didn’t head for the Gulf of Mexico with oysters on the brain.
In fact, we had no idea Oysterfest was about to kick off until
after we arrived. We just heard the sound of the sea and followed it.
The rest was good old-fashioned dumb luck. When it comes
fests, we seem to have a lot of that sort of good fortune.
we wanted to see the real Texas coast. The off-the-beaten-path,
rough-and-rugged part of the gulf. And we were pretty dad-blame
successful. Taking a short ferry ride from the mainland out to
Mustang Island, one of the many long and narrow barrier islands
that line the coast from Galveston down to South Padre, we found
a stretch of the road less traveled.
the coolest thing about Mustang Island are the hard packed
beaches. The sand is so solid that we could ride our bikes
right along the water’s edge — actually IN the water at times.
A good part of
and swarms of squawking seagulls. Cars and big
ole RVs share the beach with cyclists, fisher-people and seaside
wandering the island’s more civilized section, we stumbled
upon an ad for The 31st Annual Oysterfest in nearby Fulton,
where the streets are literally paved with oyster shells.
There was never the slightest doubt as to where we would be
shares Aransas Bay with the town of Rockport, as in, the greater
Rockport Fulton Metroplex, but folks come from far and wide
for Oysterfest. Once we joined in, we could see why. We don’t know
if it’s from the thirty-one years of practice, or that Texans just
know how to throw
a hootenanny, but they have got this fest down
party ain’t just a parade and some booths, it sports a full
midway, with all of the stomach churning thrill rides any
kid could want. Along with the rides, there are plenty of
gut-bombs to provide ammunition for the projectile vomit that’s
sure to follow. Being kids at heart, we couldn’t resist getting
upside down a time or
two. The contents of our bellies remained
in place, just barely.
the midway, two ginormous tents house the arts and crafts
fair and the main attraction — the oyster-eatin’, beer-drinkin’,
music-listenin’-to and two-steppin’ area. There’s a boatload
of brilliant bands in Texas and
the fest found them a few. Mighty fine music to suck down longnecks
and shellfish to.
course the star of the show is the oyster, and Fulton had
thousands of them — laid out and freshly shucked — on yard
after yard of makeshift plywood-on-barrel tables. So fresh
that we’re possibly spoiled for any future oyster
all of the oysters were raw, there were several varieties
of bivalve preparation available for consumption. They had
’em smoked, fried and grilled — but one offering really caught
our eye — Oysters
Diablo. Fried oysters, hot sauce, bleu cheese… like buffalo wings,
and they are goo-ood. We ordered up a second round.
We couldn’t think of a more disgusting
A quick check-in with the judges, a count down from the crowd, and
slurping the oysters down right out of the baggies, but others
had developed unique techniques for rapid raw shellfish consumption.
It was not pretty.
A common method
of sliding the pearl-producers down one’s throat was to mix in
mass quantities of Tabasco sauce. Dumping the oysters out onto
the table to let the juice run off, then stuffing
them down the old gullet one by one was also a popular choice.
The eventual winner had developed a customized cup approach that
paid off — he had drilled holes in a big plastic cup that let
the disgusting, barf-inducing slime drain off before tossing the
oysters down the hatch.
seemed to work, because he swallowed two hundred of the suckers
in the allotted five minutes. He then managed to hold them down
for the required additional five to take home the $200 prize.
A dollar an oyster, what a deal! I’ll bet he won’t want to eat
another one for oh, I’d say about a year, when he defends his
disgusting display, we got to wondering, how do you catch
an oyster? What better place to find out than at Oysterfest?
We decided we’d ask the wonderfully fun folks of Fulton.
we got completely different answers from almost everyone we asked.
Everything from go to the store, to step on
them, to the correct dredge them up. Seems like
they know a lot more about eating oysters than catching them around
The truth is, oysters are dredged with a rake that is pulled behind
a boat. They live in beds on the bottom of the shallows, and are
very susceptible to environmental impurities. Which brings us
to a much more serious note.
were lucky enough to experience this year’s Oysterfest before
the Deepwater Horizon spill began to decimate the gulf region.
Now vast amounts of oyster habitat
has been soiled by oil — so far not in this part of Texas — but
the oil continues to spew forth.
Even if the
take decades for the Gulf
of Mexico to return to any semblance of its former self. Wonderful
towns like Fulton may very well cease to exist.
This was our
first Oyster Fest, let’s hope it is not the Gulf’s last.
David & Veronica,