Maryland Magnificence: The St. Mary’s County Oyster Festival
Scenes from St. Mary’s County Oyster Festival (Used with Permission)
Route 4 or Route 5 through St. Mary’s County in Maryland are modest stretches of highway with flashes of vivid townships that draw people out of their cars and into the antique and handcraft shops, waterside restaurants, and wineries (yes, wineries). And on the weekend of October 20-21, 2012, all roads to Leonardtown, Maryland are paved with oyster shells, metaphorically speaking, and will lead to the St. Mary’s County Oyster Festival (aka U.S. Oyster Festival). 
The annual festival, in its 46th year, attracts between 15,000 and 20,000 visitors and is the “Home of the United States Oyster Shucking Contest and the National Oyster Cook-off.” This slogan, which differentiates this festival from all other oyster festivals in the United States, means that attendees have a chance to cheer on the quickest oyster shuckers in the country and watch outstanding chefs and cooks do justice to oysters in the kitchen. I’m looking forward to attending both events. 
This is one road trip worth taking whether you’re an ostreaphile (oyster lover) or one who enjoys a classic outdoor festival, the St. Mary’s County Oyster festival is enjoyable, educational, and delicious fun. The two-day celebration highlights Chesapeake oysters and oyster culture, the natural resources in St. Mary’s County, and will raise money for local charities. According to festival organizers, there will be “carnival rides and games, a full food court, including a sports bar, arts and crafts, historical and cultural displays…vendors, cooking demonstrations, shucking lessons, [and] live music and entertainment on two stages.” There are fried, baked, steamed, scalded and raw oysters as well as shrimp, crab, chicken and other delicacies along the main food way. It’s a foodie’s play day!
St. Mary’s County Oyster Festival, which is always the third weekend in October, is held at the Leonardtown Fairgrounds, and parking is plentiful and free. The entrance fee is $5.00 for adults and is free for children 12 and under. Festival gates open at 10 a.m. on Saturday, October 20, and at 11 a.m. on Sunday, October 21, and close at 6 p.m. on both days. For more information about the St. Mary’s County Oyster Festival, visit the or e-mail  
On October 21, 2012, following Saturday’s Oyster festival, check back here for a narrative and pictorial based on my visit to the festival.  Check out my post about last October’s festival in the meantime. Hope to see you there next weekend!
Note: I am not being paid to promote St. Mary’s Oyster Festival. I’m just a fan of the festival.

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  1. says

    I grew up in Maryland, but left in 1966 when I enlisted in the Army. I didn’t return until 1984 to share my boyhood memories with my family. My wife warned me that nothing could be as good as I remembered, especially the food. When I finally got her to Mrs. Kitchen’s boarding house on Smith Island, she didn’t some up for air for 20 minutes. Finally, she glanced up with a broad grin and said, “I didn’t know food could taste this good.” Poor girl had only eaten in California, London, Paris, and Rome. What did she know?

  2. says

    Hi Jack,

    That’s a great story, and I especially love the last line. Did you grow up on Smith Island? It’s one place in Maryland I’ve yet to visit, and I’ve heard how amazing the food is there. Thank you so much for visiting and commenting.


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