That first year, things were staged near Mayo Beach. Somewhere around 350 people showed up and wiped out all the food in about 20 minutes. Organizers knew they were on to something. “The next year we crawled uptown and took over Main Street,” says Brown. They’ve been there on the weekend after Columbus Day ever since.
The shuck-off is still the central event. Wellfleet’s William “Chopper” Young, Jr., is a three-time winner, and in 2008 he was crowned World Champion at Ireland’s Galway International Oyster Festival—only the second American so honored.
“OysterFest has created a canvas for the local scene, for chefs, artisans, and local businesses,” says Steve Swain, a Cape Cod artist who owns the Frying Pan Gallery on Wellfleet Harbor. “It helps promote the sustainability and stalwart individualism that is the heart and soul of Wellfleet.”
“The OysterFest brings together our community and shares it with the world,” says Alex Hay, who runs Mac’s Seafood on the Outer Cape and sits on the SPAT board. “It’s really a big block party with hundreds of thousands of shellfish.”
Block party is an apt term for this exuberant celebration of community. Johnny Spampinato is a musician who has rocked the big main stage at the Fest. “What I like best are the locals that work the event. They love it, and it shows. It’s a tight family. They do a great job and it makes you want to be there.”
Music has always been a big part of the weekend. A who’s-who of the Cape music scene have played here, and booked for this year are The Incredible Casuals, the Rip It Ups, Crabgrass, Brian Sances, and Zoe Lewis and Her Elastic Band on the main stage. Meanwhile, in the kid’s area with a bouncy castle and face-painting stations, The Elbows play music for kids.
“Probably the best moment for me at OysterFest was watching the Incredible Casuals playing in sideways sheets of black, freezing rain—because there was still food and beer!” says Julia Randall, guitarist for The Elbows. “People showed up anyway, dressed appropriately for the weather, like Wellfleetians would.”
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