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“It brings everybody together from far and near”: Community reacts to CrabFest cancelation

Published: Apr. 22, 2021 at 5:24 PM EDT
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WILLISTON, Fla. (WCJB) -CrabFest has decades of history in the East Williston community. The event came from a small community in the Lincoln Heights area of East Williston more than 30 years ago.

“I was about 11 years old when I learned about CrabFest,” said Germaine Thompson, a Levy County resident. “Crab fest started back in 1985.”

It’s grown since then into an annual event featuring music and vendors, now run by Kenuiel Gates. County officials said Gates never filed a permit for the event hence the court order to cancel plans. Recent years have had gun violence, a death in 2013 and according to the Levy County Sheriff’s Office, hundreds of people not from the area, disturbing the peace.

RELATED STORY: Court order halts Williston Crabfest

“The violence that comes into our community, into our East Williston community, and into their front yards they’re not people from Levy county,” said Levy County Sheriff’s Office Public Information Officer Lt. Scott Tummond. “Levy county is not opposed to having a cultural event, we’re opposed to the violence that it brings to our community and it brings to our citizens and how much safety concerns we have. It’s not just blocked roads, it’s gun violence and it’s drug violence.”

The festival is on a court-ordered temporary injunction filed by Levy County officials. It was granted by Judge Craig DeThomasis of the eighth judicial circuit.

“The venue is the issue. There are multiple places that we can have an event of this size that would bring safety to all those that decided to come. So let’s move it off of our county road right away and move it to a venue. I know that in the past, the Horseman’s park, Cornelius park and other areas that can accommodate crowds that normally come to the CrabFest event,” added Lt. Tummond.

RELATED STORY: ‘Put your guns away and be a person’, Levy County residents split on Crab Fest injunction

Gates said he’s not commenting on the CrabFest injunction. Although, people in East Williston said CrabFest is not about the violence that’s happened in years past but about coming together, once a year, as a community.

“It brings everybody together from far and near,” said long-time Williston resident, Short Dog. “And we’re a small community and it’s been going on for decades, maybe two.”

People in East Williston call CrabFest a homecoming and that the event initially was exclusive to people in the area. Thompson said his mother started CrabFest in Lincoln Heights back in 1985, only for friends and family.

“Because we got together to do a positive event.,” added Thompson. “People get around and they get to taste different vendors, listen to different music, dancing. And that’s what a gathering should be about. Positive influence, it should not be about violence but violence is everywhere if you think about it.”

Levy County Sheriff’s Deputies are planning checkpoints throughout the area of County Road 318, where CrabFest was scheduled, on Saturday.

RELATED STORY: Deputies and organizers call the 2019 CrabFest a success

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