TOP SHUCKERS IN TYNE VAL­LEY

The Guardian (Charlottetown) - - FRONT PAGE - BY DE­SIREE AN­STEY

An­drew Bond, of the Malpeque Oys­ter Barn in P.E.I., was among the com­peti­tors at the Pro­vin­cial Oys­ter Shucking Championship on the week­end, won by Ea­mon Clark of Toronto.

Hunched over wooden boards, 37 com­peti­tors fu­ri­ously shucked against the clock with Zen-like con­cen­tra­tion.

Un­der bright lights and in front of a large en­thu­si­as­tic crowd, they sep­a­rated the mol­lusc from its pearly home while leav­ing pre­cisely some of the liq­uid, but no grit, no shell, and none of their own blood from a slip of a very sharp knife that levers open the oys­ter.

Adam Maclen­nan, the vice chair­man of the Tyne Val­ley Oys­ter Fes­ti­val Inc., says com­peti­tors came from around Canada for the chance to be crowned the 2017 Cana­dian Oys­ter Shucking Cham­pion.

“The Cana­dian Oys­ter Shucking Championship is one of our sig­na­ture events,” he said. “Shuckers come from all over the coun­try — from Van­cou­ver, Cal­gary, New­found­land — for the chance to com­pete and rep­re­sent Canada at the Worlds in Gal­way, Ire­land.”

Maclen­nan added, “So this is ba­si­cally the Olympics for oys­ter shucking.”

The com­pe­ti­tion, which is part of the Tyne Val­ley Oys­ter Fes­ti­val, is the only of­fi­cial qual­i­fier in Canada for the World Open­ing Oys­ter Cham­pi­onships held in Gal­way, Ire­land, on Satur­day, Sept. 23.

Thou­sands flocked to watch the event at the Tyne Val­ley Com­mu­nity Sports Cen­tre on Fri­day evening, which was also livestreamed on the Shuck TV. com chan­nel.

“We’re very proud of all the hard work that’s been put in and we are thank­ful for all the vol­un­teers and com­mu­nity mem­bers who help us out,” com­mented Maclen­nan.

More than 10,000 oys­ters are shucked at the five day an­nual fes­ti­val. The oys­ters are har­vested from lo­cal P.E.I. farms that in­clude Les­lie Hardy and Sons, Howard’s Cove, Burleigh Brothers Ltd., and Five Star Shell­fish.

An­drew Bond, of the Malpeque Oys­ter Barn in P.E.I., was crowned the Pro­vin­cial Oys­ter Shucking Cham­pion in 2015.

“Today I did 18 oys­ters, so the event is a lit­tle bit more com­pet­i­tive than the Pro­vin­cial and sim­i­lar to a game of golf — on some days you are good and other days not so much,” ex­plained Bond. “We’re com­pet­ing against the best in the na­tion, and there’s a lot of pres­sure up there.”

The 25-year-old from Kens­ing­ton, added: “Even though the event is com­pet­i­tive, it’s all done in good ca­ma­raderie.”

David Mullis, from Bed­eque, is a reg­u­lar com­peti­tor in the oys­ter shucking event.

“I grew up in Bor­den and use to pick oys­ters and learn how to open them for fun. Then one night my good friends said let’s go to Tyne Val­ley (Oys­ter Fes­ti­val), and that was maybe 15 years ago. I joined the oys­ter shucking com­pe­ti­tion, and it went great and I have been com­pet­ing since,” he grinned.

The oys­ter shucking championship wrapped up shortly after mid­night with Ea­mon Clark, from Toronto, shucking his way to vic­tory.

This is the eighth time Clark has won the championship. He rep­re­sents Rod­ney’s Oys­ter House, a fam­ily-owned restau­rant in Toronto.

DE­SIREE AN­STEY/ JOUR­NAL PIONEER

An­drew Bond, of the Malpeque Oys­ter Barn in P.E.I., was crowned the Pro­vin­cial Oys­ter Shucking Cham­pion in 2015. He shows the pre­ci­sion it takes to crack open an oys­ter shell in the 2017 Cana­dian Oys­ter Shucking Championship in Tyne Val­ley Fri­day evening.

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