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From left, John Torgersen, of Lady’s Island, Theresa Smiley, and her husband Steven Smiley, both of Port Royal, and Sandra Riches, of Cannes, France, enjoy oysters during the 3rd annual Beaufort Oyster Festival on Saturday, Jan. 21, at Henry C. Chambers Waterfront Park in Downtown Beaufort.

Beaufort Oyster Festival draws big crowd

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By Delayna Earley
The Island News

Oysters and good music drew huge crowds to downtown Beaufort’s Henry C. Chambers Waterfront Park on Saturday and Sunday, Jan. 21 and 22. The 3rd annual Beaufort Oyster Festival was free to enter, and patrons were able to buy tickets to purchase oysters and drinks while at the park.

Branden Redford, of Beaufort, puts oysters on the fire pit to cook at the Sutton Construction booth at the 3rd annual Beaufort Oyster Festival. Photos by Delayna Earley/The Island News

This is the second year that the festival has been held at the park. The first year it was held at the Beer Garden in Port Royal and was limited to 150 attendees due to COVID-19.

“People love this because it is so different and not something you can do year round,” President and CEO of the Beaufort Area Hospitality Association Ashlee Houck said. “I would say the festival this year drew three times the crowd than we had last year, and I think Saturday was so busy because people saw that there was going to be some rain on Sunday.”

Curtis Berry, of Lady’s Island, shucks an oyster to eat.

The crowd ate their way through more than 250 bushels of fresh oysters. That does not include the oysters that were fried or incorporated into different oyster-based dishes by the various food vendors present.

Food vendors included Aramark with University of South Carolina Beaufort, Sea Eagle Market, Black Marlin Bayside Grill, Lady’s Island Oyster Inc., and Sutton Construction.

Once patrons were done with the oysters, they were asked to dump the oyster shells onto a huge pile of in a trailer in the center of the park for recycling.

Paul Mack, district manager with Aramark at University of South Carolina Beaufort, adds horseradish sauce to a plate of fried oyster pudding.

“We want this festival to be an ethical one, and we don’t want any oyster shells making their way into the trash when they can be put back into the water,” Houck said.

As for the music, Houck said they wanted to keep the music local, but also wanted to bring in music that people do not see very often. Saturday’s headliner Blackhawk helped to draw fans to the festival.

Houck says that they are hoping to continue to grow the festival next year by adding more food vendors.

Delayna Earley lives in Beaufort with her husband, two children and Jack Russell. She spent six years  as a videographer and photographer for The Island Packet and The Beaufort Gazette before leaving the Lowcountry in 2018. After freelancing in Myrtle Beach and Virginia, she joined The Island News when she moved back to Beaufort in 2022. She can be reached at delayna.theislandnews@gmail.com.

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