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Fun On the Halfshell: New Orleans Oyster Festival

Oyster Fest is two full days of eating and lots of live music, in one of the most picturesque spots in the city.

Red Fish Grill's BBQ Oyster Po-boy (Photo: Rebecca Todd)

I personally like mine raw. Or fried. Oh, I’m talking about Louisiana’s favorite aphrodisiac: the oyster. In true New Orleans fashion, we have a festival dedicated to the oyster. New Orleans Oyster Festival is celebrated every year along the Mississippi River at Woldenberg Park. This year’s fest takes place on Saturday, June 2 and Sunday, June 3, 2018. Oyster Fest is two full days of eating and live music at one of the most picturesque spots in the city. Here’s a few reasons why you should add Oyster Fest to your calendar:

  1. It’s free to get in, and everyone is invited!
  2. Go hungry— there are nearly two dozen New Orleans restaurants serving oysters in every way imaginable.
  3. Wear your dancing shoes! It’s a big party with lots live music, fun contests you’ll want to watch, and family-friendly crowds.
Oyster Fest (Photo: Paul Broussard)

The Food

Obviously, the star of the show is the oyster. You can experience traditional Half Dozen Raw Oysters from Acme Oyster House, signature charbroiled oysters from Drago’s, or a local staple, the classic Fried Oyster Po-Boy.

If you’re feeling a little fancy, you can venture to Andrea’s for the oyster artichoke with angel hair pasta, the pepper jelly oysters from Mr. Ed’s, or ceviche oysters from Trenasse.

There are lots of non-oyster options as well, such as shrimp and alligator cheesecake (think savory, not sweet) from Jacques-Imo’s, crawfish rolls from Redfish Grill, soft shell crab po-boy from Ajun Cajun, and cajun nachos from Oceana.

Dessert lovers, you have to try the baked Alaska from Antoine’s. Between that and the snowballs from NOLA Snowballs, you’ll definitely cool off from both the New Orleans heat and the heat from the food!

To break up some of your eating, there are cooking demonstrations on both days with chefs preparing (and sampling) their favorite oyster recipes. When the tent isn’t cooking, the festival programs brass bands to play between the cooking demo acts.

Soulful southern rockers Honey Island Swamp Band close out first day of the 2016 Oyster Fest (Photo: Paul Broussard)

The Music

A New Orleans festival wouldn’t be complete without a solid music lineup. On Saturday, you can start off by jamming out to the Treme Brass Band, catch Lost Bayou Ramblers midday, and end the day with funky, hip-hoppy sound of Shammar Allen & the Underdawgs. If you feel bad for missing church on Sunday, don’t fret. The day starts with Gospel. You won’t want to miss the unique sounds of The Mulligan Brothers. Later in the day, you’ve got a fun back to back with Naughty Professor and Sexy Dex opening for Bag of Donuts.

Sonya “The Black Widow” Thomas is the reigning champ of the Acme Oyster House Oyster World Oyster Eating Championship, a real MLE event (Photo: Paul Broussard)

The Contests

To add a little extra spice to the fest, there are a few can’t-miss contests:

  • On Saturday, there’s the P&J Oyster Shucking Contest, where the area’s top oyster shuckers from our favorite oyster bars compete to see who can shuck the most oysters in just two minutes. The trick is, the oysters must be shucked cleanly, so appearances count. In previous years, the winners each shucked more than 18 dozen oysters in two minutes. The current record is 20 dozen, which last year’s winner, Brian Clark, tied.
  • On Sunday is the Acme Oyster House Oyster Eating Contest. The name says it all: who can eat the most oysters in eight minutes. The record is held by Sonya “The Black Widow” Thomas, who has eaten 47 dozen oysters in 8 minutes. YOU GO GIRL!

On display in a tent all weekend will be the New Orleans Fish House Largest Oyster Contest, where Louisiana farmed oysters are judged by weight, length, and width on who has the biggest prized oyster around. Last year’s oyster submitted by Captain Pete’s Oysters of Port Sulphur, La weighed 3 pounds, a fest record!

The Crafts

Also at Oyster Fest, you’ll find terrific gifts and goods to take home from local vendors. Jewelry, plates, socks, shucking gear, wooden boards, pirogues, ceramic oysters, and more are all on sale at the Fest.

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