From 10am-4pm on Saturday, November 3, the Chesapeake’s oyster will be celebrated at the Chesapeake Bay Maritime Museum’s (CBMM) OysterFest in St. Michaels, MD. The event features live music, oysters and other food, children’s activities, boat rides, oyster demonstrations, harvesting displays, retriever demonstrations, cooking demonstrations, and an oyster stew competition among regional chefs.
The festival also offers a chance to see the skipjack Rosie Parks, a sailing workboat that once dredged the Chesapeake for oysters, during its historic three-year restoration at the museum. The skipjack was built in 1955 by the legendary Dorchester County boatbuilder, Bronza Parks, whose distinctive style of boatbuilding continues to be recognized throughout the region. Named after their mother, the boat was built for Bronza’s brother, Captain Orville Parks, who oyster dredged her through the 1970s. The skipjack restoration project remains in full public view at the museum through 2013.
In addition to the museum’s floating fleet of historic vessels, the Talbot County Watermen’s Association (TCWA) will have several boats dockside to help share the stories of how oyster dredging, hand tonging, patent tonging, and oyster diving have been longtime traditions of the Chesapeake Bay. TCWA volunteers will also be serving freshly caught and shucked Chesapeake Bay oysters. Hatchery-raised raw oysters and fried oyster sandwiches will also be available. For those who prefer to celebrate oysters rather than eat them, pit beef, hot dogs, and hamburgers, along with cold beer, caramel apples, warm apple cider, and more will be offered.
Festival-goers can take part in or just watch an oyster slurping contest, while others enjoy sampling oyster stew by local restaurants and chefs beginning at 11am and while the limited tastings last. The stew competition takes place along the museum’s Fogg’s Cove side of campus, with bragging rights awarded to the chef who gets the most votes among participants. Local restaurants will also perform cooking demonstrations of signature oyster dishes throughout the day. This year’s event features special cooking demonstrations by Culinary Ambassador of the Chesapeake Bay and on-air personality John Shields, who will be available at the event for book signings.
CBMM’s OysterFest boasts plenty of family-friendly, educational, and fun waterfront activities designed to help kids get to know the oyster and how important the bivalve is to the Chesapeake Bay. You can explore an oyster nursery, learn how oysters clean the Bay by building your own filter, participate in a scavenger hunt or face painting, or watch dip-net making and knot-tying demonstrations. Build-a-boat activities provided by the Model Guild will be available for a $3 fee.
Dogs can even have fun, with retriever demonstrations taking place along the Museum’s waterfront, and don’t miss the scenic river cruises and on-the-water oyster tonging demonstrations with Chesapeake watermen. Conservation groups including Marylanders Grow Oysters, Chesapeake Bay Foundation, Oyster Restoration Project, and the Nature Conservancy will be on-hand to discuss efforts to clean and preserve the Bay. In addition, Philips Wharf Environmental Center’s Fishmobile will offer visitors the opportunity to see live sturgeon, diamondback terrapins, horseshoe crabs, and other Bay creatures.
The event is sponsored by Maryland Public Television, with its documentary Chesapeake by Air screened in the Van Lennep Auditorium during the event. The documentary captures the unparalleled wild beauty, history, and natural serenity of the Bay, all from above.
Festival-goers can explore the Museum’s exhibit buildings, including Oystering on the Chesapeake and Waterman’s Wharf, where visitors can try their hand at tonging or nippering for oysters. CBMM’s bugeye, Edna E. Lockwood, an 1889 log-bottomed oyster dredge boat and National Historic Landmark, will be dockside on display.
Admission to OysterFest is free for CBMM members and children five years and under, otherwise it’s $15 for adults, $12 for seniors, and $6 for children between the ages of six and 17. Food and boat rides are an additional cost. For more information, visit www.cbmm.org/oysterfest or call 410-745-2916.
In photo: The Talbot County Watermen’s Association will be serving oysters on the half shell at the November 3 OysterFest at the Chesapeake Bay Maritime Museum in St. Michaels, MD. The event features live music, oysters and other food, children’s activities, boat rides, oyster demonstrations, harvesting displays, retriever demonstrations, cooking demonstrations, and an oyster stew competition among regional chefs.
In photo above: OysterFest comes to the Chesapeake Bay Maritime Museum in St. Michaels on Saturday, November 3. More information about the waterfront event at www.cbmm.org/oysterfest.