35 Vendors At The 20th Annual Arcata Bay Oyster Festival

Friday, June 18, 2010

Sharon Letts

Arcata Main Street

PLAZA – It’s oyster season and one of Humboldt County’s favorite festivals is turning 20. Arcata Main Street presents the 20th Annual Oyster Festival Saturday, June 19 from 10 a.m. to 5:30 p.m. on the Arcata Plaza.

Arcata Main Street Executive Director Jennifer Koopman said the Plaza “green” is one of a handful of green spaces still surviving in America’s downtowns today. The non-profit organization was begun in 1987 as a grass-roots coalition of local merchants to help retain the city’s historic charm, and the Oyster Festival is just one of many events helping to build community while celebrating tradition.

In 1991, Deborah Musick was organizer of the new event, referred to initially as a kind of picnic on the Plaza. “We were looking for an event that would be uniquely us,” Musick said. “There was a lot of talk of the health of the bay at that time and an aquaculture committee was created. A majority of the oysters harvested come from Arcata Bay.”

“Oysters have been part of Humboldt’s history for a very long time,” Koopman said. “A shell mound on Indian Island dates back 7,000 years.”

Michael Berkowitz likes oysters any way they come. TMc | Eye

More than 70 percent of the fresh oysters consumed in California are grown in just 450 acres off Arcata Bay, where Koopman said conditions are ideal. With 18 months from seed to harvest, June is the peak producing month for the favorite mollusks, and Koopman added, “Dredging is a thing of the past. Today, oysters are farmed in bags tethered to posts in the bay. The cities of Arcata and Eureka work together to maintain high quality water standards, essential for aquaculture.”

Todd Van Herpe, owner of the Humboldt Bay Oyster Co., said its oysters meet the strictest requirements for food safety, are produced year-round and are healthy to boot.

Shuttle Service

Every 10 to 15 minutes from 9:30 a.m. to 6:30 p.m. from:

• Arcata High School, 1720 M St.

• Humboldt State University, 14th and Union streets

• Samoa Boulevard, two blocks west of K Street.

Schedule of Events

9:30 a.m.

Shuttle Service Begins

10 a.m.

Festival Begins

10:30 a.m.

Shuck & Swallow Contest

11 a.m.

Acacia Collective

12:30 p.m.

Oyster Calling Contest

1:30 p.m.

Woven Roots

3 p.m.

Best Oyster Contest

3:45 p.m.

The Mother Hips

“Shellfish are excellent sources of omega-3 fatty acids, iron, zinc and vitamin B-12. They are low in fat, especially saturated fat, and high in protein.”

More than 35 food vendors, including some of Humboldt’s top chefs, will be preparing the average 100,000-plus oysters consumed during this year’s festival.

Humboldt Bay Oyster Company owner Conor Eckholm said Eckholm’s Shuck Shack will be serving Grilled Oysters sauced with Sweet Chili Lime Sauce, or good-old-fashioned butter-garlic. “I learned my Sweet Chili Sauce from Scott Sterner of North Bay Shellfish who has been farming oysters on the bay for over 30 years,” Eckholm shared.

There will also be award-winning local beer, wine and non-oyster choices for those wishing to jive without shucking.

Those wishing to Shuck and Swallow can belly-up to the 4th Annual Shuck and Swallow Contest, sponsored once again by KWPT, The Point, Lost Coast Communications’ classic rock station. Last year’s champions, and winners of the 2007 and 2008 trials, Conor Eckholm and Aidan Semingson will return to defend their titles at 10:30 a.m.

Eckholm said this year the competition may get a break, as shucker Semingson was recently injured in a shucking-related incident.

“We are all hoping he will be in full form by the time of the festival, but it may be a good year for our competitors to try and beat the three time champs!” Eckholm laughed.

Music will set the mood throughout the event with Bay Area bands, The Mother Hips and the Acacia Collective; and Northern California’s own, Woven Roots.

A Kids’ Zone will be set up on Ninth Street between H and I streets with plenty of ocean- and oyster-related games and activities.

Farmers’ Market will continue through the event, located on Eighth, Ninth and I streets adjacent to the festival.

Those with a penchant to be vocal can enter the “World Famous” Oyster Calling Contest. Local celebrity Dave Silverbrand will delight once more as master of ceremonies at 12:30 p.m.

The Best Oyster Contest with entries from some of the county’s finest chefs will be judged by local foodies, taking place on the stage at 3 p.m. Also announced will be the winners of the KHUM judging contest to include the best raw, cooked and non-oysters.

KHUM disk jockey Amy Berkowitz said she and husband Cliff Berkowitz have been involved since 1997 and look forward to the festival each year. “We love our local bivalves any way they come!” Amy said.

Amy said the judges tally more than flavor and presentation, they make note on how the preparation highlights the oyster itself.

“After all, this is a celebration of that great mollusk, the oyster. The Oyster Festival is definitely one of our favorite days of the year!” she added.

Julie Sergi and Stacey Campbell enjoy oysters during last year's Festival. TMc | Eye

Arcata Main Street’s 20th Annual Oyster Festival will take place Saturday, June 19 from 10 a.m. to  5:30 p.m. on the Arcata Plaza, located at G and 8th streets in Arcata. Off-site parking and free shuttle service will be available. (707) 822-4500, arcatamainstreet.com.

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