CRISFIELD — Four more Waterman’s Hall of Fame awards were presented during the Soft Shell Festival with two others recognized for their many years of support to watermen.
Robert Hess, Johnny Conner, Dana Dize and Billy Clayton Jr. were inducted for 2022 — the 29th class to be announced since the program started in 1994.
Mr. Hess, of Shelltown, worked on his boat Miss Anne, harvesting crabs and oysters for 43 years.
Mr. Conner, of Crisfield, on his boat See You Later, harvested crabs and oysters for 48 years.
Representing Tangier Island, Mr. Dize was inducted. He worked on his boat Christa Maria 50 years, harvesting crabs and oysters.
From Smith Island, Mr. Clayton worked on his boat Miss Frances harvesting crabs and oysters for 54 years.
The presenter was Charles Laird, vice president of the County Commissioners who also bank traps crabs. Formalizing the induction was Del. Charles Otto, with certificates from the House of Representatives presented by Congressman Andy Harris.
Business owners including machine shops and crab pot makers that support the watermen have been recognized as associate award recipients since 2000. Paul Emely, who has managed the program since 1997, said watermen “just can’t go out there and catch crabs take them home and get money. They have to sell the crabs, they have to have bait, they have to have somebody work on their engine, there are a lot of people that help them be successful.”
Associate awards this year went to two brothers, Larry Laird of the Capt. Jason II and and Terry Laird of the Capt. Jason, who have operated passenger and freight boats between Ewell and Tylerton to Crisfield and back since 1986.
They’ve carried everything from soft crabs to engine parts, Mr. Emely said.
The Waterman’s Hall of Fame was founded by Don and Jackie Brooks. Mr. Emely pointed out there have been three sets of father and son inductees: Art Daniels and Rev. Bob Daniels, Ralph Edward Harrison and Edward Harrison, and Merrill Crockett and Allen Ray Crockett, and one bank trapper, Carl “Ky” Tyler.
Despite COVID-19 and no festival the last two years the Hall of Fame continued, and Mr. Emely said 100 watermen have now been inducted. For his dedication to this event he also received a certificate from Congressman Harris.
“Thank goodness we got another festival, we’ve enjoyed these for many a year and hopefully they will continue,” Mr. Emely said.
The program concluded with the Waterman’s Prayer, delivered by the Rev. Bert Jicha, of Asbury-Mariners United Methodist Charge in Crisfield. He said watermen “bring a lot of joy” to families especially as they gather together to enjoy seafood.