The final oysters have been shucked and last balloons have popped. It's the end of another fantastic year at the Prince Edward Island International Shellfish Festival. I don't have the stats, but it seemed like thousands attended over the weekend of September 14-17.
The festivities kicked off Thursday evening with the Feast & Frolic event, an evening of food and entertainment hosted by Chef Chuck Hughes that included--along with a Mussels Bar and Potato Bar--an all-you-can-eat Oyster Bar featuring 22 unique oyster varieties across the island. All you can eat! (And I did.)
As if that wasn't enough, the sit down dinner served 420 very happy guests who chowed down on an amazing feast orchestrated by Chef Irwin Mackinnon of Papa Joe's fame. (He delivered piping hot food--including lobsters, steak, baked stuffed potatos and vegetable skewers--out to the entire crown in under 9 minutes!)
Friday, Saturday and Sunday featured cooking demonstrations by celebrity Chef Lynn Crawford, the Tie One On Mussel Competition, the Garland Canada International Chef Challenge, the Potato Seafood Chowder Competition (of which I was honored to be a judge), the Mott's Clamato "Best Caesar" competition, the PEI Shellfisherman Association's creation of the "World's Longest Lobster Roll" (over 200-feet!), live entertainment, and not one but TWO oyster shucking competitions.
The first shuck-off, on Friday night, featured the best on-island shuckers, including Jason Woodside and Bradley Gallant. On Saturday, a local-plus-international roster included competitive shucking luminaries such as Eamon Clark of Toronto, Daniel Notkin of Montreal, and American Robert Daffin, who travels from Panama City, Florida each year with Carolee Ann Carlson-Harper, know to everyone as "Mama."
The joint was packed when the shuckers took the stage for the Saturday night heats. I captured the second to last heat of the competition between Daniel Notkin and Robert Daffin, and posted it to YouTube. The emcee is the always-entertaining Rob Barry. If you've never been to a shucking competition, this video gives a sense of the electricity in the room and the intensity of the competitors. (As well as the rollicking good time had by all.)
The winner of the competition, announced after all the penalties had been tabulated, was Daniel Notkin. Geek stats: 12 oysters shucked in flat time 51 and 65/100 seconds, plus 6 penalty seconds added totaling 57 and 65/100 seconds.
On a reflective note, this past year shucker and oyster farmer Marlene Dowdle lost her valiant fight with cancer. Her husband, George Dowdle, decided to award a $1,000 prize in her honor to the fastest female shucker at this year's festival. Every woman competitor was given a tee shirt that Marlene herself had designed. At the end of the shucking events, the Marlene Dowdle Award for Fastest Shucker went to Melissa Somers. A women's cleanest plate award, donated by Chef Chuck Hughes, went to Coreen Pickering. George Dowdle, his son Cole, and daughter Britteny, were on the stage to hand out the etched glass trophy. You can read more about the Marlene, the Dowdle family and the award in a CBC News story HERE.
Thanks to the wonderful community of PEI for hosting such a terrific event. Fellow shellfish lovers: Mark your calendars for next year's edition of the PEI International Shellfish Festival, September 13-16, 2018!
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.