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Eight days to Oyster Festival

Clementine Macon (left) won the Women’s Division of the U.S. National Oyster Shucking Contest at St. Mary’s County, Maryland, in Lexington Park on Sunday, October 16. Her sister, Deborah Pratt (right), finished a close second. The two Middlesex County women are the top women oyster shuckers in the United States and will be competing against one another on Saturday, November 5, at the Urbanna Oyster Festival in the official Virginia State Oyster Shucking Championship. Deborah Pratt also is grand marshal of this year’s festival. (Photo by Tom Chillemi)

by Tom Chillemi

The 54th annual Urbanna Oyster Festival is set for Friday and Saturday, November 4-5, and once again good times and a variety of delicious food and lively music are planned for the tens of thousands of expected visitors. 

There will be two parades. The Fireman’s Parade is at 7 p.m. Friday. The Oyster Festival Parade, sponsored by the Virginia Lottery, will have about 80 units, and steps off at 2 p.m. Saturday.

The Oyster Festival Queen and Little Miss Spat will be crowned on Friday, November 4, at 4 p.m. on the Festival Village stage on Rappahannock Ave.

More than 100 vendors will be open for business when the festival begins on Friday at 10 a.m. On Saturday, the festival is open from 9 a.m. to 5 p.m.

Bring your appetite; an array of foods will be available from more than 40 vendors. The honored oyster is always featured and in a variety of presentations—raw, roasted, fried, steamed, frittered and stewed. 

In addition, visitors can enjoy crab soup, seafood chowder, clams, crab cakes, shrimp, fish, corn dogs, sausages, hamburgers, hot dogs, turkey legs, roast beef, funnel cakes, kettle corn, roasted nuts, ice cream, cotton candy, snow cones, candy apples and many other goodies. 

In addition to great food and desserts, visitors will delight in the variety of crafts available throughout the town. Among the many offerings are handmade furniture, stained glass, woodcarvings, sculpture, pottery, dolls, brass, silver, leather goods and jewelry. Many will be in Festival Village in Taber Park off of Rappahannock Avenue. Festival Village is again sponsored by GEICO, which will have its popular display, where visitors can play a game and win a free prize.

Not to be missed is Prince George Street’s Community Row with local crafts, demonstrations and exhibits. Community Row is sponsored by EVB Bank.

The Oyster Festival waterfront at the Urbanna Town Marina will showcase the area’s varied history and emphasize the conservation and restoration of the Chesapeake Bay. Three historic oyster buyboats, once used to transport oysters and freight, will be open for tours. They include Elva C. from the Reedville Fishermen’s Museum, F.D. Crockett from the Deltaville Maritime Museum, and Propwash (formerly Agnes Sterling) from Dumfries,

In addition, there will be numerous hands-on exhibits.

The Chesapeake Bay Oyster Company and Adirondack Guide Boats are major contributing sponsors to the Urbanna Oyster Festival’s Marine Science Legacy Program, an educational outreach designed to bring an understanding of the ecology, history, heritage and future of the Chesapeake Bay to Middlesex County and area public and private school students, as well as to the general public who attend the festival. Many students will attend learning activities on “education day” (Thursday, November 3) at the Town Marina at Upton’s Point.

The restored Old Tobacco Warehouse/Urbanna Visitor’s Center on Virginia Street, just up the hill from Urbanna Creek, will be open both days of the festival. Model boats and an original John Mitchell map of early colonial America will be on display within this historic building. The Mitchell Map was used as a primary map source during the Treaty of Paris (1783) for defining the boundaries of the newly-independent United States. There also is a scale model of Urbanna as it would have appeared in colonial times.

The official Virginia Oyster Shucking Contest, sponsored by Revere Gas & Appliances and Rappahannock River Oysters, will be held at 11 a.m. on Saturday behind the firehouse.

Since Urbanna is the home of Virginia’s “official” Oyster Festival, it is only appropriate that some of the best oyster shuckers in the world practice their trade near the town. 

The top professional shucker wins $300. The first place prize in each of the men’s and women’s divisions is $100; second, $50; and third, $25.

The winner is declared state champion and advances to compete in the National Oyster Shucking Contest in St. Mary’s, Maryland, in October of 2012. 

Expected to compete are reigning national women’s oyster shucking champion Clementine Macon and current state champion and former national champion Deborah Pratt, who finished second to Macon in the women’s division at the National Oyster Shucking Contest on October 16, 2011 in St. Mary’s, Md.

Pratt is a three-time national oyster shucking champion, having last won that title in 2009.

There will be an amateur division with a plaque for the winner, and official Oyster Festival t-shirts for second and third place. 

Returning this year is Rappahannock River Oysters (RRO) of Topping that will bring to Virginia Street the flavor of their oyster tasting room named “Merrior,” which is located at Locklies Marina in Topping.

RRO will host a boutique oyster tasting at the wine tasting area next to the post office from 11 a.m. to 5 p.m. on both days. The taste of these aquaculture-raised specialty oysters vary from heavy salt, sweet, mildly salty, depending on where they were raised. Their names give a clue to their flavor, “Olde Salts,” Rappahannock River Oysters, and Stingray Oysters.

Chefs will prepare the RRO oysters, pairing them with local wines from Barboursville Winery, Lake Anna Winery, Saude Creek Vineyards, James River Cellars Winery, and New Kent Winery.

A variety of entertainment has been booked for the two stages for Friday and Saturday, November 4-5.

Live entertainment will be on stages at Festival Village on Rappahannock Avenue, which is sponsored by Gloucester Toyota. The waterfront stage is sponsored by Kathleen M. Hall CPA.

There also will be live music on the front porch of the Old Tobacco Warehouse and behind the Urbanna Firehouse.

Bon Secours Richmond Health Systems is sponsoring the Children’s activity area in a tent across from the firehouse.

Magician and juggler Jonathan Austin will perform at the children’s activity on Friday from 10 a.m. to noon and 1 to 4 p.m.; and on Saturday from 10 a.m. to 1 p.m.

Music stages will be at various places throughout town and Friday’s music schedule is as follows: from 10 a.m. to 2 p.m., Joe Maniscalco and the ToucanJam Band plays pop, rock, blues and oldies on the Festival Village Stage on Rappahannock Avenue.

Robert Keyes, a multi-facet solo finger style guitarist, performs on the porch of the Old Tobacco Warehouse. The one-hour long sets start at 10 a.m., noon and 2 p.m.

The Hollowell Twins perform classic and modern rock and country from 10 a.m. to 3 p.m. on the waterfront stage at the town marina.

On Friday at 4 p.m. in Taber Park, the Urbanna Oyster Festival Queen and Little Miss Spat will be crowned.

The Fireman’s Parade takes place at 7 p.m.

The Fireman’s Dance behind the firehouse runs from 8 p.m. to midnight
with The Janitor’s playing top 40. The dance is sponsored by Premium Distributing Company of Virginia and Miller Brewing Company.

Festival activities resume at 9 a.m. Saturday.

The Skipjack Band plays hits from the 50’s through the 90’s on the Festival Village Stage from 9 a.m. to 1 p.m., and 3 to 5 p.m.

Rip Tide performs classic and southern rock and new country at the 
waterfront stage from 10 a.m. to 1 p.m., and 3 to 5 p.m.

Guitarist Robert Keyes returns to the Old Tobacco Warehouse porch for one-hour performances at 9 a.m., 11 a.m. and 1 p.m.

The Janitors play top 40 hits on the fireman’s stage behind the firehouse from 1-5 p.m.

See full schedule of musical entertainment in the Music Events Calendar in next week’s Sentinel.

WRAR-FM 105.5 will do a live broadcast on both days.

More than 60 fire and rescue units, beauty queens and dignitaries are expected for Friday’s Urbanna Fireman’s Parade at 7 p.m. The parade will follow the same route as last year.

At the suggestion of the Virginia State Police to ease congestion, both parades will finish by traveling west on Virginia Street. The parade routes are as follows: stage on the west end of town and travel east and turn left on Grace Avenue, right on Bonner Street, left on Rappahannock Avenue, right on Marston Avenue, right on Cross Street, right on Virginia Street and continue back to the staging area. The judges stand will be at the Urbanna Firehouse.

Immediately following the parade, “The Janitors” will perform classic rock music on the stage behind the Urbanna Firehouse from 8 p.m. to midnight.

On Saturday starting at 9 a.m., the festival will pick up where it left off on Friday. Highlights include the Oyster Shucking Contest at 11 a.m and the Oyster Festival Parade, with more than 80 entries, at 2 p.m.

A special parade guest will be James River Ramblers, a Dixieland Band of the U.S. Army Training, and Doctrine Command Band of Fort Lee in Petersburg. This 7-piece band represents the original New Orleans Jazz tradition, performing works by legends of jazz, such as Louis Armstrong, Jelly Roll Morton, King Oliver, Sidney Bechet as well as marching brass bands. They have performed for several U.S. Presidents.

The parade, sponsored by the Virginia Lottery, presents Gary Clark, former Redskin wide receiver.

The wine-tasting event, featuring several local Virginia wineries, returns this year and will be held in the area on Virginia Street between the post office and ABC Store, courtesy of IsaBell K. Horsley Real Estate Ltd.

The Urbanna Oyster Festival RV & Boat Show sponsored by Bethpage Camp-Resort and Grey’s Point Camp will provide an excellent opportunity for dealers to show off their newest models and for potential buyers to see all the latest “bells and whistles” they have to offer. Visit this display on the Bon Secours parking lot west of the firehouse. 

On Friday, the Oyster Festival begins at 10 a.m. and closes at midnight. On Saturday, the festival runs from 8 a.m. to 6 p.m.

Under the Oyster Festival plan, the town will be closed to motor vehicle traffic as a safety precaution on Friday from 6 to 8 p.m. for the Fireman’s Parade; and on Saturday from about 8 a.m. to 8 p.m. There will be no exceptions. Town residents and guests are urged to make their plans accordingly. (See street closing notice on page A8.)

The town streets may also be closed to motor vehicles on Friday as pedestrian conditions dictate.

No parking shuttles will run this year.

Official Oyster Festival parking prices on both sides of town will be $10 on Friday and $20 on Saturday. A portion of parking fees offsets the Oyster Festival expenses and contributes to programs of the Urbanna Oyster Festival Foundation and its promotion of the festival. Since 1991, the foundation has sponsored the festival.

Handicapped parking is at the corner of Virginia St. and Red Hill Drive on the west side of town, and is operated by the Central Middlesex Volunteer Rescue Squad, which benefits from the handicapped parking fees. Follow the signs.

Oyster Festival merchandise, this year’s official Oyster Festival poster Cloyde Wiley and Barbara Hartley for $15, can be purchased by stopping by the Oyster Festival Information RV on the corner of Virginia St. and Rappahannock Ave. or by calling the festival office at 758-0368.

For more information, call the Oyster Festival Foundation at (804) 758-0368.

Festival sponsors will be listed in next week’s Sentinel.

posted 10.26.2011

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