Just an hour into the 20th annual S.C. Oyster Festival, Stephen Conti and his two youngsters were well into their second bucket of the tasty mollusks.
“My daughter loves oysters,” Conti said. “My son not so much, but he has had some fun.”
This year marked the family’s first oyster festival, and Conti said they’ll be back next year for more.
Pearlz Oyster Bar provided the steamed oysters – 10,000 pounds of them, according to a news release. That’s 75,000 individual oysters in 250 bushels, according to Mike Evans, Pearlz operating partner.
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“(An oyster) doesn’t taste, doesn’t look and doesn’t smell like everything else,” Evans said. “This is an opportunity for all of us oyster lovers to get dirty, get down and get after it”
It normally would take a month to go through the amount of oysters sold at the festival, Evans added. This year is the oyster bar’s fifth participating in the festival, and this batch of oysters is their largest yet.
Between 3,000 and 5,000 folks usually attend each year, according to Alana Jordan, festival spokeswoman. For those who find oysters less than appetizing, there also was New Orleans-style Cajun food available along with traditional festival food such as funnel cakes.
The festival was organized by Liquid Assets and presented by Historic Columbia at the Robert Mills House and Hampton-Preston Mansion and Gardens, along with a closed-off portion of Blanding Street in front of the grounds. A portion of the proceeds will go to God’s Storehouse, a food and clothing bank in Northeast Richland, and Palmetto Animal Assisted Life Services, which trains service dogs.
“This is a really unique festival because it’s on the historic grounds, which is really cool,” Jordan said. “Oyster festivals are very much a Southern thing. I grew up from Michigan, so I didn’t really experience an oyster roast until I came down here.”
In addition to food and drink, the festival featured live music, provided by Dave Britt Acoustic, Rival Brothers, Nick Cleburne, Bobby Sutton, Josh Roberts and The Distributors.