Richard Bockman, center, checks a batch of oysters being fire roasted during Saturday’s Beaufort Oyster Festival at Henry C. Chambers Waterfront Park, while festival sponsor Mike Sutton, right, of Sutton Construction Co., and Vonnie Griffin, left, look on. Sutton and his crew roasted oysters the old fashioned way – on a sheet of steel over an open fire. Sutton’s oysters were provided by Maggioni Oyster Company. Photo by Bob Sofaly.

Despite weather, Beaufort Oyster Festival steaming hot

 By Mike McCombs 

“Despite cold and wet weather on Friday and Saturday, the Beaufort Oyster Festival at Henry C. Chambers Waterfront Park was a success. 

“It was cold but that was par for the course,” Beaufort Area Hospitality Association Executive Director Ashlee Houck said Monday. “It almost added this uniqueness to the event. Most of our local events are hot summer events. For an oyster roast, you almost want to be in the cold. A little bit of chill.” 

Despite the rain and threat of frozen precipitation on Friday night, Houck said the event drew several hundred people, with around 2,000 or so festival-goers on Saturday. 

Heward Sike, left, of 144 Cobb Fathers cornhole team from Richmond Hill, Ga., lets his bag fly as teammate Freddi Cliffton, center, gets ready during the Oyster Shuck cornhole fundraisier for Riverview Charter School on Saturday at Henry C. Chambers Waterfront Park. Photos by Bob Sofaly.

“For us it was a complete success, and we’ll definitely be doing it again,” Houck said. “As long as we can get the funding, and we can get the county and city support, it’s a no-brainer. The energy on Saturday was just so enjoyable.” 

Though the festival was successful, Houck said the Hospitality Association was still looking for ways to improve the event in the future, likely adding vendors. 

“We’ll definitely keep the educational portion. It was well received,” she said. “But we’ll probably add some more child-friendly elements next year. We’re also going to grow it, but that is part of what was a strict budget this year.”

Houck said she heard from “quite a few ravel writers (and) a lot of folks from out of town” over the weekend, a good sign for the popularity of the event.

She also said got feedback from several downtown merchants and restaurants saying they did see an uptick in business.

Anne Gantt makes sure each aluminum tray contains the same amount of oysters prior to being roasted the old fashioned way, over an open fire, during the Beaufort Oyster Festival on Saturday at Henry C. Chambers Waterfront Park.

“The timing is absolutely perfect (for this event),” Houck said. “It’s right after the holidays and there’s nothing else that’s going on.”

The Beaufort Oyster Festival concludes Tides to Tables, Beaufort’s Restaurant Week, which coincides with South Carolina’s Restaurant Week.

This year, Houck said it was tough to push the restaurants, many of which are “so short-staffed.” There were fewer local restaurants publishing their Restaurant Week special’s this year. Several area restaurants were actually closed for the week.

“Hopefully next year, we’ll be in a better position and (there will be) more participants,” Houck said. “I think they’re tired. But I think we’ll get back to a position where they’ll be interested and enthusiastic.”

Mike McCombs is the Editor of The Island News and can be reached at TheIslandNews@gmail.com.

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