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Astoria Warrenton Crab, Seafood & Wine Festival offers the best of the Northwest

Clown Bread still a crowd favorite at annual event, taking place April 27–29

By Heather Douglas

For Coast Weekend

Published on April 26, 2018 9:13AM

Crabfest enthusiasts at the 2012 event

Courtesy Astoria-Warrenton Area Chamber of Commerce

Crabfest enthusiasts at the 2012 event

Dungeness crab

Courtesy Astoria-Warrenton Area Chamber of Commerce

Dungeness crab

Byran Fitzgerald, left, and Jessy Ferguson, right, pose for photos with a giant inflatable crab at the Astoria Warrenton Crab, Seafood & Wine Festival in 2016

Joshua Bessex photo

Byran Fitzgerald, left, and Jessy Ferguson, right, pose for photos with a giant inflatable crab at the Astoria Warrenton Crab, Seafood & Wine Festival in 2016

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The famously delicious Clown Bread

Courtesy Astoria-Warrenton Area Chamber of Commerce

The famously delicious Clown Bread

A tub of crab meat

Courtesy Astoria-Warrenton Area Chamber of Commerce

A tub of crab meat

A mainstay event at Crabfest is the crab dinner hosted by the Astoria Rotary Club.

Courtesy Astoria-Warrenton Area Chamber of Commerce

A mainstay event at Crabfest is the crab dinner hosted by the Astoria Rotary Club.

Wineglasses decorated with crab art

Courtesy Astoria-Warrenton Area Chamber of Commerce

Wineglasses decorated with crab art

Merrymakers enjoy Crabfest 2012

Courtesy Astoria-Warrenton Area Chamber of Commerce

Merrymakers enjoy Crabfest 2012

Buy this photo

Courtesy Astoria-Warrenton Area Chamber of Commerce


Clown Bread, the Astoria Clowns’ flavorful phenomenon, is no laughing matter.

The Clowns have served the decadent treat to long lines of devotees for a quarter century at the annual Astoria Warrenton Crab, Seafood & Wine Festival.

Clown Bread features local Bornstein’s crab or shrimp, French bread from Home Bakery in Astoria and a closely guarded if-they-tell-you-they-have-to-kill-you mixture called “Clown Sauce.”

Bill Landwehr, a 20-year veteran of Astoria Clowns, has been slinging Clown Bread for decades: “We have them waiting in line before the festival even starts,” he said.

Landwehr is one of more than 150 vendors that make the festival one of the Columbia-Pacific’s don’t miss events of the year.

Hosted by the Astoria-Warrenton Area Chamber of Commerce, the 36th annual event will be held at the Clatsop County Fair & Expo Center (92937 Walluski Loop) Friday, April 27, through Sunday, April 29.


Best of the Northwest


The festival has expanded since its early days at the Port of Astoria in the 1980s. Vendors now include wineries, breweries and a distillery, about 80 arts and craft vendors, packaged food vendors and fresh food options, including some for attendees who don’t enjoy seafood.

“People come back again and again because they love everything the festival has to offer and we really feel that it showcases the very best of the Northwest,” said Kelsey Balensifer, the Chamber’s event coordinator.

The festival has resolved to feature only Pacific Northwest-based vendors. “We favor people that handcraft their own,” Balensifer said. “We want to give artisans an opportunity to interact with the public, and we think it’s a unique experience to interact with the person who produced it.”

The festival will also host two stages with local and regional music groups — 16 bands total during the weekend. Shuttles will be available to transport festival goers to and from chamber member hotels.


Eat and drink


The festival — which pulls in upwards of 16,000 visitors from Portland, Seattle and across the country — has a wealth of food options.

On Balensifer’s list of don’t-miss items: fish tacos, fish and chips, fish dumplings, crab mac and cheese, seafood gumbo, and crab and shrimp cocktails.

Her favorite? A puff pastry crab pocket with sour cream dill sauce. These come from Cafe’ de la Rue, based in Scappoose.

Another festival favorite is the “Crab Rangoons,” made by Pacific Crab Company out of Seaside. Chef Rhenee Mady and David Farrell, owners of Pacific Crab Company are no stranger to long lines.

“We’re doing Dungeness crab legs salt-and-pepper-style this year,” she said. “The idea comes from a famous Chinese street food. Half a crab is cooked, coated in salt and pepper, along with some other top secret ingredients. It’s just delicious. It will be served with our house made mango slaw.”

Ted Johnson, owner of Catman Cellars a winery in Newberg, credits the festival for bringing great wines to the coast.

“I think we’re in an era of renaissance for the Oregon Coast,” he said. “Astoria epitomizes that: the sense of adventure, culinary diversity, arts, crafts. It’s a very exciting era for our coastal communities.


A sucker for Clown Bread


Astoria Clowns, a nonprofit organization, is able to pay for much of its yearly operating expenses with festival profits. The organization allocates a portion toward scholarships for three Clatsop Community College students each year.

In fact, the Clown Bread is the Astoria Clowns’ biggest fundraiser of the year.

“We’re the most popular booth there and have been for decades,” Landwehr said. “On Saturday before the festival even opens, we have a line that goes back as far as you can see, and we don’t get the line caught up until 7 at night.”

Balensifer plans to snag some Clown Bread before the lines get too long. “A toasted cheesy melt with sauce and topped with crab? I’m a sucker for it,” she said.











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