Itâ€™s nearly October, and that means North Carolinaâ€™s oyster season is about to begin. So if you are planning a trip to Brunswick County this fall to look at real estate for your retirement or second home, you might want to put this coastal tradition on your list of 'things to experience'. Thirty one years and running, this favorite past time which takes place in the most southern county of the state is something you'll want to experience firsthand.
What, you didnâ€™t know North Carolina had an â€œoyster season?â€ Well, it does, and it runs October â€“ March.
The mighty mollusk has long been celebrated in the state, and while the North Carolina oyster industry suffered a decline in the 20th century due to pollution, disease and harvest pressure, itâ€™s been coming back the last few years, with state and private agencies overseeing restoration and hatchery programs to ensure an increased oyster population. Oyster harvest has been an important source of food in coastal areas since before recorded history, and oyster harvesting in North Carolina was the most valuable kind of shellfishery in the state until the 1970s.
The big kick-off to this much-loved season in southeastern North Carolina is the Annual North Carolina Oyster Festival, held the third weekend in October every year, on the island of Ocean Isle Beach in Brunswick County. The coastal waters of Brunswick County produce an abundance of this delicacy, and the festival celebrating this fact takes place October 15-16, 2011, its 31st year.
What began as a small get-together among friends to eat steamed oysters in the old airport hangar in Ocean Isle, has turned into a festival drawing over 50,000 attendees. The two day event includes live entertainment, arts and crafts vendors, festival food, a 5K, 10K and 1mile fun run, kids activities, the North Carolina Oyster Shucking Championship, and the ever popular Oyster Stew Cook-Off.
Seafood remains the focus, and the shucking competition and Oyster Stew Cook-Off are highlights of the yearly event.
The Oyster Stew Cook-Off begins at 12:00 pm on Sunday, October 16. Each contestant prepares 8 gallons of oyster stew, with â€œoyster stewâ€ defined as any stew made with oysters as the only seafood. Samples must be ready to serve by 11:30 am, with sampling to begin promptly at noon. The winner is announced at 3:30 pm, and has the privilege of being featured in local newspapers and newscasts that cover the event. 1st place winners receive $500, 2nd place winners, $250.
The Oyster Festival hosts the only North Carolina Oyster Shucking Championships and is known for sending champion shuckers to the national competition. The 31st Annual North Carolina Oyster Shucking Championship will be held Saturday, October 15th from 4:00 to 6:00 p.m. Professional shuckers compete for the title of North Carolina Oyster Shucking Champion and a trip to the National Oyster Shucking Championship in Maryland. North Carolina has produced shuckers that have gone on to compete in the World Oyster Shucking Championships in Galway, Ireland.
For the contest, each shucker is given 24 oysters. Shuckers are judged on both speed and appearance of shucked oysters. And lest you think a properly shucked oyster is one that is simply removed from its shell, let us tell you, festival judges adhere to strict aesthetic judging criteria: shuckers are penalized for an oyster not completely severed from its shell, an oyster presented on a broken shell, an oyster presented with grit, blood, or other foreign substance on the flesh, a cut oyster, or an oyster not properly placed on the shell.
While the Oyster Stew Cook-off and Oyster Shucking Contest are serious business for the participants, itâ€™s all about family and fun for festival-goers, and if seafood isnâ€™t your thing, you can still enjoy other food, arts and crafts, and high profile entertainers.
This yearâ€™s headline act on Saturday from 4:00-6:00 pm is Josh Kelley, a singer-songwriter whose debut country release, Georgia Clay, has garnered critical acclaim. Kelleyâ€™s music has also been used in TV shows such as MTVâ€™s The Hills, ABCâ€™s Brothers and Sisters and What About Brian, and the CWâ€™s Smallville.
Other entertainers at this yearâ€™s festival include the bands Sea Cruz, Coastline and Sawgrass on Saturday, and The Imitations, the Faith Journeys Band and the Craig Woolard Band on Sunday.
The Oyster Festival is also beloved by kids, who get their own special â€œareaâ€ at the event, featuring camel and pony rides; a rock wall, slide, bounce house and trampoline; fishing, and face painting, among other activities.
Other festival activities include the NC Festival Road Race, which takes place October 16 with a 5K, a 10K and 1 mile fun run. The Fun Run begins at 8:00 am, the 5K and 10K begin at 8:30 am.
The oyster has long been an important part of culture and industry in the state, and if your plans include a fall-time visit to coastal North Carolina, the Oyster Festival in October would make a grand introduction to a true southeastern North Carolina tradition, and a delicacy treasured by locals.
For more information about the Oyster Festival or communities in the Brunswick County and Wilmington NC area, send your inquiries to firstname.lastname@example.org and we'll get back to you with a prompt reply.