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Narooma Oyster Festival rates best ever

Organisers of Narooma Oyster Festival say this year’s festival was the biggest and best ever.

“We’ve still to crunch the numbers and analyse the surveys, but it was certainly bigger than last year’s with many people again coming from Sydney and Canberra and even further afield,” said Festival committee spokesperson Niels Bendixsen.

“We do know that over 5,000 people came and consumed over 45,000 oysters.”

Australian seafood supremo and long-time Festival supporter John Susman described the Festival as “a brilliant event and so well run” adding, “it’s a real celebration of the region’s food, particularly oysters, and of the local community,”

Saturday’s Oyster Alley is the “heart and soul” of the Festival showcasing oysters from the many different estuaries from the Shoalhaven to the Victorian border.

“Oyster Alley is such a unique experience, where you can taste oysters from different estuaries each with their own unique flavour,” Mr Susman said. “Nowhere else in Australia do you find anything like this and with this level of collaboration and coordination.”

The Ultimate Oyster Experience lived up to its name with rave reviews from those who took part in its master oyster tasting classes.

The expanded cooking demonstrations by a fantastic line-up of chefs were crowded all day, with each chef bringing their own style and technique to local seafood. “Kelly Eastwood of Eastwood’s Deli and Cooking School at Bermagui was magnificent as the MC,” said Festival committee member Cath Peachey.

She said everyone also appreciated the wide range of gourmet food available at the Festival from leading south coast cafes and caterers.

Yuin Elder Uncle Noel Butler was thrilled with the interest shown by the wider community in indigenous foods cooked over the fire pit.

“The cooks didn’t stop all day until we ran out,” he said. “We couldn’t have done it without the help of the young people from Wallaga who worked with the cooks as kitchen hands.”

The Oyster Shucking competition is always a Festival highlight and drew a big crowd. MC John Susman described it as the Festival’s equivalent of the Melbourne Cup.

Winner of the Women’s Oyster Shucking competition was Sue McIntyre of Broadwater Oysters, Pambula Lake, shucking 30 oysters in 3 minutes 17 seconds. There was only 0.3 seconds between second place getter Jade Norris of the Clyde River’s Wray Street Oyster Shed and Sally McLean of Jim Wild’s Oysters at Greenwell Point.

In the men’s competition, John Yiannaros from B&B Oysters on the Clyde beat Greg Carton of Broadwater Oysters, Pambula Lake, with last year’s champ Australia's Oyster Coast half shell manager Gerard Dennis third. John’s winning time was 30 oysters in 3 minutes 5 seconds.

Five-year-old Pacific oyster Hagrid from the Clyde River was crowned Australia’s Biggest Oyster weighing in at 2.25kg, grown by Martin Jackson of Southern Oyster Culture. Hagrid pipped last year’s international celebrity winner Jack who weighed 2.18kg; owner Bernie Connell said Jack had spawned in the last week or so with all the media attention, losing several hundred grammes in the process.

Friday night’s free community concert and fireworks were a great success.

“The inaugural fully catered long table dinner with an indigenous grazing table was just superb with 140 people sitting down for a three-course South Coast produce dinner. The committee was thrilled it came together so well,” Mr Bendixsen said.

“Music was non-stop throughout Saturday with 19-Twenty providing an extraordinary end to a very successful day.”

Above: Winner of the Narooma Women’s Oyster Shucking Competition was Sue McIntyre of Broadwater Oysters on Pambula Lake (centre), second Jade Norris of the Wray Street Oyster Shed on Clyde River (right), and third was last year’s inaugural champion Sally McLean of Jim Wild’s Oysters at Greenwell Point (left).

Above: Cooking demonstration host Kelly Eastood of Eastwood’s Deli and Cooking School at Bermagui enjoyed the great line-up of chefs this year including Mark Olive, aka ’The Black Olive’.

Above: Narooma Oyster Festival’s Oyster Alley was a major attraction with visitors keen to compare the flavours of oysters grown ion the different estuaries.

Above: Competition was strong but fun in the Oyster Shucking Competition. Champion shucker in the men’s competition was John Yiannaros from Batemans Bay beating Greg Carton of Broadwater Oysters, Pambula Lake, and last year’s champ Australia's Oyster Coast Gerard Dennis who came third.

Above: Friday’s free concert included music students from Narooma Public and High Schools, including the Rhythm Hunters shown her on sunset, culminating nine-piece powerhouse party band Big Boss Groove

Above: The fireworks by Mosaic Fire Pyrotechnics of Mogo delighted the crowds, especially children.

Above: At Australia’s Biggest Oyster weigh-in, Cath Peachey of the Narooma Oyster Festival committee, Narooma vet Dr Kate Le Bars, winner Hagrid and his handler Mick Campbell of the Clyde River, competition MC John Susman and last year’s champion Jack and handler Bernie Connell.

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