Looking back at 20 years of Crab Fest

Crab Fest has certainly grown over the years, and the community have come to embrace the festival as a highlight on their calendar.

In 2018, locals will mark 20 years of the iconic festival. 

Ever wondered where the event all started?

Well it originally developed from a community festival called the Kanyana Carnival.

For those of you who can’t remember the event, festival was held in Mandurah for thirty years.

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Numbers attending the Kanyana Carnival started to decline, so the City of Mandurah worked to develop an annual festival for the city that would encouraging awareness and visitation to the Peel area. 

After brainstorming ideas for a unique event, the City of Mandurah decided to base the festival on the much-loved activity of crabbing. 

The event is so unique, it can even claim the title of Australia’s only crab-inspired festival.

The final decision came after a significant consultation period with local residents and businesses.  

From there the event was marketed to Mandurah and the broader region.

Developed in 1998, the committee managed to hold the first event in 1999. 

From these humble beginnings with 3,000 people attending, Crab Fest has grown to become WA’s largest free regional event, attracting more than 120,000 people.

Year by year quirky facts:


The main event of the Crab Fest weekend, “the Great Crab Competition”, offered participants over $7,000 worth of prizes.


The main festival arena was in Hall Park (and remained ticketed), with Mandurah Land Sales offering a door prize for two adults to win a trip for two to San Francisco.


The community became heavily involved through the Mandurah Forum Water Fantasy Parade. Entrants dressed in their favourite costume and paraded down the Promenade. Mandurah Forum held workshops for children to make their own costume, and the parade was $1 to enter, with all proceeds going to Telethon.


Attracting over 30,000 attendees, the third annual Crab Fest was a hit! The City removed the ticketed aspect of the event, making Crab Fest free for all to attend.


The fourth Crab Fest event introduced the Celebrity Bed Race, racing hospital beds down the foreshore. Teams were made up of Peel Thunder football players, Channel Seven and local celebrities. This year an art element was introduced with Bush Art exhibiting over 33 local artists. Each piece had never been displayed before, offering attendees an exclusive opportunity to view new art and crafts.


The event heavily focused on crab and seafood, with the development of the Food and Wine Pavilion and from then was considered a major regional festival in Western Australia, attracting about 40,000 people.


The date of Crab Fest was originally scheduled for the third weekend in February, however, in 2004 the event date changed to March. This change in date proved a success, with an estimated attendance figure of 70,000.


It is estimated that up to 80,000 people attended Crab Fest in 2005. The signature event Opera on the Bay presented by Cedar Woods Pty Ltd, was revitalised and changed to Jazz, with James Morrison performing at the Mandurah Performing Arts Centre over the Crab Fest weekend.


Crab Fest introduced more of a fine food and wine aspect, with the introduction of a gourmet concert event at the Mandurah Performing Arts Centre. Hosted by celebrity chef Bart Beek, and the Melbourne Essence Food Team, the evening combined an onstage cooking demonstration, with Bart preparing a four course meal, plus wine, fused with accompanying music by Melbourne band, Lighthouse.

Almost half of the Mandurah population attended the event this year. A whopping 84 per cent of attendees felt the Crab Fest is an important part of life in Mandurah.


The 97.3 Coast FM Festival Street Parade continued, with an amazing fireworks display, and water ballet from 9:00pm on the Saturday.

Top chef Bart Beek demonstrated the joy of outside catering with a two day cooking competition in 2007 that saw entrants cooking on state of the art barbecues. First prize was the barbecue.


Celebrating 10 years, the 2008 Crab Fest was expected to attract over 65,000 attendees. This number was easily reached, with a record 90,000 attendees over the event weekend! This year also saw the introduction of the sustainability partner for Crab Fest, Mirvac, who worked with the City of Mandurah to plant nearly 6,000 trees to offset some of the carbon created by the event.


This year introduced helicopter rides, water taxis, a scuba tank, and a world record attempt at a pontoon muster.


There was a variety of water activities including harbour estuary races and paddle board races, as well as a hole-in-one competition thanks to the Cut Golf Course Pontoon.


Was an exciting year for Crab Fest, with the introduction of Action Sports Games; showcasing the talent of some of Australia’s most talented sports stars in freestyle motocross, wake boarding, skate boarding and BMX riding.


Saw a record attendance of 120,000 local, national and international visitors. This year also saw the introduction of the EYRES Action Sports Games Mandurah International Water Ski and Wakeboarding Federation’s first ever World Cup stop in Australia!


Entertainment was a popular aspect of the 2013 event, with performances by Shannon Noll and Ian Moss. Elmo and Friends were also on the Children’s Stage celebrating the letter C with event attendees. The 2013 event had an estimated attendance figure of 100,000.


With over 40 food stalls, and a new Wines of the Region area, Crab Fest is now a seafood and wine lover’s paradise. Entertainment was a big aspect of the 2014 event, with X Factor’s Taylor Henderson, Australia music legend Daryl Braithwaite, and Peppa Pig on the Children’s Stage and Pulse Circus performing each day on the aerial rig.


Despite the forecasted cyclone, the seventeenth year of Crab Fest was a success. The number of attendees in 2015 was down to 90,000 from the usual 100,000 as a result of the media hype for Cyclone Olwyn which was forecast to hit Mandurah over the event weekend. The event retains its title this year as the largest free regional event in the state.


The City of Mandurah commissioned a series of public consultations to explore community ideas and opinions about Crab Fest as input into the planning for Crab Fest 2016.


Visitor expenditure over the 2017 Crab Fest weekend in the City of Mandurah was $5,177,817 and the Peel region was $1,792,351.