Photos from the Miss Crustacean Beauty Pageant, a Contest for Hermit Crabs

These aren't your run-of-the-mill bikini-clad beauty queens—they are hermit crabs, the beloved crawly souvenir you likely made your parents buy you on the boardwalk as a child.

by Amy Lombard
Aug 10 2015, 6:45pm

All photos by the author

On a Wednesday afternoon in August at the Jersey Shore, while most busybodies were at work, tourists and locals alike prepared for a highly anticipated beauty pageant. Shelley, Ocean City's resident mermaid, introduced this year's contestants with a pleasant melody sung over the microphone:

Here it comes, Miss Crustacean...
Here it comes, our ideal...
Isn't it so pretty Crowned today in Ocean City...
Claws so cute and feelers so bitty
It's a crab with true, true gritty...
Oh here it comes Miss Crustacean....


To state the obvious, these aren't your ordinary, run-of-the-mill bikini-clad beauty queens—they are hermit crabs, the beloved crawly souvenir you likely made your parents buy you on the boardwalk as a child. "Contestants are judged on the originality of their entries," Mark Soifer, Ocean City's Director of Public Relations who has been running the pageant since 1980, tells VICE. With entries ranging from multiple "Crabnados" to "Crabby Wonka," there was no shortage of creativity.

As with human beauty pageants, Miss Crustacean is not without controversy. For a town with an award-winning humane society, the crabs are often overlooked in Ocean City. While a pink painted shell might look cute, it's ultimately a death sentence for the hermit crab. There were people brandishing placards that read "HERMIT CRABS ARE NOT 'PETS'" and "CAPTIVITY KILLS HERMIT CRABS," at the pageant, and Soifer himself even told a crowd showing off embellished shells, "We want to see nice, healthy hermit crabs at this event from now on." He later told me, "The best thing we can do is give them information on how to take care of the crabs."

Controversies aside, the day carried on, and in the end there could be only one winner. "The Wicked Pinch of the West" took home the coveted Cucumber Rind Cup and walked down the runway wearing a black witch hat and broomstick. As the pageant song suggests, the first place decapod had claws that really were cute and feelers so bitty.

See more of Amy Lombard's photographs from the Miss Crustacean Beauty Pageant below. And follower her on Twitter.