But Grace is home to more than just architectural wonders. Lobsterfest, a community gathering where visitors can play games, hear songs and, of course, eat lobster, returns Oct. 26.
The spirit of Lobsterfest hasn’t changed over the 17 years since the event’s inauguration, but the size certainly has.
“The founders did all of the cooking from their home kitchens,” said Sherri Sumners, president of the Calhoun County Chamber of Commerce and chairwoman of Lobsterfest. The event swelled over the years, with bigger kitchens and a whole lot more lobster.
According to Sumners, Lobsterfest gets between 1,000 and 1,200 Maine lobsters each year, delivered live via refrigerated truck to the church, where they go directly into waiting stockpots. Then they’re served up whole on big platters, with the baked potato and cole slaw sides on separate dishes.
“It’s far too much to get on one plate,” Sumners said, not least of all because the lobsters at Lobsterfest tend to be a little large, around 1 ¼ pounds.
“We prefer to wait a little bit into the season,” said Dr. David Whetstone, deacon at Grace Episcopal. “If they molt, it takes a little while for them to fill out the new shell.”
Lobsterfest isn’t just about food, however — jewelry making, pottery, ceramics and arts exhibits give visitors interesting sights to see while bouncy houses and games keep the kids occupied. And to keep ears entertained Kelli Johnson, Jamie Smith and Tom Potts, Bill Adams and Taylor Adams will be playing live music from noon to 5 p.m.
Over the years, the staff at Grace has learned a few tricks to make the most of the event. Any leftover lobsters will be cooked and frozen to save for later. Not right away — everyone has usually had their fill of lobster the day after Lobsterfest — but soon after, the frozen lobster is cooked up and put to use.
“We end up serving it as a bisque at church meetings,” said Sumners with a laugh.
Lobsterfest is Oct. 26 from noon to 7 p.m. at Grace Episcopal Church on Leighton Ave. Lobsterfest offers both takeout and dine-in options, as well as live lobsters for those who’d like to cook at home. Meals are $22 and include lobster, baked potato, cole slaw, bread and tea — lobster by itself is $16 whether cooked or crawling. All proceeds go to Habitat for Humanity. Call 256-364-4457 to order in advance. Waiting until the day of the event is not recommended.
Benjamin Nunnally is a freelance writer in Jacksonville. Contact him at firstname.lastname@example.org.
Hints for home cooks
If you’ve decided to cook your own lobster, there are a few helpful tips to keep in mind:
1. Boiling lobster is surprisingly simple; just make sure your stock pot has enough water to submerge the lobster completely. Get the water to a rolling boil, hot enough that the water keeps bubbling even when stirred.
2. Leave the rubber bands on the claws until after the lobster is cooked. Those claws are stronger than they look, so why take a risk?
3. Boil the lobster for 10 minutes. Let steam clear when you open the pot, and be sure to use tongs to reach in and out of the water.
4. Eating lobster straight from the shell with drawn butter is great, but there are several other options if you’re feeling adventurous. Lobster bisque is a thick, creamy lobster soup; lobster rolls are like lobster sandwiches on grilled, buttered bread; or you can even make lobster macaroni or lobster pizza. There are plenty of recipes online to make the most of your crustacean cuisine.