This event, which begins at 5 p.m., draws hundreds of students, faculty, staff, alumni and crawfish lovers who opt to spend $5 and feast on a buffet that includes crawfish, sausage, potatoes, corn, lemons and onions, and red beans and rice. Gate proceeds and voluntary donations benefit UofL students through Student Affairs and Red Barn scholarship programs.
“It is really one of our greatest UofL traditions sponsored by the Student Activities Board and the Red Barn Alumni Association (RBAA),” said George Howe, director of Development and Special Projects.
“It’s an exciting night and it brings everyone together.”
Julie Onnembo, assistant director of Student Activities for Programs, and event coordinator, said the feast each year draws young and old, as alumni and students gather together for a meal.
“People come and they eat, they reminisce, especially the alumni who come in town for the spring football game and Thunder Over Louisville,” Onnembo said. “It’s almost like a holiday.”
The Crawfish Boil began in 1986. Charlotte Bowen, then a member of the Student Activities Board’s Adults on Campus Committee, came up with the idea while looking to start an event that would appeal to an older audience. Charlotte’s father, Bill Bowen, owned a crawfish hatchery in South Carolina. The Bowens partnered with Howe and Dave Baugh, who then worked in Student Activities, to organize the event.
Baugh, now the director of financial systems for the vice president for finance, initially was charged with picking up the crawfish. Crawfish weren’t readily available in Louisville, so Baugh loaded up a truck and in the early days traveled to Bowen’s hatchery in South Carolina.
As crawfish have to be cooked live, he’d return to the Red Barn just in time to boil the crawfish.
During the 1990s, a hurricane wiped out Bowen’s crawfish farm and much of the South Carolina’s crawfish industry. Baugh began to travel to a hatchery in Gulf Coast Louisiana. The round trip took more than 24 hours and was followed by a day of cooking, he said.
“You’re driving in a panel truck and you’ve got 500 pounds of crawfish behind you,” Baugh said. “It’s not for the faint of heart.”
Today, the crawfish are ordered from Louisiana through the Blue Fin Seafood Corp. and are delivered the morning of the event, Onnembo said.
Baugh, who handles cooking duties, said he cooks hundreds of pounds of crawfish on on event day. He often gets volunteers who help him prepare the food.
This year, there will be six pots to cook the crawfish. Organizers have increased the amount from 425 pounds to 625 pounds.
The cooking takes up a significant part of the day, Baugh said. He spices the crawfish, looking for a happy medium, adjusting the spice so it’s not too much to scare some people away and not too mild too turn off those who love the heat of Cajun crawfish.
“I encourage people to try it out, people who may not know what crawfish are,” Baugh said. “It’s a good time whether you like it or not.”
Adds Onnembo, “What makes this great event so special is that it is the one event where all of the SAB, RBAA and SAC staff come together to celebrate the last event of the year. It is a common bond for all the SAB members over the past 25 years who have contributed to making this event such a great UofL tradition.”