Cover Story

A Taste of the Sea
By Bill Sherrod, Managing Editor

If it swims the briny and tastes good with tartar sauce, chances are you’ll find it at the Eastern Shore Seafood Festival.

The festival, gearing up for its 34th rendition May 1 at Tom’s Cove Campground on Chincoteague, is sponsored by the Eastern Shore Chamber of Commerce and draws more than 3,000 people each year to enjoy clams, oysters, fish, french-fried sweet potatoes and a variety of other festival specialties. The event also features live music, this year provided by Randy Lee Ashcraft and the Salt Water Cowboys.

The festival was begun in 1968 as a way to promote the Eastern Shore and to raise money for the chamber.

H.B. Rew, Buddy Burton, Tom Richardson and Frank Barker had attended the shad planking in Wakefield the previous year. “On the way back, we talked about how we were a little disappointed in the shad planking because of all the political speeches, and the shad wasn’t very good,” says Rew, who just last year stepped down as chairman of the festival committee.

“We thought, heck, with all the great seafood we have on the Shore, we could have a real seafood festival with good food. We decided to invite the politicians but not to have any speeches. That first year we had about 500. The Republicans and Democrats both had their campaign booths, but there were no speeches,” he adds with a laugh.

Since that first year, the event has grown steadily and is today considered one of the premier food festivals in the state. It’s been featured in a variety of publications, ranging from Southern Living to a Russian lifestyle magazine. Festival attendees can eat all they want from 1 to 4 p.m., and each year consume approximately 100,000 steamed clams, 10,000 clams on the half shell, 70 gallons of shucked clams for fritters, 250 cases of clam strips, 60 bushels of oysters on the half shell, 1,000 pounds of fresh fish, 1,200 pounds of sweet potatoes, 26,000 hush puppies, 50 gallons of coleslaw, 600 pounds of fried chicken tenders, and 50 gallons of seafood chowder.

Proceeds from the event support the festival fund and the chamber.

“We feel like the festival has been a good way to promote the Eastern Shore over the years,” says Rew. “It’s become a tradition on the Shore, one that we all look forward to every spring.”

This year’s festival is Wednesday, May 1, with seafood served from 1 to 4 p.m. Tickets are $30 and can be ordered by calling the chamber at 757-787-2460 or online at www.esvachamber.org/festival.

 

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