More than 1,000 lobsters are taking flight this weekend.
The live crustaceans, packed in seaweed-lined cartons, are expected to touch down at 6:30 a.m. Sunday after a plane ride from Maine to Los Angeles International Airport. Employees from Anaheim-based Anderson Seafoods will meet them at an airport hangar and transfer them to a refrigerated truck.
Then off the ocean dwellers will go, headed to Newport Beach to feed an anticipated crowd of 600 at Lobsterfest, a charity fundraiser later Sunday at Newport Dunes Waterfront Resort.
There will be tri-tip, corn on the cob, rolls, salad, red potatoes and a spread of desserts. But the sea creatures will be the main attraction.
As Lobsterfest chairman Tim Brown put it: "If you're a lobster lover, you won't want to miss this."
About four shipments of lobster a week – trapped by lobstermen in Maine and sorted by size – arrive to tanks at Anderson Seafoods, said Joshua Anderson, a self-described fish monger whose grandparents own the business.
The company supplies the crustaceans to local restaurants and retail outlets. But for an event as big as Lobsterfest, a special order is needed.
Lobster can range from $8 to $13 per pound, depending on the demand and the amount available, Anderson said. He declined to provide the current price because of a business confidentiality agreement.
Lobsterfest placed its order this week for 1,300 pounds. Each animal weighs about 1.25 pounds.
For Lobsterfest board member Joe Stapleton, there's always a slight fear of bad weather interrupting the lobsters' 3,000-mile trip.
"There's so many variables to this thing," he said.
Newport Beach Chamber of Commerce President Steve Rosansky also hopes the lobsters make it in time.
"Otherwise it's going to be a corn-on-the-cob fest," he said.
If all goes as scheduled, the creatures will be cooked by Toribio Martin and his family, who also take charge at Redondo Beach's Lobster Festival.
"You just put in the lobster and basically let them go down in boiling water," Martin said. "Which is very sad, but we have to do it."
Cooking for causes
Volunteers used to be in charge of the boiling, but it was tough to get the cooking method just right, said Brown, who helped found the event with the Costa Mesa and Newport Beach Sunrise Rotary Clubs in 2009.
"We were trying to think of a way to host a fundraiser that was less dependent on our members and more dependent on the public to make it more sustainable," he said. But when it came to the cooking, "We needed people who knew what they were doing," Brown said.
The event proved to be a lot of work, and responsibility for it passed to the Newport Beach Sunrise Rotary Club alone in 2010, then to Bacchus International in 2011 and Leadership Tomorrow in 2012, according to the event's website. Brown serves on the board and was previously chairman of Leadership Tomorrow, a nonprofit organization that provides programs for the public to learn about various aspects of their community.