It all started with an idea for something different, something that would capture the attention of the locals, so the small club could do some good in the community.
Mike Broussard and Elijah Heath, two founding members of the FishHawk Riverview Rotary Club, found inspiration in Broussard’s roots. Why not put on a crawfish boil? Nobody else in this area was doing it and Broussard, having grown up in Cajun Country, was intimately familiar with the tasty crustaceans.
They could not have known how hugely successful the event would become in just two years.
Now, it’s time for that third annual Crawfish Festival at FishHawk Ranch and the club expects to order more than 2,500 pounds of crawfish, all based on advanced ticket sales.
Tickets for the event are $15 and must be purchased by May 10 to ensure a steaming heap of crawfish, corn and potatoes will be waiting for those arriving at Park Square on May 18.
“It’s been crazy. We’re already ahead of advanced ticket sales from last year,” said Club President Christopher Jones. “Last year, we sold over 2,000 pounds and we expect to do even more this year.”
The festival has grown extensively since that first year, Jones said.
“Last year, we even had inquiries from Miami and Orlando,” he said. “Word is getting out about what we’re doing and who is doing it.”
Broussard owned his own restaurant in Austin, Texas for five years and is the man behind the boiling cauldron of crawfish. Again this year, as in the past two years, his parents, Bonnie and Johnny Broussard, will leave their home in Erath, Louisiana in Vermilion Parrish and travel all day to reach FishHawk Ranch the day before the event.
“I’ve been on the phone checking with my supplier already, to make sure we’ll get everything we need,” Broussard said. “Probably the most feed-back I’ve gotten is about how it’s the most authentic crawfish festival anywhere around.
“That part of Louisiana where I grew up is the Cajun heartland. I grew up around crawfish boils. And owning my own restaurant … I have a lot of experience cooking for large crowds.”
And there will be a large crowd, Jones said.
Tickets can be purchased online at www.fishhawkriverviewrotary.org or at 4 Paws Veterinary Clinic, 9430 Balm Riverview Road in Riverview, and Mara Shaughnessy Law Offices, 16132 Churchview Dr., Lithia.
Last year, the Rotary club, through its foundation, was able to donate $20,000 to local charities like Emergency Care Help Organization and for scholarships for Newsome, Riverview and Spoto High School students, Jones said.
Children who bring a non-perishable food item to the festival get a free hotdog. The club will donate the canned goods and other necessities to local food banks, Jones said.
Some 100 volunteers, including the 35 FishHawk Riverview Rotary members, make the event happen, Jones said.
“There are a lot of repeat volunteers,” he said, “because we really have fun doing this.”