Thursday, April 21, 2011

Slurping, cheering and creativity define second Edible Mollusk Festival, Oyster Eating Contest

If you heard loud slurping sounds last Saturday there is no doubt that they emanated from The Timbers Restaurant and Fish Market’s parking lot. 

Matt Asen, Mark Blust and their team did it all; from shucking about 1,000 oysters, preparing gourmet delights such as cuttlefish, octopus, oysters and fried shrimp, to putting up tents. 

Timbers partnered with The Bailey-Matthews Shell Museum to sponsor The Second Annual Edible Mollusk Festival and Oyster Eating Contest.

In medieval time,s the queen often was carried through the crowd perched on a throne supported by four muscle bound members of the court. The crowd at the festival was transported back in time as Cindy Porter, the oyster queen, made a grand entrance escorted by fellow Doc Ford’s employees hoisting the throne and the queen high above the crowd. Porter certainly looked the part right down to the gold glitter covering her body. She wasn’t the only person looking down on the crowd. A talented stilt walker strolled alongside the royalty.

The cheers from the crowd were deafening. Support continued as Porter walked away with the trophy for Most Clams, raising over $2,000 in pledges. Doc Ford’s was awarded the trophy for Best Team Spirit and Cindy captured the trophy for Best Female Oyster Eater.

Doc Ford’s wasn’t alone in the display of team spirit. The Sanibel Captiva Community Bank representatives donned matching t-shirts and Cassandra Smith of Sanibel Captiva Community Bank left holding the Best Dressed Oyster Eater Trophy. Toilet seats will never look the same. The classic icon of the rounded seat served as the lower valve of the clam, the lid of course was the upper portion of the bivalve, and you guessed it – her head was the pearl. That image didn’t quite compare with the spectacle Monday morning when NBC-2 early morning news anchor and event emcee, Clay Miller, posed as the pearl, wearing Cassandra’s toilet seat costume on the air... and it wasn’t even sweeps week!

A variety of hats dotted the crowd. Dr. José Leal, director/curator of The Bailey-Matthews Shell Museum, had a fishing type hat complete with oyster shells. Restaurateur Matt Asen slurped with an oyster top hat perched on his head and the Shell Museum’s eater, employee Cheryl Duffy, constructed a hat with colorful mollusks of all kinds.

Al Marti, 2010's defending champion, didn’t leave with the 2011 crown. That honor went to Lamar Williams, representing Stillwell Enterprises. He managed to slurp an amazing 42 oysters in only 60 seconds. Jeff Archambault, representing Trader’s Café and Store, took home a first runner-up ribbon and second runner-up went to The Bait Box’s Wayne Woodring, who arrived on the scene in his fairy wings get-up. Ron Nixon received the support of the over-60 crowd as he was awarded the Best Senior Slurper trophy.

Just 24 hours after the conclusion of the festival and already there are reports of costume brainstorming and practicing new techniques to position someone to walk away as the 2012 Grand Champion.

Ric Base, Anne Joffe, Kevin Ruane, Judy Zimomra and Dan Schuyler served as celebrity judges, determining the slurping honors. All proceeds will benefit The Bailey-Matthews Shell Museum’s educational programs and exhibits.

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