Songs worthy of a sing-a-long blasted from the tent as guests lined the sidewalks on Lower Water Street, eager to kickstart the 5th annual Halifax Oyster Festival, hosted by The Coast. Upon entry, guests had no shortage of tempting choices at their disposal. A total of 20 oyster farmers from throughout the East Coast and abroad lined the venue, each offering a signature tasting shellfish of their own and a variety of sauces. Attendees tasted from Canada’s biggest raw bar at their leisure; oysters were unlimited for guests, and a total of 61,600 oysters were consumed!
For those craving something else to eat, Pickford and Black, Gahan House, and The Barrington Steakhouse of The Murphy’s Hospitality group provided oyster po' boys, fish tacos, lobster rolls, chowder, chicken tacos, pretzels and french fries. And of course, there were thoughtfully selected drinks available to pair with the seafood. Nova Scotia Spirit Co. served up vodka and gin caesars, and Blue Lobster vodka sodas flowed too. Wine lovers sprang for Jost Vineyards’ Tidal Bay — the perfect oyster compliment. Lastly, Halifax company Viveau flavoured sparkling water offered generous samples of their refreshing non-alcoholic beverage, available in blueberry, cherry and apple.
While exploring the venue, attendees snapped pics at the various photo opportunities, challenged their date to a game of ping pong, and warmed up by the two outdoor fires in the cool October weather. For people who wished the event would never end, Oyster Fest apparel was available to purchase, with products ranging from “Rise and Brine” totes to comfy gray crewnecks. Near the stage, people relaxed in the cozy lounge set up by Color Cannabis, complete with couches, books and rainbow oyster candles. Those with a VIP pass had their own chill zone. Presented by Assante Hydrostone, it featured a private lounge and bar, shucking demonstrations by each farm, a welcome drink of Jost Selkie, and an exclusive oyster topper from Ardbeg Whisky.
As usual, the professional (Saturday night) and amateur (Friday night and Saturday) shucking competitions were a huge hit. During each session, the crowd roared as shuckers faced off to see who could open and plate 12 oysters the quickest. The John Bil Memorial Trophy was awarded to the fastest shucker in honour of the late John Bil. This year, it went to David Burns, owner of Maisy's Pearl Oyster Purveyors in Hamilton, Ontario (and also the evening’s host). He finished at one minute, 25 seconds after penalties.
Friday night ended with live music by Rankin MacInnis, and Saturday night’s tunes were spun by festival favourite DJ Jeff Pineau. As attendees took their final slurps of the event, farmers released sighs of accomplishment.
A community event as unique as each oyster shell, Oyster Festival 2019 ended with full stomachs, new friends and a look ahead to next year.