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Community Roots: Selections from the Local Legacies Project
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Ruth Smith, 3 time oyster-shucking champion
Ruth Smith, three-time National Oyster-Shucking Champion - October 18, 1981. Photo: Official Rotary Archives

St. Mary's Oyster Festival (Leonardtown, St. Mary's County)

Now in its 34th year, the St. Mary's County Oyster Festival was born in 1967 when the Lexington Park Rotary Club was looking for a community project to involve its entire membership. In addition, its objectives were to promote a weekend of fun, food, and fellowship for visitors; to attract visitors to St. Mary's County; and to provide funds for the charities of various local service and civic organizations. Attendance on October 7, 1967, was just under 1,000, but has grown to over 20,000, aided by adding a second day to the festival in 1974. Over 80% of the visitors are now from out of the area. More than 150,000 oysters (and 70 kegs of beer) are consumed.

Now held the third weekend in October, oysters are still the main draw--fried, stewed, scalded and "nude"--but other regional foodstuffs have been added, including renowned Maryland crabcakes and soup, clam chowder, shrimp, fish sandwiches, locally famous St. Mary's County stuffed ham, barbecued beer, chicken and pork and even Polish sausage.

Highlights of the two-day festival are the National Oyster Shucking Championship Contest and National Oyster Cook-Off, where contestants compete to produce the best-tasting oyster dish in four categories: hors d'oeuvres, soups & stews, outdoor cookery & salads, and main dishes. The cook-off has become so popular that now 350 recipes are received from 30 states.

Non-stop entertainment features "Kid's Korner," with its carnival games and rides, roving clown show, pony rides, free balloons and face-painting. For adults, three buildings are devoted to displaying and selling local arts and crafts, and live music--jazz, pop, and country--is provided at three locations on the festival grounds. An additional attraction are educational exhibits of old farm and watermen's implements, evoking a time when locals made their living working the waters of the Chesapeake Bay and its tributaries.

The project is documented with ten 8 x 10 black-and-white photographs, a eight-page written report, event programs, informational brochures, flyers, newspaper articles, and a video of the St. Mary's Oyster Festival.

Originally submitted by: Steny H. Hoyer, Representative (5th District).

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The Local Legacies project provides a "snapshot" of American Culture as it was expressed in spring of 2000. Consequently, it is not being updated with new or revised information with the exception of "Related Website" links.

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