The Fort Morgan Oyster Festival has big things planned for this year's festival. Entering its second year, it is expanding to a two-day event thanks to a big turnout in 2023. Organizers learned a lot …
The Fort Morgan Oyster Festival has big things planned for this year's festival.
Entering its second year, it is expanding to a two-day event thanks to a big turnout in 2023. Organizers learned a lot at last year's event and have made changes and additions to make the guest experience even better.
The 2023 festival was the first official year. The Navy Cove Oyster Farm owners teamed up with Spectrum Resorts, the Beach Club and Sassy Bass. The turnout was more than expected with 2,100 visitors and approximately 12,000 oysters, cooked and raw, consumed. The large turnout overwhelmed the festival grounds and food and drink lines.
Ashlee Lowry, director of marketing for Spectrum Resort, said they took the comments and feedback they received in 2023 to grow the festival. One of the mots common comments was the event was too crowded.
Lowry said the festival space on the Beach Club grounds will be better utilized this year and the areas will be more spaced out with more seating areas.
For anyone who has looked at tickets and was puzzled by the price increase, there is a good reason.
"Last year, the format was they paid a certain admission price and they had to purchase tickets to redeem for oysters. It was a little complicated," Lowry said. "This year we are doing all-you-can-eat-oysters. We raised the price a little to accommodate that, but they pay one price and get just as many oysters as they want."
A VIP ticket option was added for this year, which gives guests an early entry time of 10 a.m., exclusive areas that include seating options, oyster service and bar and bathrooms. Lowry said the VIP guests will not have to wait in lines.
The festival is family-friendly, and organizers wanted to give the children more activities to keep them entertained this year. The additions include inflatables, face painting, balloon artists and crafts.
Lowry said they are upping the music game this year as well with Jesse Duncan performing Saturday and Wes Loper Sunday.
As for crafts vendors, the number has doubled. Lowry said the festival hosted 20 arts and crafts vendors, but 2024 will see 40 vendors.
Want to try your hand at shucking oysters? This year's oyster shucking contest is open to all beginners and experienced. Those who are new will have a chance to learn from the professionals before the contest.
For the oyster farmers of Navy Cove and Admiral Shellfish, the festival is a chance to shine a spotlight on the oysters grown in the salty waters surrounding the Fort Morgan peninsula.
Navy Cove Oyster partner Chuck Wilson is excited to see the festival continue to grow but is more excited about the opportunity to educate people on the importance of the oyster, shine a light on their health benefits and maybe inspire more people to get into oyster farming.
At last year's event, Wilson said approximately 12,000 oysters were enjoyed. If the flow of the oysters had kept up with the crowd, he said he thinks the number would have been closer to 18,000. This year, he is hoping to see 3,000 festival goers over the two days and is predicting 25,000 oysters will be consumed.
Admiral Shellfish owner Anthony Ricciardone said they are planning to bring over 10,000 fresh harvested oysters this year and are looking forward to connecting with customers.
"Working the farm is the bulk of all the time that goes into the business," Ricciardone said. "There's only so many chefs and customers we can interact with every week, unfortunately. These things (festivals) are awesome because it's time we can meet our customers face-to-face, thank them and get feedback. It's really cool putting all this work in and then having someone tell us they've seen us on a menu before or wonder where they can get them locally for retail sale."
All the festival organizers agree they hope guests have an enjoyable time, learn more about local oysters and their importance and enjoy a lot of oysters.
The Fort Morgan Oyster Festival is Feb. 24-25 at The Beach Club Resort & Spa. VIP ticket holders have first access to the festival beginning at 10 a.m. General admission gates open at 11 a.m., and late admission ticket holders gain access beginning at 1 p.m. The festival wraps up at 3 p.m. each day.
For more information or to purchase tickets, visit www.fortmorganoysterfest.com.