By Mike McCombs
It doesn’t matter how you like your oysters— steamed, roasted, fried or on the half shell— Beaufort’s Henry C. Chambers Waterfront Park is the place to be this weekend as Beaufort Restaurant Week concludes with the two-day Beaufort Oyster Festival on Friday and Saturday.
The event, conceived and hosted by the Beaufort Area Hospitality Association, is in its second year. It was conceived, not just to feed oysters to the masses, but to educate those masses about the oyster’s importance, past and present, in the Lowcountry.
“The oyster is such a critical part of the ecosystem here in the Lowcountry,” Beaufort Area Hospitality Association Executive Director Ashlee Houck said Tuesday. “Of course it’s a delicacy. But it’s also very important, not only to the waters here, but to everything that lives in and around the water. Our goal is to educate people about the oyster. We want to incorporate that, as well as the good food.”
According to the event’s website, the “Beaufort Oyster Festival will celebrate all aspects of our Lowcountry and Carolina Sea Islands oystering culture and agri-tourism economy from historical, to architectural, ecological, agricultural, culinary, artisan, and more.”
Houck said somewhere between a half dozen and 10 educational and non-profit groups – including the S.C. Department of Natural Resources, the Friends of Hunting Island, Coastal Expeditions, Hunting Island State Park and the Port Royal Sound Foundation – would be on-hand singing the oyster’s praises.
If Mother Nature gives her blessing, that is. The weekend’s temperatures are expected to be cold with a chance of wintry weather.
“Of course, we’d like to have it 60 and sunny with just a little chill in the air,” Houck said. “But we’ll make due. We’re still having it unless it’s a full washout.”
The event will also feature live entertainment from the likes of The Country Project, Steel Rail Express and Southbound 17; the Oyster Boogie 5k run; and a cornhole tournament.
Those interested in volunteering for the event should sign up at https://bit.ly/3A9JXpY.
The Beaufort Oyster Festival is a rain or shine event. There will be no refunds.
No coolers, no pets (unless they are service animals) and no smoking are allowed.
Food and beverages will be purchased with tickets, which are being sold for $1 apiece. Trays of oysters are roughly $12 to $15 each, depending on the vendor.
Last year’s debut Oyster Festival was limited because of COVID-19 precautions and the wariness of may citizens to be out.
This year, despite COVID’s resurgence, organizers are excited to have full festival in its capacity.
“People are wanting to get out,” Houck said. “January is the slowest time in the year for our market, not just for festivals and events, but for businesses and restaurants and hotels.
“I think a lot of people are really excited to have the full festival. Of course, it’s still something new. Hopefully, it becomes a tradition.”
Beaufort Oyster Festival Schedule
Friday, Jan. 21
3 to 9 p.m., Henry C. Chambers Waterfront Park: Traditional Roasted Oysters, Steamed Oysters, Oysters on the Half Shell and fried food truck a la carte; beer and wine; Live entertainment by The Country Project (3 to 6 p.m.) and Steel Rail Express (6 to 9 p.m.).
Saturday, Jan. 22
8 a.m., Downtown Beaufort: Oyster Boogie USATF-certified 5K race on Bay and Newcastle streets. Run through historic Downtown Beaufort and across the Woods Memorial Bridge enjoying the views of the magnificent Beaufort River. Race is supported and management by Grounded Running. Register to run at https://bit.ly/3qDfhu6.
10 a.m., Henry C. Chambers Waterfront Park: Riverview Charter School Cornhole Fundraiser. Double elimination, bring a partner. Social bracket – begins at 10 a.m., $30 per team, prizes awarded. Competitive bracket – begins at 1 p.m., $50 per team, $1,000 cash awarded. Outdoor tournament. For more information on the social bracket, visit https://app.scoreholio.com/link/xzcD. For more information on the competitive bracket, visit https://app.scoreholio.com/link/39T. For more information, contact Brian Perkins at BrianMPerkins@hotmail.com.
11 a.m. to 4 p.m., Henry C. Chambers Waterfront Park: Traditional Roasted Oysters, Steamed Oysters, Oysters on the Half Shell and fried food truck a la carte; beer and wine; Live entertainment by Southbound 17.
Educational organization vendors include:
Port Royal Sound Foundation – Living demonstration of sea life.
Outside Foundation – Educational information on oyster shell recycling
Hunting Island State Park – Educational component representing animals and sea life from Hunting Island,
Friends of Hunting Island – Commentaries on oyster beds on Sea Islands and the Hunting Island Book preview.
Coastal Expeditions – On-water boat tours to oyster beds with education on Lowcountry conservation – Beaufort River Oyster Ecotour (4-5:30 p.m. Saturday; book at https://bit.ly/3rsLymU).
Short sleeve ($20) and long sleeve ($28) T-Shirts will be available for purchase, but are limited in quantity. Shuckers are $10. Koozies are $3.