The competitors raced in different directions, clawing and hurtling ahead of one another. As the winner inched across the finish line, the crowd erupted in a roar. The contestants were not humans, nor horses or even frogs, but hermit crabs. The setting was not an arena, but a wooden table at Little Woodrow's in Katy.
Following the success of their turtle races, Little Woodrow’s expanded with Crab Racing Fridays at their EaDo bar. The event at the Katy location began this summer and continues through the fall. The quirky competition brings some liveliness to an otherwise tame Friday night.
Starting at around 8:50 p.m., customers choose a hermit crab based on a list of names and biographies. The crabs are christened with punny names like “Lenny Crabitz” and “Al Pinchino” and given detailed biographies (Tommy 2 Claws previously participated in the family business of underworld seahorse racing and then came to live on the Titanic). Some have decorated shells that match their personalities. I chose Snappy, a crab with a bad temper but an industrious work ethic.
At 9:30 p.m., the competition begins. General manager David Kemper repeats instructions multiple times to a tuned-out crowd that becomes even more unruly as the night wears on. A bottomless bucket of hermit crabs is placed in the center of a ring painted on the table. After a countdown, the bucket is lifted, and the crabs race against time and each other to be the first to cross the ring.
Hermit crabs move faster than you might expect. They’re eager to escape confinement and speed ahead. That is, everyone except Snappy. My poor hermit crab sat in the center of the ring cowering in her shell through all three rounds, presumably dead. After it became clear that she wasn’t going to move, I chose to root for Nigel through the next two rounds.
Nigel turned out to be a good bet for the second round, because he scuttled his way across the ring before Dr. Claw, the first round’s winner. Each hermit crab has to cross the ring twice before being declared the winner, so each round requires several competitions. The other crabs posed a threat, climbing over one another and snapping. But the greatest threat to the hermit crab is himself: a few crabs either sit in the same place, move sideways, or dawdle around.
Meanwhile, the (very drunk) crowd got louder and louder, cheering on their crabs by name. While the man next to me loudly moaned for the loss of Snappy, there was intense competition between the groups rooting for Scooter and Dr. Claw. And as the victors were crowned, the crowd went wild.
Then it was back to the container for the tiny armored crustaceans, until the next race.