On the weekend of Oct. 18, the Lexington Park Rotary Club hosted the 47th Annual St. Mary’s County Oyster Festival on the St. Mary’s County Fairgrounds in Leonardtown. The festival featured a wide variety of activities ranging from puppet shows to belly dancers. The festival was a haven for people seeking good deals and local products. To name a few of the attractions, the Women’s Club of St. Mary’s County managed a hand craft and flea market out of the farm and garden building. The arts and crafts building was occupied by the St. Mary’s County Art Association, which featured for sale a wide variety of paintings, jewelry, and crafts produced by local artists.
Perhaps the biggest draw to the festival was the food. Numerous local businesses, such as Nick’s Gourmet Soups, Smokey Joe’s, and Sunshine Catering, operated stalls along the fairground’s main thoroughfare. Samples were given freely at most stalls and the food options themselves were quite affordable. Naturally, oysters featured quite prominently on the menu. At least half of the stalls on the fairground were selling raw, fried, grilled, scalded, or otherwise prepared oysters. Oyster sandwiches and soups were also readily available. On the subject of oysters, the festival is home to the National Oyster Shucking Championship Contest. This contest is widely regarded as one of the premier oyster shucking competitions in the world; a title that has more weight than you may initially expect; the winner of the competition will go to Ireland to compete in the international competition of oyster shucking.
Several bands and musical performances attended the festival. The St. Mary’s College Jazz Combo was one such performance. The band played for an hour and a half on Saturday and was, in the words of senior student Lisa Williams, “Fantastic!” An older, bearded gentleman, who preferred to not give his name said that the performance was “quite good, and certainly better than some professional acts I’ve seen.”
The bottom line is that the oyster festival is an excellent place to enjoy good food, local stuff, and public performances. The cover charge was five dollars.