How do you like your oysters? Raw? Scalded? Stewed? Grilled? The 55th annual U.S. Oyster Festival has it all and then some, for your bivalve slurping pleasure. Last year’s festival had to be held virtually due to coronavirus restrictions, but The Rotary Club of Lexington Park, main sponsor of the event, is holding the 55th annual festival live and in person this year. Featuring The U.S. National Oyster Shucking Championship Contest, the U.S. Oyster Cook-off, live entertainment, vendors, crafters, exhibitors, and of course oyster-eating venues, the event will be held Oct. 16, 2021 at the St. Mary’s County Fairgrounds, 42455 Fairgrounds Rd., just off route 5 in Leonardtown.
Very popular with festival attendees are the oyster shucking competitions. From the fairgrounds stands they watch shuckers from various states compete. Four shuckers at a time are given two dozen oysters. They are racing against the clock, and the finished oysters are also judged on presentation. Penalty seconds are added for such things as damaged oysters or cracked shells. After scores are posted, the contestants distribute their trays of oysters to the eager crowd in the stands. The winner of the national championship will advance to the international contest held each year in Galway, Ireland. Both men and women compete and are generally professionals working in restaurants and shucking houses, often sponsored by their employers. Just for fun, there is also an amateur competition.
Also popular is the U.S. Oyster Cook-off. Contestants submit original recipes in advance and finalists prepare and cook their recipes at the festival kitchens. Judges award cash prizes in each of three divisions: hors d’oeuvres, soups and stews, and main dishes. Festival attendees can also taste test samples and vote for the people’s choice awards.
Entry forms and rules for all competitions, as well as participation and sponsorship opportunities are available at usoysterfest.com. Proceeds from the event support student scholarships, food banks, and other Rotary Club sponsored charities. The Oyster Festival is well worth the drive to St. Mary’s County. Admission is $10 for adults and free for children 12 and under. Parking is free and plentiful. For more information and a full schedule of events, contact the Oyster Festival office at (301) 863-5015 or visit the festival website. There are also updates on the US Oyster Festival in St. Mary’s County page on Facebook.
Kathi is a retired elementary school science lab teacher. She spends her time volunteering at a CareNet pregnancy center, teaching Sunday school, playing handbells and singing in her church choir.
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