‘It’s an honor to have it here’

Ralph Smith, Mine Oyster host Pemaquid Oyster Festival
Mon, 09/25/2023 - 9:15am

    Mine Oyster hosted the 20th anniversary celebration of the Pemaquid Oyster Festival in Boothbay Harbor Sept. 24, after tropical storm Lee postponed the event one week. An enormous crowd enjoyed oysters from the Damariscotta River region. Farmers included Glidden Point Oyster Farm, Mook Sea Farm, Norumbega Oysters, Muscongus Bay Aquaculture, Pleasant Cove Oysters, Blackstone Point Oysters, Heron Island Oysters and Pemaquid Oyster Company.

    “It was a matter of pride to me – to bring the festival to Boothbay Harbor,” said Chef Ralph Smith of Mine Oyster. “I’ve worshiped going every year when it was in Damariscotta, and it’s an honor to have it here.”

    Event organizers timed and judged eight contestants in an oyster shucking contest: Smith, Dan Flach, Alp Kilic, Brendan Parson, Norm Staunton, Chad Egeland, Joel Spinney and William Lightfoot. Each contestant chose 14 oysters and shucked a dozen on the clock. The two contestants with the best times,  Egeland and Kilic, then faced off in one final round with Egeland winning the competition and $500 and entry into the National Oyster Shucking Competition in Maryland the third weekend in October.

    “This will be my fourth year competing in Maryland,” said Egeland, of Portland. “I get a little better each time.”

    Vendors and educational booths set up under tents on Pier One, and festival ticket holders wandered through Mine Oyster eating oysters and listening to bands; David Gagne kicked off the event, followed by The Oystermen, Blue Flames, Darlin’ Corey, Paul Mellyn & Denny Breau, and King Memphis.

    Mine Oyster offered a special menu featuring oysters in every imaginable way to prepare them. The “Pemaquid Oyster Special” – a smoked oyster flatbread, received rave reviews.

    All proceeds from Mine Oyster food sales during the event were donated to the festival, and all proceeds from the festival are donated to local nonprofits that share the vision of Edward A. Myers, a Damariscotta River aquaculture pioneer who dedicated his life to preserving marine ecology along Maine’s Midcoast. Since the festival began in 2003, it has awarded over $175,000 to local nonprofits.