The Schaeffer Eye Center Crawfish Boil is a Birmingham tradition that that began nearly 30 years ago, when Aaron and Phyllis Beam entertained friends with 50 pounds of hot boiled crawfish in their backyard. The party soon got too big, became a charity event and moved from the Beam’s backyard to Sloss Furnace, the Birmingham Race Course and then to Southside. While everyone had a great time, the event did not generate much revenue for the charities.
While Aaron was looking for corporate dollars to cover expenses, Dr. Jack Schaeffer was looking for a sponsorship opportunity for his Birmingham-based company Schaeffer Eye Center. The two visionaries partnered to turn the event into a free street festival in Birmingham 's Lakeview area. The benefiting charity, the Leukemia & Lymphoma Society, was chosen because both men served on its board of trustees. The corporate VIP area was born when Dr. Schaeffer suggested corporate sponsors could "buy" restaurants for the day to use as hospitality areas. The first official Schaeffer Eye Center / Beam's Crawfish Boil raised $15,000.
Requested donations became a ticketed price and the Schaeffer Eye Center Crawfish Boil became a major festival drawing crowds in excess of 45,000. Major acts in a variety of genres from around the world have performed at the Schaeffer Eye Center Crawfish Boil in the last decade, including Jane’s Addiction, The Cult, Wiz Kalifa, Snoop Dogg, Cee Lo Green, Fergie, Alice in Chains, Cheap Trick, Weezer, Barenaked Ladies, B-52’s, Collective Soul, Goo Goo Dolls, Stone Temple Pilots, Cheap Trick, Fergie, 3 Doors Down, T-Pain, Gavin DeGraw, Brantley Gilbert, Seether, Flo Rida, Corey Smith, Candlebox, Fuel, Megadeth, Theory of a Deadman, 311, All-American Rejects, Katy Perry, Ever Clear, Jason Mraz, LL Cool J, and many more.
While the festival continued to grow in size and scope, the original “Party with a Purpose” remained the focus. The event has raised nearly $500,000 for local non-profits such as the UAB Comprehensive Cancer Center, Tanner for Multiple Sclerosis, Greater Birmingham United Cerebral Palsy and many more. Camp Smile-A-Mile and a new 50 Years Forward Scholarship Fund will be the recipient charities in 2013.
The Schaeffer Eye Center Crawfish Boil begins the next chapter in its history with a $15 ticket and a new festival footprint that will highlight the changes in Birmingham’s Uptown at the BJCC. A partnership with the City of Birmingham and the commemorative 50 Years Forward campaign will further showcase the progress of our community.