The weather was sunny, the Seattle Seahawks play Monday — so why not slurp down a few oysters?
That must have been the thinking, because thousands descended on the Mason County Fairgrounds on Sunday to enjoy the second and final day of OysterFest, a longtime gathering organized by the Skookum Rotary Foundation that celebrates South Sound shellfish, including — you guessed it — the oyster.
Candace Cahill, a Skookum Rotarian, past president and this year’s GOO — Grand Old Oyster — estimated the weekend attendance at 13,000 to 15,000 people. It was so crowded Sunday that the number of parked cars stretched nearly all the way to U.S. Highway 101, about a mile and a half from the main entrance to OysterFest.
The event raises about $250,000 from ticket sales, and a percentage of revenue from beer, wine and food sales and nonprofit vendors. That money is then shared in several ways by the foundation, including in the form of scholarships for high school students, Cahill said.
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It also was the last time that OysterFest will take place at the Mason County Fairgrounds, she said.
After 33 years, the event will move about a mile north next year to an abandoned runway at the Port of Shelton’s Sanderson Field. It’s not clear what the future holds for the fairgrounds, but they were filled Sunday with all kinds of vendors, live music, cooking demonstrations and oyster-shucking competitions.
If that didn’t hold your attention, then perhaps the activity at Sanderson Field did as the periodic skydiver drifted to earth and military helicopters landed and took off again.
Lexy Gillette and her husband, Ryan, received free tickets to OysterFest, so they drove up from Rochester and were surprised at the turnout, they said. They also were about to dive into their food: deep-fried oysters along with some coconut shrimp. The shrimp were so popular that they produce one of the longest lines at OysterFest, Cahill said.
Some people’s choice award-winners also were announced: Shelton Lions Club claimed first place with its clam chowder, followed by Shelton High School SADD and the Olympic Mountain Ice Cream they served, followed by the Squaxin Island tribal elders for their salmon dinner and fry bread, Cahill said.