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Break Out of Your Shell at the Chincoteague Oyster Festival

Whether you're taking a boat tour showcasing the natural scenery or spending the day learning about ponies at the Chincoteague Pony Centre, Chincoteague has all the activities to make your next Virginia getaway a memorable one. Foodies will be enamored with the city's selection of eateries including Island Creamery, Bill’s PRIME Seafood & Steaks, and The Village Restaurant. To get the full Chincoteague experience, visit during one of its great community events such as the Chincoteague Oyster Festival and the Annual Pony Swim.


The Chincoteague Oyster Festival has celebrated the opening of the oyster season for more than 40 years, and it will take place October 7 at Tom’s Cove Park. This year’s event will feature oysters prepared by a talented group of volunteers. Oyster options will include fried, on the half shell, fritters, and steamed. Plus, attendees can also enjoy regular festival fare and a variety of refreshments. A favorite local band, named Island Boy, will perform live throughout the event. The Best Place/Space Decorating Contest will award the best-decorated attendee. Patrons can also win a variety of prizes from local restaurants and businesses in the event raffle. If you're a fan of seafood and coastal living, this is the ultimate event for you! We received the chance to interview Joanne Moore, Marketing and Event Coordinator for the Chincoteague Chamber of Commerce, to learn more about this great event.


RAL: How long has the event been running?

JM: This is the Chincoteague Oyster Festival’s 45th year.


RAL: How many annual participants do you draw?

JM: We see a sell-out-crowd of 2,700 attendees and over 200 volunteers each year. Those interested in attending shouldn't wait much longer to purchase tickets as it is a sell-out event. Tickets are generally not available the day of the festival.


RAL: What demographic does your event attract? Children? Families? Couples?

JM: Although families with young children attend, the Chincoteague Oyster Festival attendees are typically ready for a party. Our attendees are primarily couples, families with grown children, and large groups of friends. Sometimes we have large organized groups attend, including Corvette groups and Airstream campers.


RAL: What makes this event unique?

JM: The Chincoteague Oyster Festival is the longest standing Oyster Festival on the Eastern Shore. It is a celebration of Chincoteague’s rich watermen heritage and marks the arrival of the oyster season.


RAL: Take me through the activities of a day at the event.

JM: Gates open at 10:00 a.m. and appetizers are served at 11:00 a.m. Full menu and live music go from Noon – 4:00 p.m. There is no set up before 10:00 a.m. and  no pets are allowed on the festival grounds. There will be live entertainment provided by Island Boy, a popular 7-piece "rock and soul" band from Hampton Roads, VA. They have been performing at the festival for over 20 years and are a favorite of the attendees. We also offer an Extravaganza Raffle with the winner receiving t-shirts, tickets, lodging and gift certificates for meals, bike rentals, shopping, boat cruises and much more for the following year’s festival – approx a $1500 value.


RAL: What dining options will attendees encounter?

JM: Oysters! Oysters! Oysters! On the half shell, steamed, single fried, and fritters. Attendees can also enjoy clam chowder, clam fritters, shrimp cocktail, a salad bar, boardwalk fries, hushpuppies, hot dogs, water, soft drinks, coffee, and hot chocolate. Beer and desserts are also available for purchase.


RAL: Tell us about the overall atmosphere.

JM: It’s a party! We also have a Best Place/Space Decorating Contest where groups decorate their “site” with a theme and many dress up in costume to match. We have a great group of volunteers that judge the registered groups, and a huge basket of prizes and bragging rights go to the winners.


RAL: Are there any lodging specials that are set up specifically for the event?

JM: Many of the motels and hotels offer special promos for weekend of the event. Guests can contact them directly or the Chamber of Commerce for a list of known specials.


RAL: Does this drive business to your local economy?

JM: Yes! Chincoteague’s primary industry is tourism. The festival was originally developed as an economic driver to bring guests to our beautiful island during the off season. It is a great opportunity for our accommodations, restaurants, shops, etc. to see an increase in business.


RAL: Does the event support a particular cause in the community?

JM: The festival supports the Chincoteague Chamber of Commerce & Certified Visitor Center and our mission to educate and promote our business community.


RAL: Why should people come to your event?

JM: The Chincoteague Oyster Festival is a unique experience that brings many of our attendees back for decades. It is a day full of delicious culinary cuisine, great company, fantastic entertainment, and memories to last a lifetime!

For more information about the Chincoteague Oyster Festival, please visit the event website.