Pelicans Enjoy Oyster Fest 2013
By: Brian Travis, Pelicans.com
Competition was the name of the game this weekend as oyster shuckers and oyster eaters alike took to Woldenberg Park in the French Quarter for Oyster Fest 2013. After participating in a tour of oyster beds earlier in the week, the New Orleans Pelicans sponsored the weekend’s festivities. Pelicans forward Jason Smith attended both days of Oyster Fest and was a judge of the oyster-shucking competition, as well as a referee of the oyster-eating competition.
Between an outdoor concert series, oyster tents from a variety of restaurants around the city and the competitions, the atmosphere was upbeat and fun, but the message from the weekend was a consistent theme of a focus on the coast. Smith, the longest-tenured Pelican, took time to stress the importance of the oyster, “We’re really appreciative of all the hard work that goes in to this (Oyster Fest). We understand the oyster is a big part of the whole gulf region and especially New Orleans, so we wanted to show our support.”
Smith was a judge of the oyster-shucking competition on Saturday and was very impressed with the level of competition. Speaking after the dust settled, the Colo. native commented “It was a great competition. I had to judge on the appearance of the oyster, if it was loose from the shell and how they did. I’ve never done anything like this before, so it was a lot of fun.” Champion Leo Smith of Bourbon House Restaurant shucked a total of 19 oysters in his two-minute heat of competition and touched on his oyster-shucking history, “This is what we do it for, we do it for our livelihood and we do it for our culture.”
On Sunday, the focus shifted from oyster preparation to oyster consumption. Saints Punter Thomas Morstead and Smith were a part of the officiating team for the ACME World Oyster Eating Championships. The duo helped clear trays and make sure there was an accurate count as the eaters finished dozens of oysters.
World-renowned competitive eater Sonya “The Black Widow” Thomas won the competitive oyster-eating contest at the fourth-annual event on Sunday. It took 24 dozen oysters for Thomas to take home the title. The sub-100 pound, 45-year-old holds records in more than 25 eating competitions.
ACME Oyster House Chairman Lucien Gunter summarized the big picture of the weekend’s festivities best, “It’s a fantastic opportunity for local business to come in and support the coastal erosion situation that we’ve been dealing with for years. If it’s not for sponsors like the Pelicans, this doesn’t happen. It’s important to the longevity of our culture and the importance of restoring our coastlines.”