On Saturday, November 2, 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 by Sweet Leda, oysters and other local fare, children’s activities, boat rides, oyster demonstrations, harvesting displays, retriever demonstrations, cooking demonstrations, documentary films, and an oyster stew competition among regional chefs.
The festival also offers a chance to celebrate the relaunch of the skipjack Rosie Parks, a sailing workboat that once dredged the Chesapeake Bay for oysters, after a three-year restoration at the museum. The launch will take place at 4pm, when high tide arrives at the museum’s marine railway. Descendants of the skipjacks builder and captain will be on hand to christen the 1955 skipjack, with festival-goers invited to witness history in the making as the iconic vessel launches down the railway and splashes into the Miles River.
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. Aquaculture raw oysters, steamed oysters, oyster fritters, 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, Southern Maryland stuffed ham, 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. OysterFest boasts plenty of family-friendly, educational, and fun waterfront activities designed to help kids to know how important the oyster is to the Chesapeake Bay.
Families can play “Oyster Jenga,” explore an oyster nursery, 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.
Even dogs can 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 Tilghman Islanders Grow Oysters, Chesapeake Bay Foundation, Oyster Recovery Partnership, and The Nature Conservancy will be on-hand to discuss efforts to clean and preserve the Bay.
In addition, Phillips 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 generously sponsored by Maryland Public Television (MPT) with two MPT documentaries screened in the Van Lennep Auditorium during the event. What’s Up? Media Company is a media sponsor of this event.
Festival-goers can explore the CBMM’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.
The festival takes place from 10am to 5pm on Saturday, November 2. 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. Visit www.cbmm.org/oysterfest or call 410-745-2916 for more information.