clayoquot oyster festival in tofino

Tofino Oyster Fest: Slurpers, Shuck Your Oysters

by Caron Olive, Tofino


The Calm Waters Hall in Tofino will be abuzz with the sound of slurpin' at the 7th Annual Clayoquot Oyster Festival. This year's event will be held on Saturday November 22, 2003, and will feature oyster culinary delights diligently prepared by Chefs from local restaurants, a display and sampling of regional wines, fabulous jazz music from the Vancouver based Continentals, and the renowned Slurping contest. Last year about 4,000 oysters were consumed during the evening, and we expect to do the same again this year!

Seven years ago, the first Clayoquot Oyster Festival started as a small book and food event sponsored by Wildside Booksellers in Tofino. The event featured James Barber the Urban Peasant for an evening of conversation and good food (and we can't forget about the debut of the Oyster Bunny).

Since there were (and are) several oyster farms in Clayoquot Sound and it was the beginning of November, the start of oyster harvesting season, oysters were the food of focus. Over the past years the Festival, which is organised by a group of dedicated volunteers and assistance from the Clayoquot Sound Shellfish Growers Association, has grown in size, popularity and zaniness.

As a celebration of oysters and the sea, the Festival emphasises good food and the fun of eating oysters. Chefs from local restaurants and resorts present a tempting array of oyster creations. These creations are voted on for best recipe by a panel of judges, for the Juried Prize and by Festival guests for the People's Choice Award.

The crowning event of the evening is the Slurping Contest. Gaining a reputation for being unpredictable and outrageous, slurpers vie for the prestigious title of "Oyster Slurping Champion". Judged on merits of Style, Gusto, Acoustics and Sex Appeal, slurpers have continued to out do themselves.

It is easy to celebrate oysters as they are fascinating creatures, delicious and good for you. They are bivalve mollusks that eat by filtering around 25 gallons of water per day. So connected to its growing environment, the taste of oysters vary from place to place reflecting differing environmental conditions.

Considered as health food in a shell, they are chock full of things that are good for you, including glycogen and many vitamins and minerals, and are said to have almost no fat and few calories. And its' reputation as an aphrodisiac – well, we'll let you test that out on your own.

The oysters cultivated in Clayoquot Sound are the Crossostrea gigas, more commonly known as the Japanese or Pacific Oyster. This oyster was introduced to the West Coast in the early 1900's. While most commercial growing of oysters has traditionally been done on tidal beaches, the long-line method that is popular in this area allows these creatures to grow on strings dangling deep in the cold waters of Clayoquot Sound. Put in the water as small juveniles, it takes 2 years for them to grow to a good eating size.

Tickets for the event are $45/person and can be purchased by visiting or calling Wildside Booksellers at 320 Main Street, Tofino or tel: 250.725.4222. Doors open at 6 pm at Calm Waters Hall, Tin Wis Resort, Tofino. The Festival does sell out, so be sure to buy your tickets early.

Oyster farm tours will be available on Sunday November 23, 2003 (weather depending). Contact Wildside Booksellers for more information.

Caron Olive has been on the coast for a number of years and has been involved with several environmental NGOs.

Tofino festivals

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