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Oyster lovers delight

Tom and Sue McCormick of Wake dig into a second dozen of oysters at the Middlesex Kiwanis Club booth. (Photo by Tom Chillemi)
by Tom Chillemi

It’s often said that the first person to eat an oyster was brave, or very hungry.

Sue McCormick of Wake tried her first roasted oyster many years ago. “It was like chewing your tongue,” she said.

With that memory still vivid, she stayed away from sampling what her husband Tom considers a delicacy.

Regulars at the Urbanna Oyster Festival, Sue was content last Friday to watch Tom down a plate of Middlesex Kiwanis oysters. She declined his first offer of a roasted oyster. However, something piqued her taste buds. Customers looked like they were really enjoying the oysters. She was missing something.

With just a few roasted oysters left on Tom’s plate, Sue said she’d try one.

Knowing what her first oyster was like, it may have taken more gumption to try that second oyster. She put it on a saltine cracker and dressed it up with a little hot sauce. After some hesitation, her face relaxed and the verdict came, “That was good.”

They ordered a second dozen (raw for him and roasted for her) and celebrated the fact they were now both oyster lovers.

“I like that it’s the Kiwanis,” Sue said, noting Tom is a former Kiwanis member. “They’re giving back to the community.”

A taste of the festival

One of the more mellow places at this year’s festival was the wine-tasting area. Acoustic guitarist Christopher Mize played as patrons sampled Virginia wines. Steve and Toni Burch of Chester were celebrating their 29th wedding anniversary and her birthday by sampling wines from Athena Vineyard on the Northern Neck. Toni shed her sweater saying she was “getting warm,” possibly from the bright afternoon sun, or was it the wine? It didn’t matter.

“The festival has a wide selection of food,” said Steve, “and we came to taste wine. It’s a nice added touch.”

Punky Orlando of Dumfries and a friend were at their first Oyster Festival. “It’s great!” said Punky. The wine tasting was their first stop. “After this we’re going to find some oysters.”

The first stop for Pete Wright of Deltaville was a woodcarver where he purchased $250 worth of art. Then, he and his wife Pam headed for the Middlesex Lions Club for a famous oyster fritter. “The Lions Club hit another home run with their oyster fritters,” Pete said.

Of the 52 Urbanna Oyster Festivals, Andy Scales of Deltaville has made it to 41 of them. Scales, 42, said he attended his first Oyster Festival while still in his mother’s womb, noting his birthday is December 30. “I used to be able to say I’d been to one more festival than my age, but I missed two festivals when I was out of the country.”

At the Town of Urbanna Marina, Mallory Sultan, 3, of Ashburn near Leesburg, carried on a long conversation with “Coastie,” a remote-control U.S. Coast Guard Auxiliary boat that talks. Coastie ran circles around Mallory. “I didn’t know if it was a real boat,” she said. 

Her sister Gabby Sultan, 5, was fascinated by viewing sand under a microscope at the Chesapeake Bay Governor’s School exhibit. “It looks like jewels,” she said. “A real small crab leg you could hardly see had hair on it!”

Asked what her favorite part of the Oyster Festival was, Gabby replied, “I liked the whole day.”

Thousands would agree.

posted 11.11.2009

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