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Welcome to the 53rd Urbanna Oyster Festival

by Tom Chillemi

To download a PDF version of the 53rd Urbanna Oyster Festival special section, click on the graphic above.
The 53rd annual Urbanna Oyster Festival is set for Friday and Saturday, November 5-6, and once again good times and a variety of delicious food and lively music are planned for the tens of thousands of expected visitors.

There will be two parades. The Urbanna Fireman’s Parade is at 7 p.m. Friday, November 5. The Oyster Festival Parade, sponsored by Virginia Lottery, will have about 80 units and begins at 2 p.m. Saturday, November 6.

At the suggestion of the Virginia State Police, the direction of both parades will be reversed to ease congestion. Both parades will travel on the same streets as in the past, but in the opposite direction and will finish by traveling west on Virginia Street. The parade routes are as follows: stage on the west end of town and travel east on Virginia Street and turn left on Grace Avenue, right on Bonner Street, left on Rappahannock Avenue, right on Marston Avenue, right on Cross Street, right on Virginia Street and continue back to the staging area. The judges stand will be at the Urbanna Firehouse.

The Oyster Festival Queen and Little Miss Spat will be crowned at 4 p.m. Friday on the Festival Village stage on Rappahannock Avenue.

More than 100 vendors will be open for business when the festival begins on Friday at 10 a.m. On Saturday, the festival is open from 9 a.m. to 5 p.m.

Bring your appetite; an array of foods will be available from more than 40 vendors. The honored oyster is always featured and in a variety of presentations—raw, roasted, fried, steamed, frittered and stewed.

In addition, visitors can enjoy crab soup, seafood chowder, clams, crab cakes, shrimp, fish, corn dogs, sausages, hamburgers, hot dogs, turkey legs, roast beef, funnel cakes, barbecue kettle corn, roasted nuts, ice cream, cotton candy, snow cones, candy apples and many other goodies.

In addition to great food and desserts, visitors will delight in the variety of crafts available throughout the town. Among the many offerings are handmade furniture, stained glass, woodcarvings, sculpture, pottery, dolls, silver, leather goods and jewelry.

Not to be missed is Prince George Street’s Community Row with local crafts, demonstrations and exhibits.

“Godspeed” will arrive at the Urbanna waterfront on Thursday, Nov. 4, and be open for tours on Friday and Saturday of the festival.
The Urbanna Waterfront

The Oyster Festival waterfront at the Urbanna Town Marina will showcase the area’s varied history and emphasize the conservation and restoration of the Chesapeake Bay. Large boats will be open for tours, including “Godspeed,” a replica of one of the ships that brought settlers to Jamestown in 1607, and there will be numerous hands-on exhibits.

An exhibit “Pocahontas’ People, Past and Present” will feature a Powhatan Indian Village where visitors can take a step back in time, returning to the 17th century to see how the Powhatan Indian people lived and survived. Through historical interpretation and hands-on activities, visitors will learn about the history and culture of the Eastern Woodland Indians at the time of the European Settlement.

HCA Richmond Health Systems is a major contributing sponsor to the Urbanna Oyster Festival’s Marine Science Legacy Program, an educational outreach designed to bring an understanding of the ecology, history, heritage, and future of the Chesapeake Bay to Middlesex County and area public and private school elementary, middle, and high school students, as well as to the general public who attend the festival. Many students will attend learning activities on Education Day on Thursday, November 4, at the Town Marina at Upton’s Point. (See related story on page B3.)

The restored Old Tobacco Warehouse/Urbanna Visitor’s Center on Virginia Street, just up the hill from Urbanna Creek, will be open both days of the festival. Model boats and an original John Mitchell map of early colonial America will be on display within this historic building. The Mitchell Map was used as a primary map source during the Treaty of Paris (1783) for defining the boundaries of the newly-independent United States. There also is a scale model of Urbanna as it would have appeared in colonial times.

Oyster Shucking

The Virginia Oyster Shucking Contest, sponsored by Revere Gas, will be held at 11 a.m. on Saturday behind the firehouse.

Since Urbanna is the home of Virginia’s “official” Oyster Festival, it is only appropriate that some of the best oyster shuckers in the world practice their trade near the town.

The top professional shucker wins $300. The first place prize in each of the men’s and women’s divisions is $100; second, $50; and third, $25.

The winner advances to compete in the National Oyster Shucking Contest in St. Mary’s, Maryland, in October of 2011.

Expected to compete are reigning national women’s oyster shucking champion Clementine Macon and her sister, former national champion Deborah Pratt, who finished third in the women’s division at the National Oyster Shucking Contest on October 16, 2010 in St. Mary’s, Md.

Pratt is a six-time overall national oyster shucking champion, including a title in 2009.

There will be an amateur division with a plaque for the winner, and Oyster Festival t-shirts for second and third places.

Premier Events

New this year is Mack Mack Gives Back, a 45-foot-long bus filled with video games, Wii, XBox 360 and more. There also will be karaoke, a green screen for making personal videos with Mack Mack, a bulldog, and more. Proceeds from donations benefit the National Multiple Sclerosis Society.

Rappahannock River Oysters (RRO) of Topping will host a boutique oyster tasting at the wine tasting area next to the post office from 11 a.m. to 5 p.m. on both days. The taste of these aquaculture-raised specialty oysters vary from heavy salt, to sweet and to mildly salty, depending on where they were raised. Their names give a clue to their flavor—Olde Salts, Rappahannock River Oysters, and Stingray Oysters. A new variety, Barcat Oysters, represents a partnership between the Chesapeake Bay Foundation and RRO.

Well-known chefs will prepare RRO oysters, pairing them with local wines.


A variety of entertainment has been booked for two stages on Friday and Saturday, November 5-6.

Live entertainment will be on stage at Festival Village on Rappahannock Avenue, which is sponsored by Gloucester Toyota. The waterfront stage is sponsored Kathleen M. Hall CPA.

There also will be live music on the front porch of the Old Tobacco Warehouse and behind the Urbanna Firehouse.

Bon Secours Richmond Health Systems is sponsoring the children’s activity area across from the firehouse. Friday’s entertainment features Jonathan Austin magician and juggler. Performing on Saturday are the No Stings Attached puppets of the Urbanna Baptist Church.

Among the bands performing on Friday are “Second Chance,” playing classic rock/rhythm and blues at the Festival Village Stage from 10 a.m. to 2 p.m.

From 10 a.m. to 3 p.m. on Friday, Casey McCue and Steve Duncan will play acoustic classic rock and originals at the waterfront; and Robert Keyes, a multifaceted, solo finger-style guitarist, will play at the Old Tobacco Warehouse. Keyes returns to the same stage on Saturday from 9 a.m. to 2 p.m.

Live music on Saturday also includes “Jumbo Lump Daddy” on the Festival Village Stage from 9 a.m. to 1 p.m. On the waterfront, “Skipjack Band,” an all acoustic band, plays hits from the 1950s, 60s and 70s.

“The Janitors” play at the firehouse from 1 to 5 p.m. on Saturday.

See full schedule of musical entertainment in the Music Events Calendar in the special section on the festival in next week’s Sentinel.

Fireman’s Parade

More than 60 fire and rescue units, beauty queens and dignitaries are expected for Friday’s Urbanna Fireman’s Parade at 7 p.m. The parade will follow the same route as in previous years, but will run in the opposite direction.

Immediately following the parade, “The Janitors” will perform classic rock music on the stage behind the Urbanna Firehouse from 8 p.m. to midnight.

Saturday Events

On Saturday starting at 9 a.m., the festival will pick up where it left off on Friday. Highlights include the Oyster Shucking Contest at 11 a.m. and the Oyster Festival Parade at 2 p.m. The parade will include “Muscle Car Money” and Washington Redskins Cheerleaders. The parade will run in reverse direction than in past years and finish by traveling west on Virginia Street.

The wine-tasting event, featuring several local Virginia wineries, returns this year and will be held in the area on Virginia Street between the post office and ABC Store, courtesy of IsaBell K. Horsley Real Estate Ltd.

Street closings, parking

On Friday, the Oyster Festival begins at 10 a.m. and closes at midnight. On Saturday, the festival runs from 9 a.m. to 5 p.m.

Under the Oyster Festival plan, the town will be closed to motor vehicle traffic as a safety precaution on Friday from 6 to 8 p.m. for the Fireman’s Parade; and on Saturday from about 8 a.m. to 8 p.m. There will be no exceptions. Town residents and guests are urged to make their plans accordingly.

The town streets may also be closed to motor vehicles during the day on Friday as pedestrian conditions dictate.

Official Oyster Festival parking prices on both sides of town will be $10 on Friday and $20 on Saturday. A portion of parking fees offset the Oyster Festival expenses and contribute to programs of the Urbanna Oyster Festival Foundation and its promotion of the festival. Since 1991, the foundation has sponsored the festival.

Handicapped parking is at the corner of Virginia Street and Red Hill Drive. This parking lot is operated by the Central Middlesex Volunteer Rescue Squad which benefits from the handicapped parking fees. Follow the signs.

The Urbanna Oyster Festival RV & Boat Show sponsored by Bethpage Camp-Resort and Grey’s Point Camp will be in the Bon Secours parking lot west of the firehouse.


The Oyster Festival is helped greatly by its sponsors, which include in alphabetical order:

  • Bethpage Camp-Resort and Grey’s Point Camp, RV & Boat Show
  • Bon Secours Virginia Health System, festival brochure and rescue squad services
  • Bristow-Faulkner Funeral Home, academic achievement and community service awards
  • C&F Bank, Oyster Festival reception
  • Cheek & Shockley RV
  • EVB Bank, Prince George Street Community Row
  • GEICO, Festival Village
  • Gloucester House, waterfront field trips
  • Gloucester Toyota, Festival Village Entertainment Stage
  • HCA VA Health System, Marine Science Legacy Program
  • Kathleen M. Hall CPA, Waterfront Entertainment Stage
  • Radio Communications of Virginia
  • Revere Gas & Appliance, oyster shucking contest
  • Virginia Lottery, Saturday’s parade

Queen scholarship sponsors include, in alphabetical order:

  • BB&T Bank
  • Bethpage Camp-Resort
  • Bon Secours Health System
  • Bristow-Faulkner Funeral Home
  • C&F Bank
  • Colonial Virginia Bank
  • Dr. C. Ben Lennon, DDS
  • EVB Bank
  • Grey’s Point Camp
  • Rappahannock Concrete Corp.
  • Rosegill Development LLC
  • Thurston Properties

Little Miss Spat sponsors are:

  • Ryman’s A/C & Heating
  • The Pet Castle

posted 10.15.2010

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