Crawling crustaceans!

by Karen Janigan

Winter tourism might be a hard shell to crack, but the South Shore Tourism Cooperative believes they may have found the answer with a crustacean crawl.

The tourism group is sponsoring a winter celebration with more than 50 ways to love the lobster all along the South Shore from February 2 t0 19.

On offer are are least 13 different lobster rolls, scores of Sip and Savour experiences, lobster get-aways, sporting events, art, music, and more as resorts, restaurants, cafes, and pubs elevate the once lowly lobster to star status from Canada's lobster capital in Barrington out to Peggy's Cove.

There will be lobster beer and even a lobster fat bike race.

The first annual Lobster Crawl on the South Shore is more than just whimsy; rather, it's an intentional strategy to grow the Nova Scotia tourism market.

"We're reaching our tourism capacity in the summer season," said Donna Hatt, Chair of the South Shore Tourism Co-operative, who helped stitch together the Lobster Crawl with a year of hard work. "If we're going to grow the industry our goal is to have people look at Nova Scotia as a destination outside of summer.

"We have an incredible number of experiences available for folks in the winter," Hatt added, rhyming off art galleries and musical offerings as well as culinary experiences. This is year one of trying to open up the market to winter experiences and help local operators employ local people year round.

For the South Shore, the event is a natural. It coincides with lobster season in Districts 33 and 34 during the winter, where 40 per cent of all lobster landed in Canada is hauled out of the water.

And learning where food comes from is a growing tourism segment.

Join the two together and visitors gain a taste of the authentic lobstering life along with a good dose of Nova Scotia culture.

For those who aren't as comfortable with the spiny creatures and who may find cracking into a freshly boiled crustacean a little too daunting, the lobster roll provides a good introduction.

"We expect that the NS Lobster Crawl will become a number one premiere event for tourism," predicted Hatt. "We start with this year raising awareness within in a Nova Scotia audience. And they talk to friends and family and it grows from there. Tourism Nova Scotia needs product to market and the Lobster Crawl is working with industry to provide it."

To plan your Lobster Crawl experiences the group has launched an interactive map at www.lobstercrawl.ca with dates, times and contact information for the crustacean experiences.

Not leaving anything to chance, Tourism Nova Scotia is also bringing in food writers from around the world to get to know the winter lobster fishing and seasonal goodness, said Hatt. China will be an obvious market to bring buyers here as Nova Scotia lobster is well-loved in China.

"We've taken existing resources and captured them in a unique way to create a winter market," said Hatt.

The newest generation of culinary workers are also joining in the premier event. The Nova Scotia Community College Culinary Arts program in Bridgewater will be serving up its lobster roll with a Mediterranean twist (Lobster Vol au Vent) February 2, 8, 9, 15 and 16 as part of the Lobster Crawl at its restaurant Den and Friends.

Instructor Eric Matuchet said a winter event it will be good for his students as well as the restaurants and resorts that employ them and have to keep laying them off.

"It's very hard for the resorts and restaurants to keep open all year," he said in an interview. "Even if it's 10 or 11 it will still be better than the current 7 or 8."

He said it's all dependant on making the event an attractive tourist destination.

"I think its worth a shot," he said. "It may take two or three years to lift off; but if all the resorts and restaurants get on board with the lobster crawl it's doable."

Their lobster roll with be wrapped in puff pastry and sport the subtle anise taste of a touch of Pernod.

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