Crowds crazy for crustaceans traveled to Nova Scotia’s South Shore in February as lobster lovers crawled a’board the inaugural Lobster Crawl in the middle of lobster season — a first for not only Nova Scotia but world-wide. Testing the appetite for a winter festival in the midst of the the province’s longest lobster season (zones 33 and 34,) organizers were overwhelmed by the insatiable appetite for not only dining on lobster, but lobster inspired art, events and experiences.
From going viral with its ‘Lucy the Lobster’ shadow-chasing crustacean on Groundhog Day within less than 10 hours to hosting the inaugural Lobster Roll Challenge crowning Capt. Kat’s Lobster Shack with the ‘2018 Best Lobster Roll’, the South Shore Tourism Co-operative is thrilled with the results of its pilot project.
As home to the Lobster Capital of Canada, the South Shore Tourism Co-operative has birthed what is destined to be a signature experience and game changer for Nova Scotia, in the middle of winter.
Donna Hatt, Chair of the Co-operative and a tri-chair of the Lobster Crawl says the event exceeded all their expectations. “Our industry partners and communities offered an impressive menu of nearly 60 events over the 18-day event in February. Not only did we achieve our goal of demonstrating that there are many places and shops to dine at and explore in winter along the South Shore, we also confirmed our belief that our traditional, productive and savoury lobster industry can be key to growing winter tourism here on the South Shore.”
Creator of Locke’s Island Lobster Wool and owner of Becky’s Knit & Yarn, Becky Williams loved the concept of the Lobster Crawl and decided to host special Crawl events at her shop in Lockeport. With hopes that it would attract a few more customers to her door, she was delighted with the results. “From start to finish, not only did I see my regulars come enthusiastically through the doors due to the hype and excitement of the Lobster Crawl, I had a steady flow of new customers coming into my shop easily doubling my sales for February,” says Williams. She also noted that the event resulted in new business connections and demand for new hand-knitted lobster-themed items that she’ll be introducing for the 2019 Crawl.
As a participating Lobster Crawl Restaurant, Deb Melanson at the Port Grocer in Port Medway jumped onboard the Lobster Crawl immediately. As a part of the lobster fishing community, they’d introduced a lobster roll featuring fresh lobster from the wharf just down the street. She’d hoped it would help generate some incremental business in February. “While we’d expected the locals to pop in, which was welcomed, we were overwhelmed by the number of new customers who arrived admitting they were on the ‘Crawl’ and wanted our Lobster Roll,” says Melanson, adding that the boost in business meant they had to make many trips to the wharf to keep up with demand, which they did happily.
The success of the Lobster Crawl was the same for Peter Richardson at Peggy’s Cove U-Cook Lobster who used the opportunity to showcase his business and introduce a new product. During the ‘Lobster Roll Challenge,’ Richardson announced that his entry marked the first lobster roll they had ever offered, and based on reactions from the Challenge Judges and audience, he says it’s a keeper for his menu.
While the majority of participating businesses are open year-round, they used the Lobster Crawl as a theme to leverage for their winter activities. Others like the Quarterdeck Beachside Villas and Grill that operate their restaurant seasonally opened in February just for the event. Stephanie Miller-Vincent says they’d been wanting to test the waters for winter business. Tying in an Artist in Residence program paired with a limited lobster-infused menu was the perfect excuse. “We were thrilled with the response to our events, the two weekends we opened, we were hopping!”
Reports of businesses crawling with insatiable appetites for lobster resulting in higher than anticipated demand have been heard from Capt. Kat’s Lobster Shack, Lane’s Privateer Inn, White Point Beach Resort, 27 South, the Den & Friends at NSCC, Atlantica Oak Island Resort, the Grand Banker and Kiwi Café. Lobster-infused Craft Beer created by Saltbox Brewery and Hell Bay Brewery flowed steadily at their shops and in watering holes all along the South Shore as well, adding another first to the list for the region.
From her office in the Lobster Capital of Canada, tri-chair member Suzy Atwood of the Municipality of Barrington says the Lobster Crawl elevated not only the spirits of the businesses with the spike in demand in the middle of winter, it raised awareness that the South Shore is home to the most productive lobster fishery in Canada. It’s an industry that kicks off the last Monday of November and carries on until May 31. “Everyone seems to know Nova Scotia has lobster in the Summer, but few seem to realize that it’s available in winter. On the South Shore, we not only enjoy the longest lobster season the province, many say it’s the best, sweetest tasting lobster in Nova Scotia,” says Atwood.
Joanne Cooper, General Manager at Best Western Hotel and Conference Centre in Bridgewater echoed the same sentiments as her tri-chair members adding that the momentum for the South Shore Lobster Crawl has motivated the Co-operative to undertake an even more focused strategic action planning program to grow the event. Cooper says: “We’ll work to further strengthen the region’s market-readiness for winter tourism as a means to effectively contribute to Tourism Nova Scotia’s goal of double revenues from the sector by 2024 as challenged in the One Nova Scotia Report.” She adds, “It’ll be a delicious endeavour.”
With reports of Lobster Crawl withdrawal already rolling in, the South Shore Tourism Co-operative has confirmed appetites will once again be satisfied February 1 – 18, 2019 when the region hosts the 2nd Annual South Shore Lobster Crawl. Until then, organizers look forward to savouring Lobster Rolls at a variety of restaurants that have decided to extend their offerings throughout the winter and plan to join in the festivities with Lobster Fishermen at the Shelburne County Lobster Festival in June following the close of the lobstering season.