Colchester: Celebration of seafood delicacy draws thousands

THE FOURTH Colchester Oyster Festival in honour of the local delicacy has attracted thousands of people from far and wide.

Held at Upper Castle Park on Saturday, the event - which marked the start of the local oyster season - enticed people wanting a taste of the seafood treat.

Don Quinn, director of events company Snake in the Grass, which organises the free festival, said for the first time this year oyster icecream was on offer, which was “really well received.”

Another highlight was a 7Ib-Gigas oyster, which he said was the largest he and the oystercatcher had ever seen. He understood it had been returned to Mersea Island to be lowered back into the mud.

As well as the main seafood attraction, the festival also offered other foods, such as smoked fish, there were a variety of stalls including jewellery and crafts, a pie eating competition, children’s entertainment and youngsters performed music in the bandstand.

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Mr Quinn said: “It grows every year, and this year there were thousands of people there enjoying themselves.

“It wasn’t a particularly sunny day, but that didn’t matter. And the spirit of it - it’s a family event to celebrate the town really, but the oyster is the symbol.

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“The oysterman had to keep rushing back to Mersea Island because he was selling out of them.”

He described the flavour of the native Colchester oyster as salty, but with a sweetness, and when you swallow it leaves you with a savoury taste.

He said the oyster had been a symbol of the town ever since Roman times, and to this day it was still important to its economy.

“You could almost suggest, and people do, that the Romans came here for the oyster really. They were passionately fond of oysters.”

He also suggested that the first oyster icecream might have been made by the Romans as they wrapped the delicacy in snow.

Mr Quinn believed about 8,000 visitors turned out to the event - about the same as last year - adding how some had travelled from as far away as Kent and Lancashire. He said they did run out of oysters - but only about half an hour before the end.

All profits from the festival will go to St Helena Hospice.

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