SC Oyster Festival
by Nancy Silver
The Columbia City Stadium hosted the 13th Annual SC Oyster Festival on Saturday, April 12, 2008. Despite the dangers of being rained out there was a great turnout for the event and no true oyster lover would let a little rain stand in there way. While it wasn’t a traditional oyster roast in which you pay one price to get in and all oysters are then free, it was still a commemorative event.
The fee was $10 at the door or you could purchase tickets in advance either online, at the stadium, or at the local California Chicken Grill and get 2 tickets for the price of one. I opted for the second choice. Having never been to an event like this I was eager to get the full shucking experience.
The festival doors opened at noon and I was there by 12:30 to try to beat the rush. Local bands such as Ballyhoo, Call Me Much, Herbie Jeffcoat Project, and Villanova would be playing all day long throughout the festival.
After turning in our tickets at the door we were given a bracelet for entry and a second bracelet for drinking (leftover from St. Patrick’s Day it appeared). There were various beer tents and food tents as well as two stages set up for the bands. The first band we heard was Ballyhoo which played on the small stage that was kind of hidden behind the main oyster roast stand. We got our beer before a line formed and then headed for the oyster tent.
We brought our own shuckers but for those ill prepared they were available for purchase for only $5 each. We ordered a helping of steamed oysters for $8 which gave us a tin tray of them (about half a buckets worth). Unfortunately, this was the largest size available. A little on the expensive side seeing as how we already had to pay an entry fee but the oysters were of high quality and very large in size. They were delicious and came with lemon, cocktail sauce, and hot sauce.
After we finished the tray, very quickly I might add, I decided to try my hand at the fried oyster version. At the fried fish tent you could get your choice of fries or onion rings with a variety of various fried fish of your choice. I ended up with fried butterfly shrimp, fried oysters, and french fries which totaled to $16, very steep but very good. I particularly enjoyed all the condiment options available, about 10 different options. I doused my fries in malt vinegar and salt, and used cocktail sauce, ketchup, and lemons for my fish.
There were long tables set up for the oyster shuckers with large trash cans at the ends to discard the shells. While I was waiting for my fried oysters my husband hit his second tray of oysters which were a mixture of steamed and raw. While the raw were still tasty, they were much harder to open and a shucking incident (my husband is clumsy) caused us to have to leave the party early. I was surprised to find that there was no first aid tent available which should be standard at any fair.
We still managed to find time to listen to another band play however, Call Me Much. They sounded just like Dave Matthews and played some of their cover songs mixed with their own original music. The first band Ballyhoo was all cover songs but a good mixture of older rock songs ranging from Hootie and the Blowfish to Bob Marley. He amazingly managed to mimic the voices of the original singers.
All in all, it was a good time with good music, good food, and a great place to hang out with friends and family. We ended up running for cover due to heavy rain and having to cut it short but I’m sure the party ran on despite the weather. The only warning I would give is that it is pretty expensive between entry cost and food so it may be harder for larger families to attend and be able to feed everyone. But if you can afford it, it is worth the trip. Your stomach will thank you.