After a 2-year COVID-induced hiatus, OysterFest celebrated a successful event on October 1 & 2, 2022, on an abandoned runway at Shelton Airport, Shelton, WA. Skookum Rotary, the inventor and operator of the event, reported pent-up demand in the community was obvious as nearly 11,000 patrons came through the gate, over 400 RV’s camped for several days, dozens of non-profit groups raised funds for their projects and hundreds of volunteers help put the whole thing together. Thirty food vendors (all local non-profit groups), kids activities, interactive ecology/seafood/safety displays, a beer garden, wine tasting, and live entertainment on two stages rounded out the event.
OysterFest was conceived in the Spring of 1982. A local travel agent and Rotarian, Dick Oltman, was developing a Community Festival to complete his Master’s Degree in Tourism. He approached service clubs in Shelton to find a sponsor/operator to run this new event. “Too risky, too much work, it will never catch on”, were the responses. Then he came to the fledgling Skookum Rotary Club, barely five years in existence, to gain support.
For fundraisers, Skookum had been cutting and selling firewood. (medical bills surpassed income), conducting garage sales (the cost of taking leftovers to the dump equaled proceeds), holding plant sales (we bought all the plants ourselves). When Oltman presented his plan to Skookum Rotary in April, 1982, the response was a shrug of our collective shoulders and “Heck yes. We’ve had projects fail before. We’ll give it a shot”. The first OysterFest was 5 months later and the rest is history.
Officially, the event is the West Coast Oyster Shucking Championships and Washington State Seafood Festival. Makes for an awkward acronym: WCOSCWSSF. Hence, the more manageable “OysterFest”.
The 5 basic tenants of OysterFest have withstood 40 years of scrutiny and social change. One basic concept is to provide a fundraising opportunity for the not-for-profit groups in Mason County. Among those groups participating are Boy Scouts, Shelton Rotary, Kiwanis, Lions, various scholarship funds, Sororities, Lodges, and church groups.
During COVID some organizations disbanded, some lost members, and some “aged out.” The Senior Activities group has vended coconut shrimp for many years were not able to return to OysterFest this year. Coconut shrimp always had the longest lines. In true Community spirit, the Seniors gave their recipe to the Boy Scouts, counseled them on production methods, and mentored them through the process. The Boy Scouts sold 2100 servings on the first day. Thanks to the community spirit of the Senior Activities group, we will have coconut shrimp for the next 40 years.
For more information, contact:
Jerry Obendorf, President