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Urbanna Oyster Festival’s ‘best kept secret’

Middlesex County students study the oyster cage of Doug McMinn of Chesapeake Bay Oyster Company during last year’s Education Day. (Photo by Jeremy Glover)
by Vera England

Shh, don’t tell anyone—it’s all happening down at the Urbanna waterfront on Thursday, November 5!

It does seem to be the Urbanna Oyster Festival’s “best kept secret.” While the tents are springing up like mushrooms all over town to get ready for the festival, it’s already happening at the Urbanna Town Marina waterfront for almost 300 students from area public and private schools. This party is all about the oyster as well, but the emphasis is on how to restore them to Bay waters rather than just eating them!

The Urbanna Oyster Festival Education program has been going on for years, but since the festival’s 50th anniversary in 2007, it has been organized by the Marine Science Legacy Program, with the assistance of Middlesex 4-H, and funded by the Oyster Festival Foundation as its gift to the community.

It includes Chesapeake Bay Foundation boat trips for several grades of Middlesex students, kayak trips with Chesapeake Experience from Yorktown and, as its main event, Education Day on the Thursday before the festival.

Held rain or shine, the waterfront activities began by using the resources of the waterfront festival to present historical, ecological and environmental information to local elementary and middle school students. Now, many of these private businesses, non-profits, and state and federal agencies come just for Education Day, excited to share their knowledge and expertise with our community’s children. The dedication of these exhibitors (along with that of the teachers) is wonderful, as Oyster Festival weekend is not always warm and sunny.

This year’s program will be presented to nearly 300 students from Middlesex Elementary School, St. Clare Walker Middle School, Chesapeake Academy and Aylett Country Day School, with the assistance of Chesapeake Bay Governor’s School, Middlesex High School and Christchurch School.

The program will focus on the environment and ecology of the Chesapeake as it relates to both the Native American culture and today’s environmental science. Over 20 exhibitors will present (in scheduled rotations) hands-on activities relating to oysters, bay awareness, and history.

While the Town Marina is closed to vehicles from 8 a.m. to 3 p.m. on Thursday, November 5, town residents and visitors are welcome to take a walk down to the waterfront to peek at what goes on.

Many of these exhibitors will remain to entertain and teach the public on Friday and Saturday, November 6-7, joining musicians on the stage and traditional boats at the docks—so whenever you can, come on down to Urbanna’s historic waterfront.

Author Vera England is Marine Science Legacy Coordinator of the Urbanna Oyster Festival waterfront.

Oyster Growers

(Photo by Tom Chillemi)
Gifted students in Middlesex Public Schools are learning about oyster growth and replenishing the oyster population through a year-long project. After learning about oysters, their habitat and the diminishing oyster population, students kicked off the project on October 13 by building flip-style oyster floats under the direction of Vic Spain of the Tidewater Oyster Gardeners Association. Gifted students from the middle school and high school participated in building the floats at MHS with assistance from carpentry students in Rich Hanas’ class. The next step of the project will be placing the floats, each with approximately 1,000 spat, in the water at various locations in Middlesex. Once a month, gifted students from all three county schools will visit the sites, clean the floats and take measurements of the spat, as well as measure water temperature, pH, and salinity. When the project is completed and the oysters are adult size, students will be able to transplant the oysters. Above, students work on an oyster float. 

posted 10.23.2009

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