Oyster and Seafood Festivals

Oyster and Seafood Festivals

Savor the taste of oysters and other local seafood at fall festivals

As fall and winter approach, so does oyster festival season in the Tar Heel State. Though each oyster-oriented festival has its own character, they all typically offer music, contests involving oysters, food and beverage vendors, and lots of oysters for sale in various forms. Steaming buckets of the tasty bivalves are the most typical festival fare, but the oyster is often celebrated raw, fried and in rich stews as well.

Considered the mollusk mother lode, with more than 30,000 fans of the almighty oyster typically in attendance, the North Carolina Oyster Festival on Ocean Isle Beach has something for everyone. Hosted by the Brunswick County Chamber of Commerce and celebrating more than 30 years of bivalve heaven, this mid-October festival includes the North Carolina Oyster Shucking Championships (an official route to the national tournament), an oyster stew cook-off, live entertainment, arts and crafts vendors, a bustling kid’s area, lots of varied food and beverage booths, a road race, a surf contest, the NC Oyster Festival Pageant, and – of course – lots of freshly steamed oysters for sale.

There are several other oyster festivals in the state, with the possibilities including: the First Flight Rotary Oink & Oyster Roast (Kitty Hawk, annually the Saturday of Columbus Day weekend); the Burke Arts Council October Oyster Outing (Morganton, annually in mid-October); the Pamlico-Tar River Foundation Annual Oyster Roast (Washington, always the second Saturday in November); the Stumpy Point Oyster Festival at Bayview Chapel (Stumpy Point, always the second Saturday of February); and the Airlie Gardens Oyster Roast (Wilmington, mid-October). Though these options may not boast the sheer size of the NC Oyster Festival, the oysters will most assuredly taste just as good raw, steamed, fried, or however you like your ode to oysters.

Of course, the abundance of seafood in North Carolina leads to festivals celebrating more than just oysters. For instance, there’s the huge North Carolina Seafood Festival (Morehead City, annually the first weekend in October), which is one of the largest festivals in the state and celebrates the bounty of the state’s natural resource with fishing tournaments, sailing regattas, a boat show and outdoor expo, live entertainment, tons of fresh seafood prepared any way you can imagine, and the not-to-be-missed Flounder Fling. The event also honors those who have lost their lives in the fishing industry with the Blessing of the Fleet.

There is also the Pleasure Island Seafood, Blues & Jazz Festival (Kure Beach, annually in mid-October), which celebrates more than two decades of blues, jazz and coastal cuisine. And seafood is what it’s all about at Day at the Docks (Hatteras, annually in mid-September) as locals celebrate the spirit of Hatteras as a community anchored by the commercial and charter fisherman and host competitions, demonstrations, children’s activities and lots of seafood.

Foodies who see beyond strictly seafood will want to take a bigger bite out of North Carolina with peach parties, watermelon festivals, sweet potato soirees, pig pickings, catfish fries and many more tasty possibilities in all four seasons.

Lynn & Cele Seldon

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