Bluffton’s hidden crab hunt promotes awareness of preserving local marine life and the May River.
Story by Laura Jacobi + Photography by Curt Jacobi
If you’ve visited Lowcountry marshes, you’ve probably seen the live versions of these creatures scurry around. If you’ve visited Old Town Bluffton in the past four years, you might have missed their bronze oversized counterparts hidden among the trees or landmarks.
Fiddler crabs might be one of the Lowcountry’s smallest residents, but they are as valuable as any other. The Hilton Head Island-Bluffton Chamber of Commerce Leadership Class of 2015 developed the “Follow the Fiddlers” art project throughout Old Town Bluffton to honor these tiny creatures and educate the public. The group of Lowcountry professionals worked with Savannah artist Susie Chisholm, who crafted 8-inch, bronze versions of the quick crustaceans. The 10 statutes then were selectively hidden throughout Old Town Bluffton.
The art project creates a fun and educational scavenger hunt for locals and visitors alike.
According to Erin Schumacher, a member of that 2015 Leadership class and Town of Bluffton planner, the fiddlers idea was inspired by the “Mice on Main” in Greenville and the “Fairy Doors” in Ann Arbor, Mich.
It seemed like a fun, non-conventional means of engaging kids in the streetscape in an interesting way,”
“I had seen both projects and loved how they turned a typical central business district into a playful scavenger hunt for kids (and adults),” she says. “We chose the fiddler crab to draw attention to how one of the May River’s tiniest creatures can play an important role in the whole ecosystem … We discussed a number of different types of projects and the group kept coming back to this one.”
According to Schumacher, the goal of the project was to educate the young and young at heart, while incorporating the art and charm for which Bluffton is known.
“It seemed like a fun, non-conventional means of engaging kids in the streetscape in an interesting way,” Schumacher says.
While locals and visitors are exploring Old Town Bluffton’s shops, restaurants, art galleries and community events, they can learn about fiddler crabs and try to find all 10 statues.
Follow the Fiddlers
Where: Old Town Bluffton
Details: The hunt starts at the corner of May River Road and Bluffton Road in Old Town Bluffton. Read the plaque for your first clue.
How many did you find?
• 9-10: Crab-u-lous effort
• 6-8: Fit as a fiddler
• 3-5: Just a little crabby
• 0-2: Crawl back into your shell in shame!
The hunt starts at the corner of May River Road and Bluffton Road where the curious adventurers can read the playful plaque and check out the map of statue locations. The plaque reads, “Ten fiddler crabs have lost their way, far from the May River they did stray, a map would help you look around, your first clue is here on the ground.” From there, let the game of hide and seek commence.
And so far, Schumacher thinks the fun scavenger hunt has been a success.
Old Town Bluffton residents Michael and Kristy Gonzalez say “Follow the Fiddlers” is a fun weekend activity to do with their two boys on their golf cart.
“There is always excitement and joy when the boys spot one during our ride,” Kristy says. “Even when we’re not on the ‘hunt’ the boys are quick to point out the crabs and they love showing them off to visiting friends and family.”
Kristy says their favorite crab is the one in the promenade near the community bulletin board. She says it’s as if the crab is there to direct the townspeople toward all the unique and sometimes eccentric events that are part of Bluffton’s DNA.
As locals and visitors tour around Old Town Bluffton soaking up the culture and views, they can check out the plaques on each end of Calhoun Street featuring a few interesting fiddler facts and illustrations created by Blake Lewis, which Schumacher adores. The project and accompanying story plaques are intended to get the attention of the kids, but can be used as a great educational tool for adults too.
“His witty and humorous perspective seems to resonate with children and adults alike,” Schumacher says. Her favorite illustration is the image of the male crab playing the fiddle for his date. Female fiddler crabs have two small claws, but male fiddlers have one large and one small claw. According to the South Carolina Aquarium, the crabs got the name fiddler because “when the male waves his big claw, it looks like a person playing the violin or fiddle.”
Schumacher says her favorite statue is the one swinging in the tree in DuBois Park because it’s as if the crab is enjoying the playground just like the kids.
“We were hoping that “Follow the Fiddlers” would give the smaller visitors to Bluffton’s Old Town a chance to discover something special in a whimsical and artistic way as they traveled around,” she says.