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21 May / Briar Babington - Stuff
Shall we fight our way through or make our way to the middle?” and many similar remarks were flying around and people lined up at the food stalls, with offerings of blue cod, stuffed mutton bird, curried crayfish and many more seafood delights.
If you were on the lookout for a table, however, you might have been out of luck, with some people resorting to using the lids on wheelie bins as makeshift tabletops.
Organising committee member Rosi Coyle said she was thrilled with how many people had piled through the gates in the morning.
“It’s been fabulous, even the weather’s been with us.”
Though sheltering from a few the passing showers meant tent space was a bit of a squeeze at times, Coyle said there were plans for the Bluff Club Hotel, which is in front of the event’s site, to be demolished to make way for further space for future oyster festivals.
She was not certain when this would be happening, as things were still tied up with “red tape and the council”.
Next year’s festival was already shaping up well, with some motels already booked out ahead of the 2017 event.
Having Air New Zealand come on as a sponsor and offer a chartered flight had been a real asset, and other packages, such as tickets to Bill Richardson Transport World, has also been offered to those on the flight, Coyle said.
“They get to spend the whole day here or the can go to half of the festival.”
Brendan Hope, who was visiting from the Hawkes Bay, made the big trip because it was something he’s been wanting to do for a while.
“It’s been on the radar for a couple of years now and I just thought ‘bugger it, do it’,” he said.
“I’ve only had a dozen [oysters] or so, so far, I’m pacing myself.”
Gary Griffith, from Gordonton in Waikato, had made the trip down specially with his wife and neighbours and estimated he’d eaten about three dozen on his own.
“I just remember eating them with my dad - having a beer, eating some oysters and watching the rugby,” he said.
Griffith’s neighbour, Richard Riddell, said there was only one reason he and his wife had made the trip down.
“We love oysters, it’s really simple.”
Bluff may be the home of oysters but it was Blenheim who took out the coveted oyster-eating competitions, with winners Michelle Wilson and Daryl MacDonald hailing from the area.
WINNERS AT THE FESTIVAL
Men’s (50 oysters)
1st: Shane Wixon (Ngai Tahu) - 2min 38sec
2nd: Ricci Grant (Barnes) - 2min 38sec
Final (20 oysters)
1: Shane Wixon - 56sec
2: Ricci Grant - 1min 04sec
Ladies (50 oysters)
1: Vic Pearsey (Barnes) - 3min 19sec
2: Peg Fisher (Direct Fish) - 3min 27sec
3: Here Witehira (Barnes) - 3min 52sec
Blindfold (10 oysters)
1: Corey Boyce (Direct Fish) - 41sec
2: Shane Wixon (Ngai Tahu) - 44sec
3: Keith Dawson (Barnes) - 52sec
1: Team Direct Fish - 4min 55sec
2: Team Barnes - 5min 10sec
3: Team Ngai Tahu - 6min06sec
Ladies winner: Michelle Wilson (Blenheim)
Men’s winner: Daryl ‘Dagwood’ MacDonald (Blenheim)