Out & About at the Oyster Festival

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Alaina Oakley, of Invercargill, counts the shucked oysters during the oyster-opening heats. Photos: Janette Gellatly

OYSTER connoisseurs from around the world converged on this year’s early sell-out Bluff Oyster & Food Festival to consume the delicacy on Saturday.

Whether it was au naturel, dressed in batter, Kilpatrick, or a variety of other ways, more than 20,000 oysters were consumed, Bluff promotions officer Lindsay Beer said.

An estimated 4500 people flocked to enjoy the food and be entertained by live music and oyster-opening and oyster-eating races.

Mr Beer said 75% of the patrons came from outside Southland, with some from as far away as Australia, South Africa, the United Kingdom and China.

Three charter flights – two from Auckland and one from Wellington – transported about 450 people to Invercargill before they were bussed to the festival and other attractions in the area including Transport World, Classic Motorcycle Mecca, The Seriously Good Chocolate Company and Invercargill Brewery in Invercargill.

Passengers exit one of three Airbus A320 charter flights which brought people from Auckland and Wellington to Invercargill.
Some of the charter plane passengers who visited The Seriously Good Chocolate Company in Invercargill, as well as the Bluff Oyster & Food Festival in Bluff.
Penny Swarbrick (left) holds a Mayor Tim Shadbolt mask she was given on the charter flight from Auckland, and her friend Linely Naismith, also of Auckland, enjoy oysters au naturel.

Not only were oysters in demand at the 13 festival food stalls. Many other delicacies, such as muttonbirds, kina, pork belly, venison, scallops and crayfish, delighted festival-goers.

Mr Beer said “this year’s crowd had been great and everyone had had a great time.”

Former All Black Mils Miliaina was one of the competitors who consumed 10 oysters during the men’s oyster-eating race. However, it was Daryl MacDonald, from Blenheim, who won the men’s race for the second year running, while Kathryn Gifkins, of Inglewood, Taranaki, won the women’s race.

Toru Ngu, of Invercargill, competes as part of the Direct Fish team in the relay oyster-opening race, while timekeeper Sue Garland, of Invercargill, looks on.

Shane Wixon, of Ngai Tahu Fisheries, won the men’s oyster opening, shucking 50 oysters in 2 minutes 36 seconds. Second was Ricci Grant, from Barnes Wild Bluff Oysters, 3min 5sec, and Cory Boyce, Direct Fish, was third, in 3min 18sec.

In the women’s section, Vic Pearsey, of Barnes Wild Bluff Oysters, made it seven wins in

seven years when she opened 50 oysters in 2min 43sec. Second was Peg Fisher, Direct Fish, 3min 35sec, and Raewyn Rautahi, Barnes, was third, in 4min 16sec.

Cory Boyce, of Bluff (right), takes part in the blindfolded oyster-opening race.

Wixon also won the blindfolded oyster-opening race, opening 10 oysters in 34.2 seconds, while Boyce was second with 1min 22sec.

The Direct Fish team of four won the oyster-opening relay team event, shucking 20 each in 5min 16sec, with the Barnes team 21 seconds behind on 5min 37sec.

Entertainment galore

United States-based singer Helen Henderson entertains the crowd at the Bluff Oyster & Seafood Festival.

On the main stage the crowd was entertained by international artist Helen Henderson, Nelson-based band The Bragg Brothers, Christchurch bands The New Entrants and The Stoutfellows, local band Otepuni Moonshine, the Bluff School Kapa Haka Group and the Cook Island Drummers. Festival chairman John Edminstin especially thanked all the volunteers who had grappled against Friday’s “polar blast which hit the region prior to the event” and turned up on the Saturday to set up and man the festival site.

“They do a great job every year and we could not do it without them, but I have to acknowledge what was a special effort this year.

“(Friday’s) weather was absolutely diabolical on site, but the volunteers pitched in, did a magnificent job and everything was ready to go on time. I can’t say enough about our team.”

Tickets for next year’s festival on May 26 have already gone on sale.

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