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Greenwich Village Meets Fishing Village in Seadrift

Written by Angela Fox.

Nobody knows for sure how Seadrift came to be laid out in the shape of a sailing ship or even how the little town got its name. The shape is certainly appropriate for the only town anchored on the shores of San Antonio Bay. As for the name, most folks think that was inspired by the flotsam and jetsam that drift in with the tide. After a few visits, though, I’ve decided Seadrift is named for the fascinating assortment of people who have drifted into town over the years and helped create a community that’s part Texas fishing village and part Greenwich Village.

Strolling along the waterfront on Bay Street one June morning, my husband and I dropped by Mama Ter Ter’s Harbor Inn Restaurant and discovered it was a Cheers sort of hangout, where everyone knows your name sooner rather than later. Locals gather here early for chicken-fried steak and eggs and return later to fuel up at lunch and dinner on seafood, steaks, and burgers. The waitress explained to us newcomers that Mama Ter Ter is what the grandkids call Terri Taylor, the restaurant’s owner.

Next we took a stroll in Bayfront Park and met a friendly gentleman out for his morning constitutional. He turned out to be a recently retired attorney—retired all the way from Washington, D.C. He invited us over to enjoy the bay views from his home and told us how local events had been the inspiration for Alamo Bay, the dark, 1985 film starring Ed Harris as a Vietnam veteran at odds with Vietnamese immigrants moving into the fishing industry in his Texas hometown. The film was partially shot near Seadrift. Our guide then recommended lunch at Barkett’s Restaurant for “the best fried seafood in town.” (After a meal there, we agreed with his opinion.)

Before lunch, though, we wanted to visit Seadrift’s most unusual business—a boat-shaped art gallery known as Art Center Seadrift, or, more colloquially, the ArtBoat. The owner of this unlikely attraction, artist Dieter Erhard, drifted into town about 10 years ago. “I found it a charming, functioning coastal community,” says Dieter, a native of Nuremberg, Germany. “I liked the fishing, the scenery, and the fact there were no construction codes.” The latter appealed to Dieter because he wanted to do something unique with his own art space. So he took a huge steel hull of a shrimp boat and installed it on a concrete slab right on the town’s main drag.

Today, the inside of the retrofitted vessel displays work by Dieter and a variety of other international artists, and the grounds are dotted with colorful outdoor sculptures. Dietrich and his wife, Miriam, have an apartment on the upper level of the 62-by-21-foot boat/gallery. “Yes, I live with my art,” the artist says with a chuckle. Seadrift also boasts 21 murals, which adorn public buildings and depict everything from oyster shucking to beachcombing. Here, art-viewing is as simple as driving around town.

We wandered back into town a few days later for the annual Seadrift Shrimpfest. The two-day party, held every June right on the bay, features a blessing of the fleet, a decorated-boat contest, a carnival, arts and crafts booths, a shrimp-eating contest, and live music. We especially loved the food booths, which serve all manner of shrimp dishes, along with typical carnival cuisine. We enjoyed shrimp quesadillas, shrimp gumbo, and deep-fried “shrimp on a stick.”

Every June, Bayfront Park is also the finish line for the Texas Water Safari, a race billed as the “World’s Toughest Canoe Race.” This grueling event, which covers 260 miles of rivers and bays, starts at the headwaters of the San Marcos River and ends in Seadrift. Participants are probably the only visitors who arrive in Seadrift in a lather. Most folks are like us—happy to stroll the bay, nibble on fresh seafood, enjoy the art, and let life’s cares drift away into San Antonio Bay.

Seadrift is on Texas 185, about 17 miles south of Port Lavaca and 35 miles southeast of Victoria. For information, write to the Seadrift Chamber of Commerce/City of Seadrift, 501 S. Main, 77983; 785-2251; www.seadriftchamber.com. The area code is 361.

Dining and Attractions

Barkett’s Restaurant, 321 Broadway, 785-2441. Mama Ter Ter’s Harbor Inn Restaurant, 102 W. Bay Ave., 785-2397. El Comal Restaurant, 322 S. Main, 785-5083. Art Center Seadrift/ArtBoat, 601 Broadway, 785-5050.

Lodging

Bay Motel, 322 Broadway, 785-2226. Captain’s Quarters, 201 N. Texas 185, 785-4982. Seadrifter Inn, 106 W. Bay, 785-2031. Angler’s Suite, 301 N. Texas 185, 785-2700. Falcon Point Ranch, 165 Falcon Point Lodge Rd., 785-2191.

Events

Shrimpfest, sponsored by the Seadrift Chamber of Commerce, is held the 2nd weekend of June in Bayfront Park. The Texas Water Safari (www.texaswatersafari.org) crosses the finish line in mid-June at Bayfront Park. Art in Concrete, held in Oct. at Art Center Seadrift/ArtBoat, is a heavy-duty art exhibition of new works in concrete.

From the November 2006 issue.

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