The rainy and cold weather proved to be the perfect ingredients for the 19th annual South Carolina Oyster Festival held Sunday.
Festival-goers enjoyed the warmth and comfort of the indoor pavilion the festival was moved to in light of the weather. The festival’s original location was the Robert Mills House and Hampton-Preston Mansion, but it was moved last-minute to The Carolina Field House on the 900 block of South Stadium Road just within stone’s throw of Williams-Brice Stadium.
Festival planners coordinated a move of 10,000 pounds of oysters, cutting gloves and oyster knives provided by Pearlz Oyster Bar. A seemingly daunting task, but Shawn Rankin, the festival organizer, said with the help of a lot of people they were able to accomplish it.
“I think that it has been an outstanding response to moving the festival to a dry area,” Rankin said. “People just want to come out and visit, have a good time and see old friends. We always love sunshiny days, but when God gives us rainy days we have to make other arrangements.”
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Rankin said many were still purchasing discounted tickets online before the gates opened at 11 p.m. to let in the hundreds of people braving the weather to enjoy live music, beverages and, most importantly, oysters.
T.J. Kimley of Winnsboro said even though this was his first time at the oyster festival, he is no stranger to eating them.
“I always go and get my own,” Kimley said. “You find a good oyster bed in one of the inlets and start cracking them.”
While shucking his way through one bucket of oysters, Kimley said he found a pearl in one of the steamed crustaceans. Emily Mcleod, Kimley’s friend, said he would need to keep eating them so he can find her a new pair of earrings.
As people carried away buckets filled with oysters, Devin Singletary and Michael Day both worked hard boiling the gulf oysters to make sure everyone got their share.
“I love the festival atmosphere, and I like helping my community,” Singletary said. “I grew up eating oysters and I didn’t realize there was such a great oyster-eating community here.”
The field house was also lined with brightly colored souvenir stands and face painting for the kids. Guests also were entertained by live music performed by local favorites such as the Mystic Vibrations, Josh McCaa, Analog Moon, My Big Tomorrow and the Moustache Brothers.
Part of the proceeds raised by the festival were donated to Pawmetto Lifeline and Columbia Opportunity Resource foundations.
Lisa Peterson, a three-year volunteer for Pawmetto Lifeline, said the non-profit organization has paired up with the festival every year to raise money for rescuing animals throughout Lexington and Richland counties.
“Every penny counts for us and every penny counts for the animals,” Peterson said. “Without us they would be putting to sleep 5,000 or 6,000 more animals every year.”
Anna Gubric greeted many of the festival-goers with a warm smile as they ducked into the field house and out of the rain.
Even though she was volunteering for the festival, she said she was more interested in the pizza being provided by Village Idiot than the oysters.
Gubric, who volunteers with the Columbia Opportunity Resource foundation, said she was surprised that so many people had turned out to the festival despite the rain.