The Galway International Oyster and Seafood Festival: A Great Competition With Lots of Entertainment
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Galway's finest event has been celebrated every September for more than half a century.
Thanks to the hotelier Brian Collins of the Great Southern, who in the early 1950s incorporated the first month of the oyster harvest to encourage tourists to visit the picturesque town of west Ireland.
Collins hotel was empty of buzzing tourists. His idea of celebrating the first oyster harvest of the year in the typical Irish style of music, food and of course the craic attracted a meager 34 people.
Despite the small turn out, the festival was destined to become great. This delightful festival has evolved from a small coastal event to an international oyster shelling/opening competition welcoming more than 10 thousand visitors to it's shores every year.
Competitors come from all over the world to try their skilled hand at successfully opening 30 of Galway Bay's finest oysters. Only one entrant from each country can compete in this prestigious event. The oysters must be opened and presented according to the strict guidelines set by the competition.
Check out www.galwayoysterfest.com if you fancy the thrill, not to mention the generous prizes for the winners.
This spectacular festival covers four days at the end of September. Opening celebrations begin with no less than a Guinness and Oyster reception. Champagne and gourmet food (seafood's, cold meats, delicious chowders and elaborate plates) delight the palettes of visitors and locals alike.
Pints of guinness are served as a fine accompaniment to assorted oyster dishes. The oysters are served raw presented in their shells on a plate of crushed ice with wedges of lemon. However, if you're not a lover of raw shellfish there is no need to panic. Numerous dishes of succulent cooked oysters are on offer. Delicious pan fried oysters with bacon and cream to oven baked with garlic and butter and my favorite: deep fried golden crisp breaded oysters served with homemade tartar sauce.
If oysters aren't your thing, and you like your meat and two veg, typical hearty Irish dishes will keep you happy and full throughout the celebrations :)
Once the ceremony is over the fun spills onto the streets of Galway. One could say, this is when the real party gets started. A fun oyster parade colours the streets and the Irish craic is mighty. The local pubs and restaurants all take part in the celebration of the oyster harvest. Fabulous food is consumed, pints of Guinness eagerly poured and music both modern and traditional lilt through the Galway streets.
The Oyster Pearl
The numerous festivities around the World Oyster Opening Championship includes a fabulous fun beauty competition. The local gals dress in their best to encourage beauty votes in their favor.
One lucky lass will be crowned the Oyster Pearl. The chosen beauty will be directly involved throughout the festival. One of her duties will include serving an oyster from the very first harvest to the Galway Mayor (lucky chap) for the official opening ceremony of the Oyster Opening Championships.
It is considered quite an honour to be chosen as the Galway Pearl. The lovely ladies are nominated by local businesses. The event is great fun for the local girls.
This fun tradition has carried down from the first ever Oyster Festival in 1954. There's nothing quite like a beauty competition to add a little glamour.
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A Little More Entertainment
As well as the oyster competition, the beauty competition and the fun oyster parade. There are numerous opportunities to savour magnificent foods, drink chilled champagne or a good ole pint of guinness, enjoy the Irish hospitality and the vibrant entertainment. Whether you opt for the plush surroundings, elegant dishes and fine music of the top hotels or visit the local taverns to tickle your taste buds and please your ears. The craic is exciting and completely contagious.
The best dressed lady is another event that graces the four day festival. A spectacular idea as all the ladies dress to kill. This prestigious event adds a fun but elegant atmosphere to the streets of Galway. Ladies don their finest attire and sashay among the observing crowd. The best dressed gal will be very pleased with her prize worth an amazing 5000€. Ladies get your glad rags on, it's time to walk the walk.
With all this entertainment and spectacular Irish performances one would be considered quite right to think the fun must surely be at an end. No way! You're in Ireland. The fun must go on.
The finally is none other than a Gala Ball. This event is most definitely the last but the word least doesn't dare show it's form. What a way to end a magnificent festival other than the way it started. Good food, fine wine, the majestic performance of delightful music and the wonderful hospitality of west Ireland.
Should the desire to visit Ireland enter your heart, be sure the famous Galway International Oyster Festival is at the top of your list. I promise you, you will never see an oyster in the same light again, anywhere in the world.
As they say in Ireland with a drink in hand, whilst toasting friends: Sláinte! (good health) and may you be in heaven an hour before the devil knows your dead.
A must visit: Full of Irish history and dramatic scenery. The west of Ireland will change you forever.
© 2010 Gabriel Wilson