ask is that it be used for autism services,” Jones said. “Nobody knows better than they do what they need.”
Jones said she’s hoping the amount they donate isn’t going to be affected much by the change in the event. While they’re serving fewer crawfish, this year’s event has fewer overhead costs than the usual all-day street party.
“I say every year that I’m shocked by the generosity,” Jones said. “I should be used to this by now, but every year it shocks me a little bit more. It just warms my heart that, no matter what, we have such great supporters.”
For more information, go to eastersealscentralalabama.org or visit @mudbugball on Facebook.
Contact Montgomery Advertiser reporter Shannon Heupel at email@example.com.