Galway International Oyster Festival

I’m back at Purdue finishing up my senior year and am all set to graduate in May! I could honestly ramble on for a paragraph on how much I all my experiences as a Boilermaker have impacted me as a person, how much I’ve grown, learned, etc, etc. But that really isn’t the point here – we are here to have look at pretty pictures (ok that may be a lofty goal) and talk about adventures from last semester! So here goes nothing …. again.

Now I already spouted off all my information on Galway’s tourism industry, especially amongst the Irish looking to get away for a weekend, but the main events in the city are festivals – an art festival in the late spring, a sailing competition in July (they started advertising around town in October!), and the Galway International Oyster Festival in September. The Festival features “A Seafood Trail” (think pub crawl – but with seafood), “Taste of the Sea Banquet” showcasing Galway’s seafood, the National and International Oyster Opening Tournament, a parade for children through Galway, a beauty pageant and lots of live Irish music!

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The Galway International Oyster and Seafood Festival!

One of my girlfriends, Lisa, who I met at NUI Galway and goes to USC, found a great deal to the National Oyster Opening Championship event on LivingSocial! West Lafayette (home of the Boilermakers) doesn’t even have LivingSocial or Groupon deals, but Galway and other major Irish cities offered great deals – I was really shocked! So Lisa and I grabbed the deal and dug out our dresses and dancing shoes for the big night!

Although my apartment was at least 30 minutes away from “downtown” Galway, I sucked it up and made the walk numerous times. However, the event was on a Friday night, it was raining (haha), I was freshly made-up and in high heels – so I paid my 8 Euro for a lovely chat with a cab driver right to Lisa’s front door (she had an awesome apartment right downtown).

The Marquee was right on the docks, overlooking the bay and only a few blocks from Lisa’s place. Although we had both been in Ireland over a month, we set out right at 7pm (when the doors opened) so that we didn’t miss any excitement. Of course, we had to wait in line (in the rain) for the doors to open, which they did promptly at 7:15pm! We strolled around, grabbed a drink and I took a couple pictures of the (empty) Marquee.

IMG_0342Outside the Marquee

IMG_0344Marquee at the beginning of the night (a bit empty!)

One of the highlights of the evening was dinner (of course)! All guests had a ticket for a Seafood Platter – we had clam chowder, Irish soda bread, smoked salmon and cream cheese rolls, tuna cakes, and crab claws. Everything was delicious, but I especially enjoyed the salmon and clam chowder.

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Lisa and I did know one Irish rule –  no meal would be complete without a pint of Guinness!

IMG_0351Lisa with her pint of Guinness and seafood platter

Lisa and I also shared oysters from the Festival’s 2010 Champions! The oysters came with specially made sauces and we made sure to try all of them out. This was my first experience with oysters (I have to admit I Googled “How to properly eat and oyster” before leaving my apartment for this exact reason!) and I can’t say that I’m sold on the whole slurping up raw fish from a shell thing. But I’m glad my first experience was a world-class one!

IMG_0354Our oysters and pints of Guinness!

Throughout the night there was plenty of entertainment – first there was a live band. I loved that really no matter what venue we went to in Ireland (besides the clubs at 1am, obviously) there was some form of live music. However, I was continually surprised that many bands played old country music hits – think Wagon Wheel, Johnny Cash, etc. These staples were included in the set, but the band also played lots of songs that were meant to get the crowd on their feet.

IMG_0352The entertainment for the evening

This leads me to the observation that there were a lot of older couples at the event – many that were middle aged and out with a large group and a lot of grandparent-aged couples enjoying their oysters! Of course Lisa and I, not matter how hard we tried, couldn’t dodge all the grandpas that wanted to dance with us – we got a good laugh out of that!

We took a break from all the fun on the dance floor and went to enjoy our cupcakes that were part of the LivingSocial deal. We were lucky enough to share a table with a group of five 30-ish year old guys that were travelling around Ireland while visiting one of their friends. They proved to be quite the entertainment – especially when one of them spilled his pint and chowder all over the table! Although they didn’t save us from the old guys on the dance floor – they were handy as our photographers!

IMG_0356Cupcakes!

IMG_0358Lisa and I at the Festival

The main event of the night was the National Oyster Opening Competition! Lisa and I were a bit confused about the rules and scoring of the entire event but as far as we could tell each of the contestants (most represented an Irish seafood restaurant or market) had to shuck a dozen (I think…) oysters and place them on a tray for judging. They were judged both on their speed and their presentation. There were also penalties – but that was too complicated for us to figure out.

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The host made up funny names for each of the contestants and the crowd was cheering for their favorite! It was a lot of fun to watch the competition and root for our favorite – which was really just the cutest guy out of the bunch on stage! haha

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The competition was the main event of the night and we were all partied out when it ended so we headed home without hearing the results. The website says that the 2010 Irish Oyster Opening Champ won this year too – his presentation saved him!

The evening was a ton of fun – I really felt like a part of Galway’s festivities! It was fun to go out with a new friend and get all dressed up (I had low standards and this was a major step up from v-necks, leggings, and cardigans!).

More posts to follow – lots of pictures!

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About ewittenberg

Senior biomedical engineering student at Purdue University studying abroad this semester at the National University of Ireland -- Galway.
This entry was posted in Eats, Galway, Ireland, Study Abroad, Weekend Adventures. Bookmark the permalink.

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