By Eric Wilson-Edge
Here’s the thing we all know about the Pacific Northwest. It rains – a lot. We are the sun deprived people worshipping the almighty Vitamin D. We have indoor hobbies and obsessive thoughts about sunny beaches. It doesn’t have to be this way. Fun can still be had – with minimal risk of getting wet. Hop in the car, dial up the GPS and head to the Mason County Fairgrounds in Shelton for OysterFest.
OysterFest is this weekend. And no, oysters aren’t the only attraction. There are more than 60 vendors including a host of local wineries and microbreweries. Admission is cheap – only $5. “You just have to come and see it. You may not like oysters but there’s other stuff,” says Darryl Cleveland, a member of the Skookum Rotary which has been putting on the annual event for 32 years.
Besides food, there will also be entertainment including live bands, magicians and clowns. Shelton resident Jessica Fagergren Jorgensen has been going to OysterFest for years. She likes that it’s family friendly. “My kids talk about going for months before each year. There are always fun things for them to do and tons of yummy food and drink,” says Jorgensen.
It’s an easy drive to Shelton. Thousands make it every year around this time. Cleveland says a large number of people who visit the festival come from the Tacoma and Seattle areas. Some even travel from other states. Says Jorgensen, “I love the fact that people come from so far away to experience our community’s culture.”
A part of that culture is oyster shucking. OysterFest is home to the West Coast Oyster Shucking Championship. The competition runs on both days with speed being the primary goal of the first day. “You don’t care what it looks like,” says Cleveland. “The goal is to get it open.” Speed is still a factor on the second day. However, participants are docked points for things like cuts to the oyster.
I mentioned earlier about a minimal risk of getting wet. Well, turns out, the first weekend in October is usually sunny. The folks at the Skookum Rotary did their homework. For whatever reason nice weather is the norm. As of right now, the weather appears to be cooperating.
Maybe you’re not a fan of oysters. I can understand – neither am I. The texture is not quite right. However, I’m told there’s an easy fix. “I love the scalded oysters because it takes the ‘slime’ off,” says Jorgensen. “This way, they’re perfectly tasty.”
I’m not entirely convinced and yet I want to go. Oyster shucking is a unique skill akin to log rolling. It’s both serious and spectacle. I need to see it but I’ll stick with other food, maybe salmon or a hot dog.
OysterFest runs Saturday, October 5 from 10 a.m. to 6 p.m. and Sunday, October 6 from 10 a.m. to 5 p.m. Parking is free and admission is only $5. Part of the proceeds go to fund scholarships for students in Mason County.