The West Coast is ready to celebrate the Clayoquot Oyster festival this weekend.

Oyster Fest. shucks locals out of winter’s shell

West Coasters are ready to mask-up for the festival's 19th appearance.

The West Coast’s venerable Clayoquot Oyster Festival is ready for its 19th birthday party.

The festival’s Nov. 20 Mermaids Masquerade and Nov. 21 Oyster Gala will see a different setting this year as the festival has moved its fairgrounds from the Tofino Community Hall to The Shore, according to fest. coordinator Cindy Hutchison.

“It’s a big change this year which is very, very, exciting,” Hutchison said.

“We’ve always admired the space and we thought it would be very nice to have Oyster Festival on the water and everything aligned so we were able to do it.”

Hutchison said The Shore’s sights and smells will boost the festival’s oceanic ambience.

“It’s stunning. There are giant walls of glass overlooking Meares Island and the Clayoquot Sound,” she said.

“There’s a giant patio so we’ll have oyster shuckers out on the patio shucking and you’ll be able to be out in the sea air while you’re eating your oysters.”

She is stoked on spreading the festival’s decorations around the new venue.

“There’s amazing artwork that has been in the collection over the years so it’s nice to pull it out every year and shine it up and put it out for people to admire,” she said.

She said the festival has enjoyed enduring success because of its local-friendly vibe.

“Come November everybody has quieted down, the summer is gone, everything’s quiet in town and so it’s a way for the local population to come together and celebrate the wonderful world of oysters,” she said.

“It’s a way to bring everybody together and celebrate a food that is very local to this area.”

She said it is important to keep locals connected during the the West Coast’s winter months.

“That connection to where you live and the people that surround you is really important and that’s one of the reasons the Oyster Festival has done so well and maintained its loyal following,” she said.

“People who love oysters love oysters so having a festival dedicated to it brings out the people who are very passionate about it and most of those people are also very passionate about having a nice time and enjoying life so it all goes hand in hand very well.”

She added the festival’s fun energy, along with the West Coast’s penchant for dressing up, has also helped the festival remain a favourite calendar feature.

“It is extremely fun. People like to let dress up in this town, people love a themed party so people really enjoy coming out to events like this,” she said.

“They get another opportunity to dress up, another opportunity to either get dressed up in costume or dressed up formally; shine off their dancing shoes and enjoy all you can eat oysters and beverages and conversation and laughs.”

The costumed Mermaids Ball event has evolved into a masqueraded affair and will feature live music from Vancouver-based funk band Giraffe Aftermath. Victoria’s Lovecoast will provide the gala’s classy big-band dance-tunes.

Shuttle services will be provided to keep locals from drinking and driving and attendees of both events are reminded to be respectful of the festival’s new neighbours at The Shore when arriving and leaving.

Both events are sold out but savvy locals can still get in by volunteering their time.

“If you are itching to go to the mermaids ball we have some tickets available for volunteers who want to help us out,” Hutchison said.

She added volunteers must put in at least four hours of service to receive a ticket and anyone who puts in the time will be welcomed into the festival’s family.

“It exposes you to more of the community and it’s also a way to help you feel like you belong to the community. We really want our volunteers to realize that their part of our family now for helping out,” she said.

“We have many people return year after year to help volunteer and I think it’s a very rewarding experience to volunteer and be a part of something more than just attending. It helps build a stronger community.”

Anyone interested in lending a hand can contact Hutchison at cinds.h@gmail.com.

andrew.bailey@westerlynews.ca