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Queen of the oysters

28 May / Southland Express

TEN years is a long time to be at the top of your game — especially if you are known as the fastest oyster opener in the south.

Vic Pearsey has won the women’s title for fastest oyster opener in the Bluff Oyster & Food Festival competition for 10 years in a row.

Ms Pearsey vowed she would give up entering the individual competition if she reached a decade of winning and, true to her word, will not be vying for the title again this year.

‘‘It’s time to give some other girls a chance.

‘‘There’s nothing more that I can do after 10 years of competing,’’ Ms Pearsey said.

The secret to her success in winning the coveted oyster opening competition was ‘‘just doing something that I love’’ and knowing ‘‘I am representing the Wild Barnes Oyster family’’.

Ms Pearsey will still enter the factory relay race with her colleagues from the Wild Barnes Oyster team at Saturday’s festival.

She said she would make herself available for the women’s individual event only if there were not enough entrants on the day.

Throughout her 10-year reign as the fastest female oyster opener, Ms Pearsey had received recognition for her swift oyster-opening talent and was proud to have her name etched on the trophy that is awarded each year.

Not defending her title at this year’s competition would be a new experience for her but she was looking forward to cheering on the next generation of competitors, she said.

The contest for the fastest female is one of many races to be staged.

There are contests for men, novices, a factory relay race and a blindfold event.

The festival has not taken place for three years and it was hard going to get the event to the finish line this year.

The event was canned in 2022 because of Covid restrictions and last year it did not take place because of concerns over the neighbouring Club Hotel in Bluff.

The hotel was deemed unsafe and at risk of falling down.

The festival trust successfully applied for a resource consent from the Invercargill City Council to knock down the hotel but it was only granted in December after a hearing.

No appeals were lodged but there was plenty of work to do for the trust as consent conditions had to be met and contractors employed.

The hotel was knocked down in four weeks and the site cleaned up and tickets went on sale.

More than 5000 tickets have been sold for the event and people are coming from all over the country to taste some oysters and enjoy the festivities.

The hotel’s demolition means the event can be more widely spread out and allow people to sit back and enjoy the entertainment.

Gates open at 10.30am on Saturday and at 11am, a Bluff oyster will be piped on to the site by the Invercargill Highland Pipe Band.

The Ode to the Oyster is then recited on the main stage and then the festival is officially open.

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