It's almost time for the Wellfleet OysterFest! October 14-15, 10 a.m.-5 p.m. (Hard to believe it's now in its 17th year!) Hope you are all coming out for this gala weekend extravaganza featuring oysters, oysters, more oysters, and also Wellfleet clams, chowder and other goodies such as fish tacos, clam cakes, jerk ribs, conch fritters, lobster rolls, Portuguese kale soup, grilled sausage, plus beer, coffee, muffins, cookies, brownies and other sweets, all offered by local restaurants. My mouth is watering just thinking about it.
Of course the OysterFest is about more than just food. There's a fine arts & craft fair with over 86 participating artisans, educational lectures and walking tours, 5k road race, tennis, family friendly activities, live music and entertainment, and--my personal fave--the Oyster Shuck-Off. The preliminary competition starts on Saturday afternoon at 1 p.m., and culminates with the finals on Sunday (also 1 p.m.). Prizes will be awarded for the fastest shucker with the cleanest tray: 1st Place-$1,000, 2nd Place-$500, 3rd Place -$250. I am honored to serve as a judge again, along with Canadian pal John Baby and Wellfleet resident Mike May.
So excited for TONIGHT'S pre-screening of SHUCKERS...an inside look at the world of shucking competitions featuring the most eccentric, crazy and well-known oyster shuckers and restaurateurs in the business including Rodney Clark, Patrick McMurray, William "Chopper" Young and Daniel Notkin who attempt to shed some light on the mysterious and fabulous world of oysters.
Where/When: Wellfleet Harbor Actors Theater, 2357 Route 6, Wellfleet, 7:30 p.m. Free!
It's almost time for the Wellfleet OysterFest: October 18-19, 10 a.m.-5 p.m. (Hard to believe it's now in its 14th year!) Hope you are all coming out for this gala weekend extravaganza featuring oysters, oysters, more oysters, and also Wellfleet clams, chowder and other goodies such as fish tacos, clam cakes, jerk ribs, conch fritters, lobster rolls, Portuguese kale soup, grilled sausage, plus beer, coffee, muffins, cookies, brownies and other sweets, all offered by local restaurants. My mouth is watering just thinking about it.
Of course the OysterFest is about more than just food. There's a fine arts & craft fair with over 86 participating artisans, educational lectures and walking tours, 5k road race, tennis, family friendly activities, live music and entertainment, and--my personal fave--the Oyster Shuck-Off. The preliminary competition starts on Saturday afternoon and culminates with the finals on Sunday. Prizes will be awarded for the fastest shucker with the cleanest tray: 1st Place-$1,000, 2nd Place-$500, 3rd Place -$250.
Also this year: Jamie Bradley will be returning to defend his title as Oyster Eating Champion. Last year he slurped 24 oysters in 54 seconds. Can he beat his personal best? Come and cheer him on!
Returning this year for a third season as shucking competition judge, the incomparable John Baby from Toronto. I'm thrilled to announce that he and volunteer Shuck-Off coordinator Nancy Civetta have tapped me to be a judge at the competition this year! It's an honor and I'm looking forward to learning from a master judge. And enjoying the free beer too. (There's free beer, right?)
The 'OysterFest is produced by Wellfleet Shellfish Promotion and Tasting, or SPAT, a non-profit organization devoted to fostering a greater understanding of the town's shellfishing industry and made possible through collaboration with the Town of Wellfleet, the support of many sponsors, the area shellfishermen and dedicated volunteers. Admission is $5 for a one day ticket or $8 for a two pass. Children 12 and under are free.
Check the website for a list of all activities. Hope to see you there. If you're coming--send a note and let me know! firstname.lastname@example.org
August 5 is National Oyster Day! Who decided that? Who cares! All I know is I now have an excuse (as if I needed one) to indulge in shucking and slurping one of my all-time fave foods. In honor of this momentous occasion I’m including a list of TEN fab oyster festivals you can attend this fall. You’re welcome!
Milford Oyster Festival
“30,000 Oysters & Clams brought to you by East Coast Shellfish Growers Association & the Annual Milford Oyster Festival.”
Shock Top Oyster Fest
“Fresh oysters help kick off the unofficial start of autumn at this acclaimed post-Labor Day festival in Chicago’s trendy Roscoe Village neighborhood that's celebrating its 16th year in 2014. Tents housing fresh seafood as well as other culinary delights from local restaurants are but one highlight of what has grown over the years to become a truly unique change-of-season happening. There's also arts & crafts. Another major draw? An eclectic music lineup (past performers include The Human League, Alien Ant Farm, Scotland Yard Gospel Choir and Men at Work) plus a stellar lineup of several top Irish music acts.”
New York Oyster Week
“New York Oyster Week is a celebration of New York's sense of adventure and ingenuity through events and dining…Join us as we dine, cheers and revel to promote sustainable aquaculture, connect consumers with their food source and raise money and awareness for clean waterways, aquaculture education and the repopulation of protective and productive oyster reefs.”
Galway International Oyster & Seafood Festival
“The oldest oyster festival in the world and the most internationally recognized Irish festival after St Patrick’s Day…Deemed one of Europe’s longest-running food extravaganzas…celebrating Galway’s rich annual oyster harvest.
Falmouth Oyster Festival
“Falmouth Oyster Festival celebrates the start of the oyster dredging season, the diversity and quality of Cornish Seafood and in particular, one of the last remaining traditional oyster fisheries, dredging by sail and hand punt.”
“This two-day family festival celebrates the town's famous oysters, clams and shellfishing traditions bringing together locals and visitors alike for a weekend full of hometown flavor and big time fun! There is something for everyone: local cuisine, arts and crafts, educational programs, cooking demonstrations, children's activities, walking tours, live music, a road race, and the annual Oyster Shuck-Off competition.”
St. Mary's County Oyster Festival
“Oysters served up raw, scalded, grilled on the barbie, on bread, on the half shell, stewed, nude, cooked in savory sauces, in salads, even in desserts, just about every way imaginable and then some.”
The Florida Seafood Festival
Oct 31-Nov. 1
Apalachicola , Florida
“The Florida Seafood Festival is a two day event annually drawing tens of thousands of visitors to the historic town of Apalachicola in scenic Franklin County. The Festival is held at the mouth of the Apalachicola river under the shady oaks of Apalachicola's Battery Park. The festival features delicious seafood, arts and crafts exhibits, seafood related events, musical entertainment. Events include Oyster Eating and Oyster Shucking contest, Blue Crab Races, Photo Contest, Parade, 5k Redfish Run, The Blessing of the Fleet ,History of the Festival Exhibit, Fireworks Show and King Retsyo's Ball.”
The Clayoquot Oyster Festival
“What began in 1997 as a one night event to break up the winter blues and call attention to a sustainable aquaculture industry has now grown in to four days of oyster events that include a costume party, oyster farm tours, restaurant events and a gala featuring chefs competition all in the name of Clayoquot Sound’s love of eating oysters and feeling good.”
Urbanna Oyster Festival
Festival Village, waterfront educational activities, entertainment. carnival and pony rides, wine testing, shucking competition, and more.
The crowds arrived earlier than ever for the 13th annual Wellfleet OysterFest. Maybe it was the perfect fall weather, or the terrific arts and crafts booths lining the streets of town. That helped swell the numbers, I think, butT the real draw was the opportunity to eat the best damn oysters on the planet. Yeah, that.
Oysters for breakfast? Yes, please.
Toronto-based shucking judge John Baby and shucking competition coordinator Nancy Civetta before the competition.
The first competitors took the stage about 1 p.m. Twenty-two shuckers competed in 11 heats in front of a crowd estimated to be over 10,000.
Beer sales were brisk!
2012 champion shucker James Gray goes for two-in-a-row win.
Two time shucking champion Barbara Austin had support from the cheering crowd.
Emcees Eric Williams and Mac Hay banter between heats.
Paul Suggs raises arms high after speedily opening 24 oysters. But speed isn’t the only thing that determines who wins; aesthetic presentation counts, too, with penalties added for broken shells, cut oysters, grit, and blood from slashed fingers.
In judging tent, oysters are meticulously and anonymously checked for deviations from perfection.
Tomorrow, 10 shuckers will compete for the $1,000 first prize and bragging rights for a year.
Crowds scarfed down oysters before, during and after the competition.
Sincere apologies for the photo-heavy post. This blogger's typing hand was seriously injured last night...putting out a fire! However, I hear oysters help the healing process.
Looks like we'll have perfect weather for the 13th Annual Wellfleet OysterFest! To create a safe and enjoyable event for years to come, SPAT will be charging an admission fee of $5 per person for a one day ticket or $8 for a two pass. Children 12 and under are free.
I took a stroll downtown this afternoon to check out the set up.
The parking lot behind town hall was jammed with trucks, tents, and all sorts of people scurrying about.
Oyster farmer and Shucking Queen Barbara Austin directs activities at Pirate Shellfish!
The Stage. Where the shucking action happens. Saturday (preliminaries) and Sunday (finals). Time is usually 1:00 – 2:30 p.m... Winner earns a $1,000 cash prize and qualifies to compete in the National U.S. Oyster Shucking Championship Contest in St. Mary's County, Maryland, 2014. Hope to see you there!
Oyster and seafood festivals kick into high gear this season, and in addition to great eats there’s always high drama at the shucking competitions where speed must be matched with perfectionism. Cut an oyster or leave grit in the shell and penalties will ruin a quick time. Shells are sure to fly when the pros take the stage at these events, armed with custom made knives, to compete for glory and sometimes cash. How many will you attend? Three, two, one: SHUCK!
CANADA: 5th Annual Montreal Oysterfest—September 8, 1-9 p.m.
The 5th Annual Montreal Oysterfest is a culinary celebration of beautiful bivalves. The extravaganza features oysters handpicked by the Old Port Fishing Company; food prepared by the town’s top chefs; food-related products, crafts and books; the Mott’s Clamato Caesar Throwdown; and a highly-competitive shucking contest. It’s all happening in a new location this year: Terrasses Bonsecours, a moated island in the heart of Old Port. Mais oui! (Photo by Riccardo Cellere) http://mtloysterfest.com/
CANADA: 17th Annual PEI International Shellfish Festival-- September 12-15
An enormous white tent hosts thousands of foodies who flock to the Prince Edward Island International Shellfish Festival, a four-day event packed with culinary demos, celebrity chefs, chowder championships, and oyster shucking competitions. (In a new location this year: the Charlottetown Event Grounds on the corner of Water and Grafton Street.) I don’t know who’ll be showing up to shuck, though you might meet “Oyster Bob” from Vancouver, current Canadian champ Mike Langley, Toronto chef, Patrick McMurray, and Montreal’s Daniel Notkin. Sample all the PEI shellfish you can eat. Live music all day and night. www.peishellfish.com
IRELAND: 59th Annual Galway International Oyster Festival—September 26-29
The crème de la crème of shuckers from America to Singapore compete for the world title at the World Oyster Shucking Championship in Galway. (This year the U.S. will be represented by Robert Daffin from Panama City, Florida.) Party the Irish way at this four-day gala event that starts with a shuck-off to determine the Irish competitor. The medieval city is a striking backdrop for the non-stop events including sumptuous buffets, a parade with pom pom-shaking young colleens, live music, Irish step dancing, Guinness galore, dancing on chairs, and the crowning of the new world champ. www.galwayoysterfest.com
USA: 13th Annual Wellfleet OysterFest—October 19-20
Now in its 13th year, the Wellfleet OysterFest has grown into a 2-day street fair where thousands flock to slurp down succulent bivalves and sample chowder and other specialties prepared by local restaurants. In addition to its famous oysters, Wellfleet is home to shellfisherman William “Chopper” Young, two-time national shucking champion, and the first American to win the internationals in Galway (2008) in 32 years. Other activities include live entertainment, a 5k race, cooking demos, arts and crafts, and lectures on the marine environment.
USA: 47th Annual St. Mary’s County Oyster Festival—October 19-20
Leonardtown, Maryland hosts this two-day extravaganza on the third weekend of October. The shucking competition attracts those who vie to claim the title as best in the nation, and win the grand prize ticket to Galway, Ireland for the international championship. In true country-fair tradition, there are arts and crafts, a livestock barn, entertainment tent, historic displays, amusement park, and the National Oyster Cook Off. Enjoy oyster chowder, grilled oysters, raw oysters, Maryland ham, BBQ beef, and deep-fried funnel cake. http://usoysterfest.com/
USA: 50th Annual Florida Seafood Festival—November 1-2
Kellie Pickler is headlining this year’s Florida Seafood Festival in Apalachicola, but the true stars are the shuckers who’ll open eighteen Apalachicola Bay oysters and compete to win a spot in the national competition in 2014. Weekend festivities also feature an oyster-eating contest, blue crab races, a parade with bands and floats, a blessing of the fleet, 5k road race, fireworks and more. www.floridaseafoodfestival.com
True story: Today, inching along Mass Ave in traffic in Beantown—trucks, buses, cars, cycles, horse-drawn carriage, you name it—the car on my left was beeping it’s horn. Incessantly. I glanced over and the woman driver had rolled down the passenger side window and was gesticulating wildly, and shouting.
“Oh crap,” I thought. “She wants to squeeze into my lane.” I opened my window and leaned out to hear what she was trying to say over the clang clang of construction activity.
“Hey! Where’d you get the sticker?”
“The sticker! The oyster sticker!”
“In Wellfleet,” I hollered back.
Thus began our shouted conversation. I learned she’s heading down to Wellfleet next week to tour the oyster flats. She’s from somewhere nearby—Winthrop?—and had heard about the Wellfleet oyster cooperative, and wants to learn more.
My lane started moving and we waved goodbye. Two blocks later, we were side by side again. I put the van in park, jumped out, and handed her my Half Shell Blog card.
“Send me an email!” I called, jumping back in the van as the knot of traffic loosened and moved.
“It was meant to be!” she shouted.
Is she an oyster farmer? Oyster eater? Who knows. But this I know: Oyster lovers are EVERYWHERE!
I grew up spending part of every summer in Wellfleet, Massachusetts, which included eating many oysters. After stumbling into an oyster shucking competition in Miami Beach in 2006, I’ve become a fan of the sport and have written about local, national, and international competitions for the Boston Globe, Los Angeles Times, American Way Magazine, and the Huffington Post. I've also written oyster-centric stories for Rustik and Modern Farmer. I’ve never met an oyster I didn’t want to eat.