Crawfish Festival Offers a Taste of the South

The star of the show is 3,500 pounds of fresh crawfish. Funds benefit Operation Northern Comfort

By Steve Yablonski

The 15th annual Crawfish Festival will provide Central New Yorkers a taste of the south. The event helps to promote and fund the work of Operation Northern Comfort, a 100% volunteer organization based in Liverpool.

The Syracuse Crawfish Festival is a fun, family friendly event held the first Saturday in May in the heart of downtown Syracuse, Clinton Square, according to Laurel Flanagan, CEO, Operation Northern Comfort.

This year’s festival will be held from 11 a.m. -– 7 p.m. on Saturday, May 7, with 100% of profits earned to fund future ONC projects.

It holds the bragging rights of being the first festival of the season, offering authentic Cajun music, lively dancing, crafters, vendors and an endless assortment of delicious food otherwise only offered on the Gulf Coast.

It is organized and executed by the nonprofit, Operation Northern Comfort. The group of skilled volunteers works tirelessly year-round to serve the needs of the community, Flanagan said.

Approximately 3,500 pounds of crawfish are sold during the festival.

The bands booked for 2022 include The Confabulateurs, Soul Risin’, Ripcords and Brass Inc.

There will be just over 50 crafters and vendors.

The festival has free admission. It includes a kids’ area where children will enjoy face painting, a magician, wood working activities, games and kid-friendly food options.

New this year, there will be an acoustic performance tent that will feature local musical artists.

“We are proud to present more than 50 small business crafters and vendors who will offer their products and creations for sale. DJs from our local radio station will introduce the bands and the annual Mascot Dance Off, where Syracuse’s favorite mascots will compete for the title of best dancer,” Flanagan said.

The star of the show, she added, “is our fresh crawfish and shrimp flown up from the Gulf Coast the day before our festival and prepared by our Louisiana-trained boilers.”

Event-goers are offered the unique experience to talk with boilers and learn the proper way to eat crawfish. There are also opportunities to indulge in authentic Cajun cuisines, including crawfish bread, crawfish mac and cheese, jambalaya, gumbo and beignets. Attendees may choose from regional favorites, including Hofmann’s hotdogs, Gianelli sausage, pulled pork and New England clams. Nine local food trucks will feature their specialty drinks and dishes.

Helping those in need

This festival acts as a fundraiser to provide operating dollars for ONC’s mission, “empowering and giving hope to those in need.”

The roots of ONC, originally known as “Operation Southern Comfort,” were planted following the devastation of Hurricane Katrina in 2005; a small group of brave Central New Yorkers donated their time and energy to travel to New Orleans and aid in the cleanup effort, Flanagan said.

Since then, there have been 63 trips to provide relief to areas devastated by natural disasters.

“The individuals behind ONC pride themselves in their projects, including five home rebuilds, 70 ramp installations and hundreds of home improvements,” Flanagan said. “Most recently, ONC began the Desks4Kids Initiative, which saw 1,300 desks built for children in need of a home work space for school following the pandemic, as well as Bookshelves4Kids, a literary initiative to provide children with books and bookshelves. Our goal is to continue providing services for our community and develop new projects in accordance with the needs of our local people.”

Oswego County specific projects that ONC has done include: Two wheelchair ramps installed in Phoenix, two wheelchair ramps in Volney, one wheelchair ramp in Central Square, one wheelchair ramp in Pulaski, 50 desks delivered to Altmar- Parish- Williamstown schools and a storm door installed in Mexico.

The work is all done by ONC volunteers at no charge to the recipient, Flanagan added.

Featured image: Fresh crawfish flown up from the Gulf Coast the day before the Syracuse festival.