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One Woman's Opinion

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Happy Oyster Fest to All

Urbanna, Va.— Sometimes I think each year at this time as the leaves turn from green into glorious shades of red and gold . . . Good heavens! Is it time again already for the Urbanna Oyster Festival? And there you go again, the usual occurrence as one ages, life happening so fast that one can barely keep up with it.

But that’s okay. I read somewhere recently that the definition of true happiness is losing track of passing time. If so, those of us who experience such phenomena must be exceedingly happy.

How I enjoy the Oyster Fest! Oh, I know, it’s a lot of hard work. I wonder at times how such a small town manages such a big affair each year and in such a professional manner. In my mind it is the ultimate celebration of what I like best in the world: small-town life.

by Mary Wakefield Buxton
At the Oyster Fest we rejoice in what we hold dear in a small town: friendly, tolerant  people who make it a point to get along with neighbors, love of country, flags flapping from every pole in town, trees ablaze in fall glory, volunteering to help our fellow man symbolized by the Fireman’s Parade on Friday night with shiny red emergency vehicles blowing sirens for all they’re worth, music and art with concerts and art shows, our children and history with the Saturday parade with all its marching high school bands, Confederate and Yankee reenactment troops, Scouts, the pageant float, and the high-stepping baton twirlers.

We especially rejoice our watermen’s heritage with seafood available  from almost every booth, the oyster shucking contest, and our waterfront alive with visiting boats, skipjacks and tall ships from the past.

But nothing for our beloved Urbanna dogs? We had better do something about that and have a float each year over-spilling with our beloved dogs and carrying a big banner saying “Man’s Best Friend.”

Such fun memories from many past Oyster Festivals fill me this morning, such as: running through the soybean patch  with Senator John Warner one year to escort him back to his awaiting helicopter after taking him through town in my old Dodge convertible; selling books and newspapers at the Sentinel booth in pouring rain; opening the door one year at the dear old Sentinel building (which is now replaced with a brand new beautiful building) and the dog of Fred and Bettie Lee Gaskins shooting out the door and into the 50,000-person crowd with me in hot pursuit. (Fortunately, for my writing career, I caught the dog before she disappeared forever amongst all those human legs!)

Each year I look forward to the best crab cakes in the world fixed by the Mathews Ruritan Club or “Buster’s” (I hope they come back this year!); the jars of homemade relish chutney sold at the Christchurch tent and made by the best cook in the county, Betty Chowning; a delicious cup of homemade crab bisque from the Middlesex Woman’s Club; watching the annual politically incorrect “bubba float” pass by; weeping at the sound of the Scottish bagpipes; cheering for the Irish Shriners; laughing at the Khedive miniature cars, trucks, motorcycles and whatever as they toot by for us in the name of raising money for crippled children.

My 25th Oyster Fest. I have seen all sorts of weather from hard rain to perfect Indian summer days. On some fests the wind was blowing so hard my stack of Sentinels blew off my table and down the street with me after them. Other years it was so hot I was dressed in shorts, or so cold I dressed in layers of wool wrapped up like a blimp at the Sentinel table.

One good thing this year is that the fest comes after the election. Hurray! In past years we have had our share of politicians flooding the town with their infernal stickers, signs, balloons and eternal promises not to raise taxes yet provide even more government benefits.

Then the crowds leave. The big miracle is when I walk the dogs around town the next morning, there is little trace left of the masses of visitors to Urbanna.

I always recommend to friends and family to come on Friday, if possible, which is an easier day with less crowds and less parking problems. But come to Urbanna and have a wonderful time. And above all else, have a safe visit. ©2009

Mary Wakefield Buxton will be signing copies of her new book, “Middlesex Memories,” both Friday and Saturday during the festival at the table in front of the Southside Sentinel.

posted 11.04.2009

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