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Rappahannock River oysters will be at festival

by Larry S. Chowning

Watermen Keith Jett and Billy Robinson of Lewisetta circle Temple Bay rock near Christchurch School in the Rappahannock River at sunrise, pulling their dredge with the workboat ‘Wendy Lee.” Numerous oyster boats have worked the Rappahannock the past few weeks with good results—just in time for the Oyster Festival.  (Photos by Starke Jett)
Most of the oysters at the Urbanna Oyster Festival this year will be local oysters harvested in the Rappahannock and Potomac rivers and Chesapeake Bay.

If the oysters arrive at the festival in the shell, and are served raw or roasted, they are more than likely local oysters, said Brian Walton of Tony Walton’s Seafood in Urbanna.

On Monday there were over 25 oyster dredge boats working below the bridge on Parrott’s Oyster Rock off Parrott’s Island in the Rappahannock River. Most of the oysters harvested there are being sold to local oyster buyers, while the most mature oysters are being purchased by VMRC and being re-planted on an oyster sanctuary near the mouth of Locklies Creek at Topping. 

Shores and Ruark Seafood near Urbanna is buying Rappahannock River oysters and also is farming oysters in cages on private oyster grounds in the river and in Robinson’s Creek.

The Middlesex Kiwanis Club will be selling raw and roasted Rappahannock River oysters from Shores and Ruark.

Aylett Country Day School will be selling oysters from Bevan’s Seafood, which grows oysters in the Potomac River and buys from Rappahannock River oystermen. “All of our oysters will be local,” said Rob Pierce, organizer of the school’s oyster festival booth.

Every year the Middlesex Lions Club buys its oysters for its famous fritters from J&W Seafood in Deltaville. J&W owner Kevin Wade said his oysters will be coming from the Rappahannock and York rivers.

“The last few years we’ve been able to provide local oysters to the Lions Club,” said Wade. “It’s really great that we are able to have local oysters.”

Historically, the Rappahannock, York and Potomac rivers have been a major nursery on the Chesapeake Bay for growing oysters from seed to adult-size oysters.

The oyster industry was the main source of employment for people living in Middlesex from the 1850s to the 1960s. The Oyster Festival was started 52 years ago as a way to honor an industry that played such a dynamic role in the economic life of the Town of Urbanna and Middlesex County.

posted 11.04.2009

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