In early spring, when the weather grows warmer and the rain picks up across southern Louisiana, the farmed and wild crawfish that grow there reach a perfect balance of size and flavor.
Whether you call them crayfish, crawdads, crawdaddies, ecrevisse, mudbugs, or crawfish, these small lobster-looking freshwater crustaceans reach their peak around then in Louisiana, which produces up to 95 percent of the nation’s harvest.
Crawfish season in bayou country generally runs from November into early summer, but spring time is prime time. By Easter, farmed and wild crawfish are abundant through the Southeast region, including restaurants and markets across Alabama.
But while crawfish is a popular protein for those observing Lent, most Alabamians really don’t need much of an excuse to fill a plate, pop out some tail meat to eat, and then repeat. No surprise, then, that April is the month for crawfish-themed festivals across Alabama. Whether or not you opt to suck the crawfish heads is your choice.
Mudbugs and Margaritas Festival (Foley)
While food vendors dish crawfish, multiple lines at the adult-drink stand help keep the margaritas flowing. Fairhope Brewing beers (as well as wine) also are available. Entertainment includes Johnny Cash and Tom Petty tribute bands, with a farm animal beauty contest (enter here) scheduled between those two musical acts. A kids’ zone includes a petting zoo and bounce house. Adults can browse vendors’ arts, crafts, and home décor items. Tickets available online are $5 each plus fee, or $15 plus fee for four tickets. Children 12 and under get in free. The festival at Heritage Park is open from 10 a.m.–7 p.m.
Ozark Crawdad and Music Festival (Ozark)
The 17th festival is set for 9 a.m.–6 p.m. on the Square in downtown Ozark. The music, featuring four bands, starts at 10:30 a.m. Crawdaddies (and shrimp; try the boils) are the preferred option when it comes to food, but Sonic fans can enter a hot-dog-eating contest sponsored by the drive-in restaurant. Activities for children, arts and crafts booths, plus an antique show are part of the lineup as well. Admission is free.
Autism Mudbug Ball (Montgomery)
Nicknamed the “MudBug Ball,” this delicious event inside Riverwalk Stadium benefitting Easterseals Central Alabama is in its 19th year. All-you-can-eat crawfish—they’ve got 3,000 pounds—plus local bands and crawfish-themed souvenirs are on the agenda for the boil, set for 12 p.m. until 3 p.m.—or when the mudbugs run out. General admission tickets are $40 at the gate (online sales of “Early Bug” tickets end March 13); VIP tickets sold online ($75) include early entry, reserved seating, and a swag bag. Children’s meal and drink are $10 for ages three and up. To-go bags of the boil—three pounds of crawfish, potatoes, sausage, corn, and seasonings—are $35, available for pickup from 11 a.m.–1 p.m.
3R and Deep South Rodeo and Crawfish Festival (Jemison)
Where else could you watch some rodeo bronco bustin’ and let the kids do a little mutton bustin’ themselves—all while chowing crawfish? Why, that would be the 3R and Deep South Crawfish Boil Rodeo, partner. Lasso up some grub from food trucks, watch the cow pokes show off their riding and roping skills, and enjoy family-fair activities at Rays Arena on Alabama 191. Contact Deep South Rodeo for admission information. Gates open at 3 p.m. each day.
Waterway Village Zydeco and Crawfish Festival (Gulf Shores)
The good times get rolling with a Friday-evening concert by the legendary Rebirth Brass Band of New Orleans. Musicians playing zydeco, arts and crafts vendors, and children’s activities highlight Saturday’s events, which start with a 5k run. Arts and crafts vendors open at 9 a.m. and the crawfish pots are fired by 10 a.m. They’ll have tons of crawfish (word is some 15,000 pounds), so come hungry. Admission is free to the festival (tickets for the Friday concert are $29). The area around the festival on East 24th Avenue will be closed to traffic; free shuttles run until 6:30 p.m. from the Erie Meyer Civic Center, Meyer Park, and Gulf Shores First Presbyterian Church.
Hope for Autumn Foundation Crawfish Boil (Hoover)
The fundraiser to help children with cancer and their families is in its 16th year. Set for 3 p.m.–9 p.m. on Grand Avenue in the Ross Bridge community, the ticketed event includes all-you-can-eat crawfish, along with burgers, hot dogs, and other food. Bands will perform while children’s activities include bouncy houses, balloon animals, and a kids’ DJ dance party. Shuttles are available from the Shades Creek Pool and Hampton’s Pool. The Hope for Autumn Foundation provides financial help for affected families, supports cancer research, and increases awareness of childhood cancer. Admission information has not yet been announced.