By Caryn Coyle

Oysters on the half shell, fried or served in a stew. They will all be offered Saturday, Nov. 5 from 10 a.m. – 4 p.m. at the Chesapeake Bay Maritime Museum’s OysterFest. Located in St. Michaels, the Museum’s OysterFest is off MD Rt. 33. Admission is $15 for adults, $12 for seniors and $6 for children 6 – 17. If you are a member of the museum, or a child younger than 6, admission is free. The entire museum’s 18-acre campus will be open for boat rides, oyster tonging, there will be live music and an oyster stew competition among local chefs from restaurants in the Chesapeake Bay region.

Rides on the museum’s replica of a buyboat, Mister Jim, will be offered during the OysterFest for a cruise down the Miles River. The Chesapeake Bay Maritime Museum has the nation’s largest fleet of Bay watercraft, including skiffs, workboats and log canoes; 85 boats in all. Rosie Parks, a 51 foot, two sail skipjack built in 1955, dredged oysters for almost 20 years and OysterFest visitors will be able to explore it. The skipjack is Maryland’s state boat, and one of the last vessels designed for the only commercial fleet under sail in North America.

Chesapeake Bay oysterman will shuck and serve oysters on the half shell at the OysterFest. However, pit beef and other non-oyster offerings will be available for those who prefer something else to eat. The four kinds of oyster boats — which collect oysters by patent tonging, dredging, hand tonging and diving – will be on display. Festival visitors can climb to the sea hatch of the museum’s 1879 lighthouse, the Hooper Straight Lighthouse, which is a completely restored screw pile lighthouse, built on special iron pilings that screw into the muddy bottom of the sea, 10 feet or more.

The Chesapeake Bay Maritime Museum was founded in 1965 and is located on what was once the site of seafood packing houses, docks and workboats. There are 10 buildings that exhibit the history of the Chesapeake Bay and how people live, work and play on the Bay. All the buildings will be open during the OysterFest and the admission price includes admission to the museum.

The museum has a shed for small boats, crabbing skiffs, work boats and log canoes. There is a corncrib with handmade gunning boats, and a building devoted to waterfowl and the art, industry and sport that the flocks have inspired. The museum has a replica of the Crisfields Maryland Crabmeat Company, with all the elements of a crabmeat plant, from the three Smith Island crabbing skiffs that appear to be tied to the dock, to the table where crabmeat was picked and the locker room used by the women who picked the crabmeat. The Point Lookout Tower and the Tolchester Beach Bandstand have both been relocated to the museum’s campus. Among the large boats on display are the Edna E. Lockwood, the last sailing log bottom “bugeye” built in 1889, the Old Point, a 1909 dredge boat, the Martha, a 1934 “draketail” used for crabbing, oystering and pleasure and the tugboat, Delaware, built in 1912.

Oysters are in high season in November and the Chesapeake Bay Maritime Museum celebrates them — rain or shine — with great food, music, boats, oyster cooking demonstrations and an 18-acre campus of Chesapeake Bay maritime history.

Chesapeake Bay Maritime Museum OysterFest
213 N. Talbot Street
St. Michaels, Maryland 21663
(410) 745-2916
Saturday, Nov. 5, 2011
Hours: 10 a.m. – 4 p.m.
Admission: $15 Adults, $12 Seniors, $6 Children 6 – 17

Caryn Coyle lives in Baltimore. Her fiction and non-fiction have been published in more than a dozen literary journals and the anthology City Sages: Baltimore (2010) from City Lit Press.


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