Camp Caylor holds 3rd annual Crawfish Fest
By BRITTANY FHOLER
Camp Caylor held its third annual Crawfish Fest Saturday afternoon, serving at least 100 pounds of boiled crawfish to the dozens of people who came out despite the cold temperatures.
Due to the weather, the owners of Camp Caylor were delayed in returning, but the Crawfish Fest still went on, with manager Donovan “Donny” Garland, in charge of cooking the 100 pounds of crawfish with sausage, potatoes and corn on the cob. Last year’s festival saw 250 pounds of crawfish boiled before they sold out.
Garland said he served in the Army for 10 years and was a regular at Camp Caylor before he eventually began working there. Originally from Michigan, Garland said he learned how to boil from a friend in the Army who is from Thibodaux, Louisiana. The recipe he uses for the crawfish boil comes from them, he added.
In years past, Camp Caylor has used crawfish ordered from Toupsie’s, that comes straight from Louisiana; however, this year, they were unable to order from Toupsie’s and purchased the live crawfish from H-E-B.
After having to postpone for one week due to the weather, Camp Caylor’s owners made the decision to continue on with the Crawfish Fest but instead add a second day, when the weather warms up.
Due to the colder temperatures and rain this past weekend, the Crawfish Fest was moved inside the tents for the day on Saturday.
Saturday’s Crawfish Fest was one activity available for Copperas Cove residents to celebrate the start of the Mardi Gras season.
“We are in crawfish season, so one, everybody loves crawfish,” Garland said. “It doesn’t matter if you’re up in Washington State, you’re down in California, you’re in Michigan or wherever on the East Coast, crawfish season is crawfish season. Everybody likes crawfish, so when we’re in season we’re going to make sure that we can get crawfish so that we can provide that local crawfish festival to everybody around, so they don’t have to travel all the way out to New Orleans or they don’t have to go all the way out to Dallas or Houston to try and get crawfish. They can either right here in their backyard.”
Due to the colder temperatures, the crawfish, potatoes, corn and sausage boiled at a slower rate than usual, which led to some delays and a waitlist developing. Despite the wait though, people chowed down on their crawfish as soon as it was ready.
Lakota McGehee attended the Crawfish Fest with family, bringing her husband’s grandmother, Erma Henry, out to have crawfish in honor and remembrance of her husband who had passed away. His birthday would have been Monday.
“He always ate crawfish,” McGehee said. “He’s the person who taught me and got me addicted, so it’s kind of a rememberable occasion.”
This was the first time out at Camp Caylor for Erma but not for McGehee and the rest of their table. They enjoyed the live music and the drinks offered as they ate their crawfish.
Garland said that when he heard feedback on the flavors, it made him feel good as a chef.
“When you’re not getting complaints as a cook, that kind of hits you right in the feelings,” Garland said. “It makes you feel good that you’re doing your job, and I love to cook and when I get compliments that the food’s good.”
Garland said that it’s especially meaningful to have compliments on the food after the people have had to wait longer than expected.
“For them to be excited and come let me know that the food is amazing, that really lets me know that I’ve done a good job,” he said.
The Crawfish Fest returns for one more day on Saturday, March 5, from 2 p.m. to 7 p.m. at Camp Caylor. Tickets are $5 just to enter and $15 for entry plus the crawfish plate. The plate comes with a pound of crawfish, corn on the cob, sausage and red potatoes, with a small serving of the homemade seafood dip. Additional crawfish is available for $10 per pound.
“Compared to what we did today on a cold day, I can see us doing a lot more next weekend, so if people want to come out, we’ll get them taken care of,” Garland said. “The best way to make sure that we’re going to have crawfish is to order online, because then we know that those tickets are paid for. We know those people want to come get crawfish, so we can order accordingly, so we can start earlier and have that food ready for that mass amount of people.”
Garland added that he hadn’t been expecting a large crowd this past Saturday due to the colder temperatures, so he only brought three coolers to put the crawfish boil in after it was cooked. Within 30 minutes of starting on the first batch of crawfish, around 70 people walked in through the door, he said. Staff went and picket up more crawfish to accommodate.
Camp Caylor is located at 146 County Road 4814, Copperas Cove. Tickets can be purchased at campcaylor.simpletix.com or at the door.