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Oyster Festival will feature plenty of Rappahannock River oysters

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An employee at Shores & Ruark Seafood at Remlik looks over this year’s plentiful crop of Rappahannck River oysters ready to be served at this weekend’s festival. (Photo by Larry Chowning)

by Larry S. Chowning

For those coming to Urbanna Oyster Festival this weekend to enjoy juicy, fresh bivalves, there’s good news!

Whether served roasted, fried or raw, most festival oysters are coming from the Rappahannock River.

The oyster bar at the mouth of the Rappahannock, known as Area 1 and recently opened to oystermen by the Virginia Marine Resources Commission, has produced a large volume of oysters this fall, said oyster buyer Tony Walton of Tony Walton Seafood of Urbanna.

“The boys have been catching real good,” Walton said last Friday.

Walton said the new area (Area 2) that opened on Tuesday, which is right beside the other area, should keep the flow of local oysters coming.

“The oystermen talk like there are going to be plenty of oysters there. That’s what we are counting on!” Walton said.

“The oysters are fat and are shucking about 5.5 pints to a bushel, which is better than they normally are at this time of the year,” he said.

Walton said he sells shucked oysters and oysters in the shell, and will have them available for festival-goers at his business, located just west of town.

“I think most everyone will be serving Rappahannock oysters this year at the
festival.” — Rufus Ruark, Urbanna

Rufus Ruark Jr. of Shores and Ruark Seafood in Urbanna will provide oysters to the Middlesex Kiwanis Club at the festival. The club’s large oyster concession is on Virginia Street and it features roasted and raw oysters on the half-shell.

“All of our oysters will come from the Rappahannock River,” said Ruark. “Our plan is to buy from the boys who are going to be working Area 2 off Deltaville, but we have oysters on our own grounds if we can’t get what we want from them. I think most everyone will be serving Rappahannock oysters this year at the festival.”

Local oysters at the Oyster Festival is a good sign that the Chesapeake Bay oyster is making a comeback. Several years ago, the harvest was so low in the Bay that oysters for the festival had to be brought from the Gulf of Mexico.

“It’s been right many years since we had to use Gulf oysters,” said Ruark. “Hopefully, our local oyster business will continue to grow and we can continue to serve Rappahannock River oysters at the festival for many years to come.”

posted 11.02.2011

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