The Celebrated Oysterfest of Fulton, Texas

We 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 to finding fests, we seem to have a lot of that sort of good fortune.

But first, we wanted to see the “real”…  CONTINUE READING >>

Fulton Texas Oysterfest! We
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

to finding
fests, we seem to have a lot of that sort of good fortune.

But first,
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.

Perhaps
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
the island is a State Park, so the shoreline is undeveloped and
free from tourist traps. It was great! We rode for miles, dodging
washed up jellyfish

and swarms of squawking seagulls. Cars and big
ole RVs share the beach with cyclists, fisher-people and seaside
frolickers.

When
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
spending our weekend.

Fulton
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
pat.

This
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
fried/sugary
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.

Beyond
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.

Of
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
offerings.

Not
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.

As much
as we were enjoying the chow down, the real eatin’ had not
yet begun.

The
highlight of every Oysterfest is the raw oyster eating contest.
For this spectacle, we would most certainly remain spectators.

We couldn’t think of a more disgusting
competitive eating medium than raw oysters. Obviously, the advice
“try not to barf” applies to both the participants AND
the observers.

For
the contestants, that’s actually the only real rule — no
barfing. Anyone who hurls during the five minutes of frantic
oyster ingestion is disqualified, but the regulations go
one step farther. An additional five minutes of no hurling
time is tacked on after the eating, to assure that everyone
“keeps it down.” Just in case the urge to purge
hit, there was a Skid-O-Kan close at hand.

After
some formalities and poking fun, along with a touch of trash
talk, the entrants were seated at long tables and given
plastic baggies filled with twenty five pre-shucked slimy
fellas.

A quick check-in with the judges, a count down from the crowd, and
the clock was started. The baggies were emptied with shocking speed
and more were distributed as needed. Most of the competitors were
simply

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.

It certainly
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
title.

During the
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.

Surprisingly,
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
these parts.

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.

We
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
leaking well is stopped, it will could

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,
GypsyNester.com


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5 thoughts on “The Celebrated Oysterfest of Fulton, Texas”

  1. I have tried some of the best oysters I’ve had so far in Australia when we visited some family. But you got me at “streets are literally paved with oyster shells!” We are not heading to Fulton but hopefully we can enjoy some great seafood at the Texas Gulf Coast Beach Resort we’re staying at.

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