For shuck’s sake — Galway International Oyster & Seafood Festival turns 65

Natives. Flats. Native flats. Ostrea edulis – whatever you call our native oysters they are as much a part of the food fabric and history of Ireland as our butter.

Fatty yet not fatty. Nutty without any nuts. A hint of citrus without any fruit. And that unequalled lingering sweet iodine flavour. There is nothing quite like the Irish native oyster.

This year’s Galway International Oyster & Seafood Festival runs from September 27-29 2019, a festival 65 years in the making celebrating an Irish tradition thousands of years old.

Galway, the country and this iconic festival may all have changed over those 65 years but what the Galway International Oyster & Seafood Festival celebrates is timeless – that unchanging Irish tradition and treasure, and the ongoing pleasure given by those little heroes in a half shell.

These authentic Irish delicacies are coveted everywhere from the bistros and brasseries of Paris, all the way to China. With brown bread, butter and a pint of stout or a glass of bone-dry white wine, this is as good an Irish food experience as there is.

Galway’s leading chefs all have a profound grá and respect for the Irish native oyster as a key ingredient on their menus.

An action-packed three-day event that attracts enthusiastic visitors from all over the world to the city during the last weekend of September, this year’s Galway International Oyster & Seafood Festival, based in the festival marquee on Nimmo’s Pier, begins with the excitement of the annual National Oyster Opening Championships followed by the opening night party on Friday September 27.

Saturday September 28 sees the core unmissable event, the World Oyster Opening Championships, beginning with a lively parade of competitors weaving its way through the narrow medieval streets of the city down to Nimmo’s Pier.

Oyster openers from all over the world will come to Galway to battle it out for the title, looking to take the baton from Estonia’s Anti Lepik who was crowned 2018 champion.

Saturday evening is the Masquerade Mardi Gras – a highlight of the festival calendar that sees masked revellers enjoying oysters and bubbles, followed by starters in different venues around the city, then parading carnival style to the final venue for dinner, dessert and dancing.

Sunday at Galway International Oyster and Seafood Festival is Féile Bia Na Mara – Wild Atlantic Tastes – a free family day of demos, live music and entertainment.

“In recent years, our iconic event has had accolades from the international food and travel media,” says Maria Moynihan Lee, producer of the Galway International Oyster & Seafood Festival, “for example the Rough Guide has included it in their 50 Things To Do Before You Die list.

“But besides being a bucket list experience, the festival is of significant economic importance to Galway as it attracts thousands of local and international visitors and promotes Galway as a tourist and gastronomic destination all year round.

“Overseas visitors spend four nights in Galway and leave an average of €1,172 per person behind in our local economy, which is double the national festival’s average level of spend. The festival delivers a lot more than this direct economic impact though – this city, at the mid-point of the Wild Atlantic Way, has a reputation for throwing a great party which is what we intend to do again this year.”

Tickets for all events are available at the Festival Box Office www.galwayoysterfestival.com

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