You'll have a shuckin' good time at the Wellfleet OysterFest

12th Annual Wellfleet OysterFest starts Saturday
Competing in the semi-finals of the 2012 Wellfleet OysterFest shucking contest. Photo by Jane Booth.

This weekend marks the 12th anniversary of the Wellfleet Oysterfest, as well as the 1st year that this increasingly popular Outer Cape festival will be charging for admission. In years past, there has been a suggested donation for entrance to the festival, but this year, revelers will need to pay $5 for a day or $8 for two days. Children 12 and under are still free.

Michele Insley, the manager of the Oysterfest, said that there has been some speculation on whether or not the fee will impact attendance at the festival, but she herself is not readily inclined to think so. The festival is expected to keep attracting large numbers of people (last year was the first that attendees were counted).

Because of the numbers of attendees, the Festival – as it does every year – will have shuttles to and from the center of Wellfleet. The list of where the shuttles can be boarded is here.

For those who brave the crowds, there will be plenty to do. The Oysterfest runs on Oct.19 and 20 from 10am-5pm. A full schedule of events is listed here.

Although all the events are great, there are several events to be on the lookout for. The shucking contest (preliminaries held Saturday, finals held Sunday) is the big draw of the Festival. Men and women with hardened hands put their shucking skills to the test in this competition where not only does speed matter, but so does style.

Contestants are given 24 oysters to shuck and although finishing first is a good idea, the website for the Oysterfest says “…aesthetic presentation counts, too. Controversial rulings have been known to fire up the crowd of thousands, as devastating time penalties are added for broken shells, massacred oysters, and blood shed from slashed fingers.”

Winners of this contest get $1,000 in prize money and a spot in the National U.S. Oyster Shucking Championship Contest in St. Mary's County, Maryland. If the contestant advances in that shucking contest, they will go on to represent the US on the world stage in the Galway International Oyster and Seafood Festival in Ireland, so the Wellfleet Shucking Competition can take a fierce enough competitor global with their talents.

Last year’s winner was James Gray, a Wellfleet resident with speedy hands (he also took the contest in 2008). The contest was won year’s previously by Camden Holland (originally of Harvard, MA; he has worked for Mac’s Shack and admits to being able to shuck “6 or 7” oysters in a minute), Kyle Morse (2010), William “Chopper” Young Jr. (2009), and a two-time female champion by the name of Barbara Austin.

Austin is a fisherwoman who got good at shucking oysters because she had to keep up with her kids.

Chopper may be one of the more successful shuckers however, given that he brought home the 2008 Guinness World Oyster Opening Championship in Galway. It is unsure whether this world champ will grace the festival this year, but potential shucking contest winners should be on the look out for him!

For those interested in running, there is a 5K on Sunday and with the Indian Summer we have been having, the run should be a lovely way to experience the beautiful town of Wellfleet (and then you won’t feel guilty filling up on all sorts of different variants on the oyster).

There will be live music, a screening of “The Golden Scallop” (a mockumentary), a screening of “By The Waters” (a documentary), a Sunset Dance Party in a tent at Mayo Field, a showing of “SHELLSHOCKED: Saving Oysters to Save Ourselves” (a documentary), and plenty of other great things to do.

This festival is not just for oyster loving adults, however. There are plenty of fun activities for children, such as performances by Cape favorites like Trevor the Juggler and the Elbows.

Of course, if you are an oyster loving adult, there will be plenty to eat (and drink). Wellfleet’s fabulous restaurants will be open in addition to the main festival, so have a beer and an oyster on the half-shell and take in one of the Cape’s true delights.

Attendees should know that their money is going to good causes, including scholarships and grant awards, listed here. The festival also actively recycles. Learn more here.

For all who go, remember – as it says on plenty of t-shirts and other Festival paraphernalia – “have a shucking good time”.


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