While many at this weekend’s Bluff Oyster & Food Festival will be devouring the 20,000 Bluff Oysters and other succulent, tasty treats, enjoying a beverage or two and enjoying the varied entertainment on the main stage those who flock to watch the Oyster Events will see some intriguing scenarios.
The popular Oyster Competitions take place in Shed 3 with a range of Oyster Opening competitions followed by the Oyster Eating races.
Over the years several competitors in the opening and eating races have fashioned outstanding records. Keith Lovett of Bluff won nine Men’s Open titles in the Oyster Opening races over many years including seven in a row before a bent knife cost him in 2010 when Clive Westwood won the title. After taking two more titles Lovett, who had arthritis in his hands, stepped aside after the 2013 contest won by Jimmy Ryan-Thomas. While the Eating Competition records are a little sketchy Tom Sawyer of Invercargill is known to have won at least four times.
This year several competitors are on the cusp of some major achievements. Vic Pearsey of Bluff will be gunning for her ninth title in succession in the Ladies Open. Last year Pearsey opened her 50 Bluff Oysters in 3 minutes 28 seconds but two years ago managed the feat in 2 minutes 43 seconds.
Shane Wixon has been the one to beat in the Men’s Open since 2015, his winning time for 50 oysters last year 3 minutes 02 seconds, short of his own personal best of 2 minutes 36 seconds.
Meanwhile the defending Oyster Eating Champion, Daryl ‘Dagwood’ MacDonald of Blenheim, has been in the media spotlight in his hometown as he prepares to head south to take his fourth consecutive Oyster Eating title in his fourth visit to the Festival.
The gates will open this Saturday at 10.30am before the traditional Piping in of the Oyster and the reciting of the Ode to the Oyster at 11.00am. Bluff Town Crier Ian Holland will recite the Ode this year after which Festival Chairman John Edminstin will declare the event officially open and the festivities will be underway.