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28 May / Janette Gellatly - Otago Daily Times
Oyster opener Vic Pearsey claimed her eighth consecutive Women’s Oyster Opening title at this year’s Bluff Oyster & Food Festival on Saturday.
But not by much.
Pearsey shucked 50 oysters in a time of 3 minutes 28 seconds, only 10 seconds ahead of Peggy Bishop. Third was Here Witehira at 5min 02sec. All three were from Barnes Wild Bluff Oysters.
Last year Pearsey also won, with a time of 2min 43sec. Pearsey put this year’s time down to the oysters, which she said shattered as she shucked them, so she had to find another way to open them, rather than the technique she was used to.
Despite the condition of the oyster shells, she summed up her enjoyment of competing against her fellow shuckers by saying “I love it”, and praising their efforts, saying “it won’t be long before Peggy beats me”.
About 20,000 of the saltwater bivalve molluscs were consumed in a variety of ways — au natural, in batter, Kilpatrick or other ways — by festival-goers, Bluff promotions officer Lindsay Beer said.
An estimated 4500 people came from throughout New Zealand and various parts of the world, including Hong Kong, Australia, China and the United Kingdom.
“More than 60% of our patrons came from outside Southland,” including two charter flights from Auckland and Wellington transporting about 300 people, he said.
At the various festival food stalls, many other delicacies, such as muttonbirds, kina, pork belly, paua and mussels delighted festival-goers.
Mr Beer said the crowd had been “wonderful” and everyone had a great time.
In other oyster opening competitions, Marvin Ihaia, representing oyster boat Nga Roimata, beat Junior Taylor, of Golden Quest, by .03sec in the Boat Challenge.
Ihaia set a time of 2min 28.55sec, while Taylor came in at 2min 28.58sec. Fabian Pera, of Torea, was third in 2min 42.52sec.
In the men’s oyster opening competition, it was Shane Wixon, of Ngai Tahu Seafoods, who won, in 3min 02sec, the fifth time he has won this event. Ten seconds behind was Ricci Grant, of Barnes, and third was K Z Matangi, of Barnes, in 3min 45sec.
Mr Wixon also won the Blindfold competition for the fifth time.In a new oyster opening event for novices, Xavier Fife, of Direct Fish, shucked 50 oysters in 3min 22sec, beating Curtis Boyce, of Fowler Oysters, in 4min 35sec.
Barnes Wild Bluff Oysters’ team of four once again won the oyster-opening relay event, shucking 20 each in 5min 12.33sec.
Another of the crowd’s favourites, the Oyster Eating Competition was won by Daryl “Dagwood” MacDonald, of Blenheim, while the newest audience competition, the Wasabi-Chilli Oyster Eating Challenge, was won by Dave Vaile, of Oamaru.