Shrimp Fest to start Peanut Fest today

Published 12:00 am Thursday, October 6, 2005

For one night, Raleigh Isaacs could stop thinking about re-election. Having to fix up 5,000 pounds of shrimp in the span of eight hours can do that to a sheriff.

&uot;This is a lot of work,&uot; said Isaacs Wednesday night at the Suffolk Executive Airport, part of a group that fixes up the crustaceans for this afternoon’s Shrimp Fest, sponsored by the Suffolk Ruritan Club. The event kicks off the 28th annual Peanut Fest.

&uot;I started this about eight years ago,&uot; said Isaacs, who’ll go for his fourth term this fall against Timothy Mallory. &uot;People know where the shrimp is cooked. This is the same crew every year, so they know what to do.&uot;

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It was like a culinary assembly line; one person handed Isaacs a metal bucket of shrimp, and he placed it into a pot of boiling water. After a few minutes, someone removed it and cooled it off in a jug of icy water. The shrimp was then dumped onto a tray, separated, seasoned with Old Bay, and placed in a plastic bag in a cardboard box. Soon, it would be refrigerated until this afternoon.

A 10-year veteran of shrimp preparation, Woody Kessler helped pour out the seafood.

&uot;I like the fellowship,&uot; said the veterinarian. &uot;It’s a chance to give something back to the community.&uot;

Dan Babiy’s duties were a bit more tasteful.

&uot;I’m going to see the Rolling Stones in Charlottesville Thursday, so I won’t be able to come to the Fest,&uot; he said. &uot;I’m quality control – I taste one shrimp from every batch!&uot;

Last year, the Fest raised roughly $35,000, and all of it went back to the community. The Ruritans gave almost $19,000 in scholarships to Suffolk students, and donated to causes such as the Suffolk Red Cross, Meals on Wheels, Sickle Cell Anemia Society, Boy and Girl Scout troops, the Genieve Shelter and the Suffolk News-Herald’s Cheer Fund.

Co-chairman Henry Boswell, heading up the Shrimp Fest with Jimmy Franks, said he expected to raise about the same amount this year. The event begins at 3 p.m., and Island Boy, the Rhondels and Southern Blend will rock the place. Tickets are $35 at the gate.

Elsewhere at the Airport Wednesday, workers put together rides, games and small shops for the thousands expected to attend.

&uot;I heard that it was a great festival,&uot; said Beverly Hills (really her name!), stacking up hats for her Rhinestone Cowgirl shop. &uot;We came all the way from Beverly Hills, Calif. to be in this. Everyone’s been great, and we’re lucky to be here. I can’t wait to try the peanuts!&uot;