Food & Drink

Who needs pearls? Oyster meat the bounty at annual fundraiser

Russell Anderson, left, and Seth Morgan of Captain Woody’s Bar and Grill keep the steaming oysters coming during last year’s Hilton Head Oyster Festival at Shelter Cove Community Park. This year’s event will be held Saturday and Sunday.
Russell Anderson, left, and Seth Morgan of Captain Woody’s Bar and Grill keep the steaming oysters coming during last year’s Hilton Head Oyster Festival at Shelter Cove Community Park. This year’s event will be held Saturday and Sunday. File/The Island Packet

Oyster roast season is in full swing, and one of the largest of the year is coming to Hilton Head Island this weekend.

The Island Recreation Association will hold its annual Hilton Head Oyster Festival from 11 a.m. to 5 p.m. Saturday and Sunday at Shelter Cove Community Park.

The centerpiece is the oysters, but the two-day event features something for even the most apprehensive of shuckers.

"It's a very cool, laid-back event," organizer Joe Cain said. "(It's) a great event for the fall in the Lowcountry."

WHY YOU SHOULD GO

It's not just the oysters. Captain Woody's restaurant returns to cook up the oysters and shrimp. Kenny B's is a newbie to the event and will be frying up oyster po' boys. The menu expands beyond seafood with chili, hot dogs, hamburgers and even a marshmallow roast. Beer, wine and soft drinks also will be available for purchase.

A kids' zone will be set up with moon bounces, games and laser tag. Parents can peruse the holiday craft show and silent auction and watch NFL and college football games on big-screen TVs. Live music will be provided by the Chilly Willy Band and Matt MacKelcan on Saturday and Peter Buonaiuto, Stepping Stones and White Liquor on Sunday.

BEHIND THE SCENES

Can you taste an oyster's origin? It takes about 250 bushels of oysters to feed the fest. Half of them are Lowcountry oysters and the other half are Gulf Coast oysters picked from the Texas shore. The difference: Lowcountry oysters tend to come in clusters; Gulf oysters usually are easier to open, Cain said.

THE CAUSE

Shucking oysters might be fun enough, but the purpose of the event is to raise money for the Island Recreation Association Children's Scholarship Fund, which provides for students who otherwise wouldn't be able to afford rec center programs. Up to 2,000 people are expected to pass through the festival, raising about $5,000 for the fund.

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