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Festival fever grips Urbanna

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The Urbanna Oyster Festival tradition, which was started by a dozen or so local merchants and “town fathers” in 1958, continues on Friday and Saturday, November 7-8. The 51st festival will once again be highlighted by food, music, entertainment and good times as tens of thousands of visitors fill Urbanna’s streets.

With few exceptions, those food and craft vendors returning from last year’s Oyster Festival will be in the same locations. Overall, about 120 vendors will be open for business when the festival officially begins on Friday at 10 a.m.

Bring your appetite; food will be available in many different forms from more than 50 vendors. The honored oyster is always available 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, cotton candy, snow cones, candy apples and other goodies too numerous to mention.

In addition to great food and desserts, visitors will delight in the infinite variety of crafts available throughout the town. Among the many offerings are handmade furniture, stained glass, woodcarvings, sculpture, pottery, dolls, brass, silver, leather goods, jewelry and more.

New food and craft vendors will be sprinkled throughout town this year. Many craft booths will also be in Festival Village off Rappahannock Avenue. GEICO Insurance is sponsoring Festival Village. The GEICO “Gecko” mascot will be around town both days and in Saturday’s parade.

Not to be missed is Prince George Street’s Community Row, which is sponsored by EVB Bank. Local crafts, demonstrations and exhibits will be featured.

The “Children’s Activity Corner,” sponsored by The Allen Group Inc., will be on Grace Avenue under a big white tent and will feature fun crafts for kids, puppet shows, and clever clowns with magic and juggling. The “Hysterically Correct Pirates” will perform at the Children’s Corner and at the waterfront.

Urbanna Town Marina
Oyster Festival waterfront will showcase the area’s varied history and emphasize the conservation and restoration of the Bay. Throughout the weekend there will be tours of the “Alliance,” a 105-foot three-masted gaff topsail schooner, traditional oyster buyboats, CBF’s oyster boat “Chesapeake Gold” and the Deltaville Maritime Museum’s historic John Smith shallop replica “Explorer.”

Pirates will invade the waterfront to sing sea chanties and teach children in “Pirates School.”

Historical exhibits will include the Colonial Seaport Foundation, the 1781 Foundation, and Mathews Maritime Foundation.

The Bay’s conservation will be represented by Tidewater Oyster Gardeners and Chesapeake Bay Oyster Company, as well as educational agencies Chesapeake Bay Foundation, Coastal Zone Management, Living Shorelines, and NOAA.

The U.S. Coast Guard Auxiliary will bring their remote control tug boat “Coastie.”

For children of all ages, “Seaworthy Small Ships” will return with its model boatbuilding program and sailboat pond.

Eco-tours of Urbanna Creek by kayak will be offered from 9 to 11 a.m. during the festival. Contact Jill at or at 757-880-8018 (cell) to sign up.

The waterfront will be open to the public during the festival on Friday and Saturday, November 7-8. The Thursday before the festival, November 6, is Oyster Festival Education Day, presented in cooperation with the Oyster Festival Foundation’s Marine Science Legacy Program. Area schools will have the opportunity to visit the waterfront exhibits and the public is invited to visit for a look.
No water taxis will be running, but the dinghy dock will be open at the town marina.

For those who get hungry, Moo’s Diner will serve food at the waterfront on Friday and Saturday.

Visitor’s Center
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. In the 242-year-old building, model boatbuilders will display their craft. Live music also will be performed on the porch of the historic structure—one of several music stages located throughout the town.

Built about 1766, this is one of the oldest surviving mercantile structures in America associated with the sale of tobacco. Before the emergence of the Scottish factors, tobacco and other crops were shipped directly from the large plantations to England in exchange for goods on the return voyage. The Scots established stores where the tobacco was exchanged immediately for cash and credit with which to purchase imported goods for sale.

On display within this historic building is an original John Mitchell map of early colonial America. 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.

It was in this context that John Mitchell made his map. His purpose was to present to the British public an image of all of the colonies so the true scale and extent of the French threat could be exposed. He completed his first draft in 1750 and it was published in 1755.

Queen To Be Crowned
The Oyster Festival Queen and Little Miss Spat will be crowned at 4 p.m. Friday, November 7, on the Festival Village stage on Rappahannock Ave. The emcee will be Eric Faudree.

Oyster Shucking
The Virginia Oyster Shucking Contest, sponsored by Revere Gas and Appliance, will be held at 11 a.m. on Saturday, November 8, behind the firehouse.

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.

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

Contestants must register at the firehouse stage by 10 a.m. the day of the shucking championship. There is no cost to enter. Call Karen Ambrose at 758-2037 for information.

The winner is declared state champion and advances to compete in the National Oyster Shucking Contest in St. Mary’s, Maryland, in October of 2009.

The National Champion then travels to Galway, Ireland, to participate in the World Championship. Urbanna’s own Deborah Pratt has made several trips to Galway, Ireland. 

The public is invited to come out on Saturday, November 8, to meet the National Woman’s Champion, Deborah Pratt, who will be autographing her poster advertisement “Live passionately in Virginia” promoted by Virginia Tourism. 

A variety of acts have been booked for the six stages for Friday and Saturday, November 7-8. “We are in store for more entertainment than ever this year,” said entertainment chair Beth Justice. “I’m very excited about our lineup of performers.”

Kathleen M. Hall, CPA, of Urbanna is an entertainment sponsor.

Justice said visitors will want to see “Jesse & James & Mutts Gone Nutts,” an awesome animal act. The five dogs will have four 40-minute shows scheduled at the Festival Village stage on Rappahannock Avenue on Friday and Saturday at 1 p.m. and 4 p.m.

There will be live entertainment on stage at Festival Village. There also will be entertainment on the front porch of the Old Tobacco Warehouse, the Exxon Station, behind the Urbanna firehouse, and at Urbanna Auto Marine on Prince George Street near Community Row.

Fireman’s Parade
Between 85 and 90 fire and rescue units, beauty queens and dignitaries are expected for Friday’s 7 p.m. Urbanna Fireman’s Parade.

The fireman’s parade direction will be the same route as Saturday’s Oyster Festival Parade. It will start at the firehouse on the west side of town, go east on Virginia Street, left on Cross Street, left on Marston Ave., left on Rappahannock Ave., right on Bonner St., left on Grace Ave. and right on Virginia Street.

Immediately following the parade, “Sweet Justice” will perform top 40 music on the stage behind the Urbanna firehouse from 8 p.m. to midnight.

Saturday Events
On Saturday starting at 8 a.m., the festival will pick up where it left off on Friday.

Saturday’s highlights include the Oyster Shucking contest at 11 a.m and the Oyster Festival Parade, sponsored by the Virginia Lottery, at 2 p.m.

With more than 60 entries, the parade will stage on Route 602 on the west side of town. It will proceed east on Virginia Street, left on Cross St., left on Marston Ave., left on Rappahannock Ave., right on Bonner St., left on Grace Ave. and back to the beginning.

The parade will begin with the Knights of Columbus Color Guard from Yorktown, The U.S. Continental Army Band, the Norfolk Khedive Shriners, the Sudan Buccaneers, and many other Shriner groups. In addition, there will be several marching bands. 

The parade lineup will feature favorites for old and young alike.

Also in the parade will be the Ol’ Timer’s Auto Club, the Virginia Camping Cardinals and many vintage antique cars, as well as a bevy of beauty queens and “Mr. Oyster.”

Also in the parade is the “Gecko” mascot of GEICO Insurance Company.

Parade participants are instructed that no objects are to be thrown and parade participants will be instructed that no stopping will be allowed along the parade route.

Residents and visitors are asked not to park along the parade route. Visitors are asked to stay off the parade route during the parade.

Please leave pets at home.

Beer Gardens
There will be two beer gardens this year—at the Urbanna Firehouse and Olivia’s of Urbanna Restaurant on Virginia Street. Alcohol is restricted to these designated areas or inside restaurants.

In addition, the Virginia ABC store will close at 2 p.m. on Friday and be closed all day Saturday.

Drivers should note that the Virginia State Police usually conduct a sobriety checkpoint looking for drivers who have been drinking. All motorists are encouraged to have a designated driver.

Street closings, parking
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 on Saturday from about 9 a.m. to 8 p.m. as a safety precaution. There will be no exceptions. Town residents and guests are urged to make their plans accordingly. (See street closing notice on page B9.)

Also, packages, coolers and backpacks may be inspected to ensure public safety.

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

Official Oyster Festival parking on the west side of town on Virginia Street extended (Route 602) will cost $5 on Friday and $10 on Saturday. Handicapped parking is at the corner of Virginia St. and Red Hill Drive, operated by the Central Middlesex Volunteer Rescue Squad, and sponsored by BB&T. Follow the signs.

On the east side of town on Urbanna Road (Route 227), private property owners will charge $10 on Friday and $20 on Saturday.

A portion of Saturday’s parking fees goes to the Oyster Festival Foundation to continue promotion of the festival. Since 1991, the foundation has sponsored the festival.

posted 10.29.2008

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