California, MD — Like father, like son. When three-time World Champion oyster shucker Michael Moran visited St. Mary’s County this week he was following in the footsteps of his father, who visited the county in 1979 as world champion. Moran, seven-time Irish Champion, will act as Master of Ceremonies for the National Oyster Shucking Championship as part of this weekend’s 48th Annual St. Mary’s County Oyster Festival at the fairgrounds in Leonardtown.
Moran’s visit is being sponsored by festival organizers, the Rotary Club of Lexington Park, which also sends the winner of the national championship to the international contest held every year in September in Galway, Ireland as part of the Galway Oyster and Seafood Festival, which had its beginnings in 1954.
Moran did a meet and greet on Tuesday at DB McMillan’s in the Wildwood Shopping Center. He was presented with a proclamation from St. Mary’s County Commissioner President Francis “Jack” Russell, himself a waterman if not a particularly good oyster shucker.
Moran called the stage on which he will be standing to MC the national championship: “iconic.” He noted, “It’s all about the people and the hospitality of the people here.” He quickly added, “And the oysters – to share the passion.”
The St. Mary’s County Fairgrounds are transformed into nirvana this weekend. Oysters are served up raw, scalded, grilled on the barbie, on bread, on the half shell, stewed, nude, cooked in savory sauces, in salads, even in desserts, just about every way imaginable.
Festival highlights include the annual Oyster CookOff Saturday with categories of Hors D’oeuvres, Soups and Stews, and Main Dishes. The various preparations for the three categories begin at 10:30 with the judging beginning at 2:30. This year for the first time the judging will take place from the shucking stand.
The amateur oyster shucking contest begins Saturday at 2 p.m. followed by preliminary men’s and women’s heats. The finals take place Sunday afternoon, with the women’s finals at 3 p.m. and the men’s at 3:30. The National Championship begins at 4 p.m. with the men’s and women’s finalists facing each other. Last year’s national champion, William “Chopper” Paine of Massachusetts is expected to be on hand to defend his title.
The gates are open from 10 a.m. to 6 p.m. on Saturday and from 11:00 a.m. to 6 p.m. on Sunday. Admission is $5 for adults, no charge for children 12 and under and there is plenty of free parking. The festival events continue, rain or shine, since adequate buildings and tents are provided on the grounds. Proceeds from the Oyster Festival go to local charities.