Published October 05, 2012
Shelton's Oysterfest boosts family fun quotientMOLLY GILMORE
Sheltons OysterFest celebrates competition as much as seafood. Theres the West Coast Oyster Shucking Championship. Theres the Seafood Cook-Off. Theres the Arts & Photography Competition, and even the Peoples Choice Awards for favorite vendors.And this year, theres a new competition: the Oysterlympics.The games, for ages 8-19, include such events as crab races, the sea-cucumber toss and the jellyfish juggle.That may sound dangerous, but its a theme.No sea life will be harmed in the performance of these games, said Tracy Moore, outreach coordinator for Sound Learning, which is sponsoring the games along with Friends of the Shelton Library.The games will happen only on Sunday. It will cost $5 to enter, and each participant will receive a medal and a book provided by the South Sound Reading Foundation.Of the more traditional competitions, the shucking takes top honors with festivalgoers, said event spokesman Darryl Cleveland.People get pretty excited, he said. People are yelling and screaming for their favorites.The competitors in Saturdays speed-shucking race and Sundays halfshell contest are pros. Most of the shuckers are from oyster houses up and down the coast, Cleveland said, and probably the other third are shuckers from places like Elliotts in Seattle. Any place that has an oyster bar will send shuckers down.Competitors go through about 500 dozen oysters during the two days of competition, speed-shucking at speeds of about a dozen per minute. The halfshell competition requires a bit more care because competitors are scored on both speed and the beauty of the shucked shellfish, presented on a bed of salt.The cook-off also is quite prestigious, Cleveland said. A recent winner went on to be featured on the Food Networks Diners, Drive-Ins and Dives.And then theres the Peoples Choice Awards. Vendors usually dont generate all that much excitement, but at OysterFest, all of the vending is done by community groups, from high-school cheerleaders to food banks.There are at least 50 food booths, and a wide array of dishes is guaranteed because duplication is against the rules.Besides calamari, crab, shrimp, mussels, and a half-dozen variations on oyster dishes, there are plenty of traditional festival foods, including hot dogs, hamburgers and ice cream.Ice cream? The Chehalis Garlic Fest has garlic ice cream, so ...We have a local ice creamery, Olympic Mountain, but they have not come up with oyster-flavored ice cream yet, Cleveland said. Oyster-flavored ice cream is not an option.