COMMERCIAL TWP. — For many, fresh-caught raw oysters enjoyed on the docks may paint the perfect picture of summer.

But it is mid-October that oyster connoisseurs will love in Port Norris, where the Bayshore Center at Bivalve will be hosting the first annual New Jersey Oyster Festival starting at 12 p.m. on Saturday, Oct. 15.

Teri Watson, Bayshore Center director of donor and volunteer relations, said purveyors from local farms will be providing their own shuckers for this pay-as-you-go event (on top of $25 admission).

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Attendees don't necessarily have to miss out if they want to be more involved in the process, though.

"We're also going to have a shucking contest, so local people that like to shuck oysters can come out and compete," Watson said.

Bayshore Center at Bivalve
Bayshore Center at Bivalve via Facebook
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Food trucks for those who don't like oysters, or prefer them cooked, will be on the scene, but Watson said the raw mollusks will still be the star attraction.

"We're going to be doing a contest for the 'people's choice' award of their favorite oyster, because there's several different types of oysters," she said.

The oyster industry has been changing, according to Watson, now including not just wild caught oysters, but also farmed ones.

That change will be the topic a series of speakers is scheduled to address at the festival, along with the premiere of a new short film about the current state of shucking.

Beer and wine, live music, and craft vendors are the other reasons to make a weekend trip down to Cumberland County this fall.

"Each person, with their admission, they'll get a free glass, they'll get their first beer or wine on us or if they prefer soda or something, their first beverage on us, and they will get their first three oysters on us," Watson said. "You can go on our website, or you could go to njoysterfestival.com."

AJ Meerwald
Bayshore Center at Bivalve via Facebook
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Parking space is limited, Watson said, but it is free.

The museum portion of the Bayshore Center will be open during the event, and tours will be offered on the newly-restored AJ Meerwald schooner, which just returned from an 11-month stay in Maine.

Patrick Lavery is a reporter and anchor for New Jersey 101.5. You can reach him at patrick.lavery@townsquaremedia.com

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