Narooma Oyster Festival hits new high despite rain: MEGA GALLERY

VISITORS came to Narooma from as far as Perth and Brisbane specifically for the weekend’s Narooma Oyster Festival having a great time despite the rain.

True oyster lovers and hardy locals braved a very rainy Saturday to enjoy this year's festival.

“While numbers overall were down at Saturday’s Fair, there was still a good crowd many of whom were visiting Narooma for the first time,” festival spokesperson Cath Peachey said.

“They all went with the flow.”

She said it was remarkable Narooma still managed to still stage such a great festival under the most difficult of weather conditions.

“That was due to a great team of volunteers and everyone being flexible and working together with good humour to ensure it all worked well.”

Montague Island recorded 36mm up until 9am Saturday morning just as the gates opened and although the forecast was for showers to clear, they certainly did not.

Brollies, raincoat and plastic bags were the fashion of the day and while numbers were no doubt down, there was still a healthy crowd having fun.

The festival also saw the launch of the Australia’s Oyster Coast (AOC) “Oyster Trail” that covers the eight AOC estuaries from the Shoalhaven to Wonboyn south of Eden.

There was an influx of Chinese visitors at this year’s festival, particularly from Sydney, largely due to a concerted marketing campaign by festival organisers in the Sydney-based Chinese media.

Heavy rain in the lead-up to the festival frustrated this year’s plans to have oysters from all eight oyster-producing estuaries in Australia’s Oyster Coast (AOC) at the festival, but there were still plenty of oysters available on the day.

While the Shoalhaven and Clyde were closed due to recent rains, most of the oysters came from the Pambula and Merimbula estuaries and yes there were Narooma oysters – Sydney rocks and native Angazzi.

“The new AOC oyster bar precinct with stalls representing the different estuaries was a big hit with both oyster farmers and festival goers,” Ms Peachey said.

Every event attracted favourable comments, from the cooking demonstrations by the region’s three “Hatted” chefs, the Ultimate Oyster Experience hosted this year by The Inlet, to the hotly contested oyster shucking competition, the “Faces of Australia’s Oyster Coast – a photographic exhibition by Heide Smith”, the local art and photographic exhibition, and the great live music.

The NSW Farmers Oyster Shucking Competition was won by Batemans Bay oyster farmer Jim Yiannaros, for the second year running.

Silver medal winner was Steven Connell, also of  Batemans Bay and the Bronze was won by Greg Carton of Broadwater Oysters, Pambula.

The Sydney-based soul band Johnny G & the E-Types was a huge hit and a great end to the Fair.

A highlight was the launch of the AOC “Oyster Trail”, while Saturday night’s oyster festival dinner that packed out the Bluewater Room at the Narooma Golf Club was outstanding, as was the Tastes of the South Coast dinner by The Whale motel and restaurant.

Sunday’s AOC Oyster Coast Ambrose Classic at Narooma Golf Club was also booked to capacity with 80 golfers taking to the course in much drier conditions.

Narooma Chamber of Commerce treasurer Paul Dixon said he was happy with the festival’s financial results considering this year’s frustrating weather conditions.

AOC launches its innovative Oyster Trail

AUSTRALIA'S first oyster-based food trail was launched at the Narooma Oyster Festival on Saturday making its easier for food lovers to explore the estuary delights of the NSW South Coast.

“This is a fantastic initiative by the South Coast oyster industry, which will ultimately generate significant economic benefits for the whole region,” said NSW Minister for Finance and Services and Member for Bega Andrew Constance at the launch.

The Australia's Oyster Coast “Oyster Trail” shows visitors where they can experience the region's oyster industry first-hand from the Shoalhaven River to the Victorian border.

“Our oyster farmers have the world's best environmental management systems in place and produce world-class oysters,” said Australia’s Oyster Coast (AOC) executive officer Andrew Wales.

“We know this but the world doesn’t. We’re putting this part of the world and its oysters on the map by promoting them through oyster tourism and by developing Australia’s Oyster Coast as an internationally recognised and prestigious brand.”

AOC is an association of the region’s leading oyster farmers working to ensure the South Coast oyster industry is the most environmentally sustainable in the world.

“The Oyster Trail promotes South Coast NSW as a unique food destination and identifies where people can buy fresh local oysters, go on estuary tours, visit oyster sheds and eat at AOC associated restaurants,” Mr Wales said.

Australia's Oyster Coast developed the trail in partnership with Eurobodalla and Bega Valley shire councils and Shoalhaven Tourism.

Official stops are identified with the AOC Oyster Trail logo and there will be signage at the destinations.

Visitors will be able to download a smart phone and tablet app to follow the trail on the road and they can plan their journey on a dedicated website at www.oystercoast.com.au

The association plans to include other food providers, wineries and the best accommodation along the trail, as well as partner organisations.

Narooma Oyster Festival has formed a strategic partnership with AOC to deliver an annual celebration of the region's oyster industry.

“We're proud to support Australia's Oyster Coast as it moves to attract more visitors to our region,” festival spokesperson Cath Peachey said.

“Our region has stunning natural assets and, through the growing reputation of events like Narooma Oyster Festival, it makes sense that oysters and tourism can help drive greater economic development in the region.”

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