Hermit crab race pays homage to ‘King Crab’

Ava and Foster Walsh, of Spring Lake Heights, picked their entries for the Peter DiSpirito Memorial Hermit Crab Race held Wednesday on the boardwalk in Point Pleasant Beach. PHOTO BY DANIELLA HEMINGHAUS

POINT PLEASANT BEACH — Dozens gathered on Jenkinson’s Boardwalk Wednesday for a special hermit crab race held in memory of Peter DiSpirito, affectionately known as “King Crab” for his unbridled enthusiasm for the races.

Among the crowd were his wife and daughter, former Jenkinson’s employees who worked with him and numerous children and adults who had participated in the races for years with Mr. DiSpirito ramping up the excitement.

“It means so much to have everyone here because Petey would have really appreciated it. I mean, these kids that used to work with him are all grown up now and there’s kids that have been coming here almost every week for 10 years for the races,” his wife, Linda DiSpirito, said.

“He really started this whole thing — not that he was the first one to do it, but this all started with him,” she added.

Melissa Picciolo shared memories that she and her daughter Victoria, now 14, had of Mr. DiSpirito over 10 years of traveling from Manalapan to participate.

“Pete was like an uncle to us. It all started when we met Pete in the gift shop and the races were just getting started. Pete taught her everything about hermit crabs from how to set up their cage and everything else,” said Ms. Picciolo.

His daughter, Jennifer DiSpirito, hopped on the megaphone to continue her father’s tradition.

“Are you ready?” she shouted to the children as her father had for years.

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