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The SCENE Magazine

3rd Annual Oyster Fest Brings Fun and Festivities to Sunny San Leon – Home of the Half Shell

Apr 08, 2019 07:11PM
The San Leon Oyster Fest is on Saturday, April 27 at Pier 6 Seafood Restaurant (113 6th St., San Leon). Formerly Bubba’s Shrimp Palace, many improvements have been made to the property and the land surrounding it to accommodate the event and the large crowd expected to attend this year, and the new restaurant will open the bar area for the first time during the festival. 

The event starts at 2 p.m. with festivities including an oyster-eating contest, professional and amateur oyster cook-offs, a kid’s zone (sponsored by the San Leon Church), local vendors and craft booths, food trucks will be on-site offering non-oyster menu options and live music throughout the day with legendary Country Western recording artist, Mickey Gilley, headlining the event at 7 p.m. 

The goal of the event is to promote appreciation for oysters and bring awareness to the vital role they play in the brackish waters of Galveston Bay, with proceeds going directly toward the continuing enhancement of the public oyster reefs that are crucial for their survival. 

Oysters need shells in order to grow and spawn and their shells form reefs in the bay that provide shelter and spawning areas for a variety of other marine life, such as shrimp, mollusks, worms, crabs and fish. Most importantly, though, the valves in oysters act as filters for the bay, removing organic and inorganic particles from the water, packaging them into bundles and releasing them back into the water where they are then utilized as food by other organisms.

With all of the pollution and harmful particles that are now in our bay, the filtering capability of these magnificent mollusks is more important than ever. Oysters are also an excellent source of essential nutrients. Health benefits of eating oysters include stronger bones, lower cholesterol and blood pressure, increased blood circulation, quicker healing rates and increased metabolism. For centuries, oysters have been known as one of nature’s aphrodisiacs because of their extremely high levels of zinc. Eating oysters can increase the libido and enhance sexual performance.

San Leon has been called the “Oyster Capital of Texas” because it is home to two of the largest oyster companies in the state – Prestige Oysters (owned and operated by Johnnie and Lisa Halilli) and Misho’s Oyster Company (owned and operated by Misho Ivich). Both businesses are family-owned and operated and both were established more than 30 years ago in San Leon.

But these two families aren’t fierce competitors; they have built a camaraderie based on mutual respect and their shared priority to maintain the sustainability of the oyster population in Galveston Bay by replenishing the public reefs that have been devastated over the past 10 years by hurricanes, droughts, algae spores and a lack of salinity in the bay, decreasing the oyster population by an estimated 50 to 85 percent in Galveston Bay. Restoration of the reefs destroyed by Hurricane Harvey has cost roughly $70 million to rebuild just 1,400 acres of the devastated oyster beds and it is estimated that it will take $330 million and decades (yes, decades) for the oyster population to fully recover.

“Our main goal for the Oyster Fest is to raise money to help restore the public reefs in Galveston Bay and to bring awareness to the value of the oyster shells and how much they benefit the ecosystem,” said Lisa.

There is still time to get your friends together and form an oyster cook-off team. Cash prizes will be awarded to 1st ($1,000), 2nd ($500) and 3rd ($250) place winners, and each will also receive the coveted crystal oyster trophy award. The 1st place winner will also receive a golden ticket to participate in the World Food Championships October 2019. Culinary experts will judge each team, plus a “People’s Choice” award will be given to the team with the most popular votes from attendees. 

The rules for the oyster-eating contest are simple: The person who consumes the most raw oysters in one minute, wins. Cash prizes will be awarded to 1st ($700), 2nd ($350) and 3rd ($250) place winners of the contest. 

Visit www.sanleonoysterfest.com for more information or to sign up for either of these contests. Tickets for the festival ($35 for general admission and $50 for VIP seats) can also be purchased online, Lisa recommends buying them early before they sell out. 

- Shawn Domingues