A new event geared toward fans of everything related to oysters is kicking off in Freeport this weekend.
The Maine Oyster Festival is running from 5:30 p.m. Friday through 4 p.m. Sunday. Many of the events will take place at the L.L. Bean headquarters, but in the evening local restaurants are expected to carry numerous oyster-related specials, according to Kelly Edwards, executive director of Visit Freeport, which is hosting and planning the weekend.
Edwards said this festival is the first of its kind, and sprung out of a conversation she had in 2020 with Ken Sparta, co-owner of Spartan Sea Farms, a Casco Bay-based farm that grows oysters, scallops, quahogs and kelp.
“It was right when restaurants were starting to open again,” she said.
They were both discussing the hardships restaurants were facing at the time, Edwards said, and how it was impacting suppliers to the restaurants.
“I didn’t really think about the local producers behind the scenes (until then),” she said.
The event features samples of oysters from more than 30 farmers from Eliot to Petit Manan, Edwards said. Restaurants and artisans will also be presenting products based on oysters and their shells, with local nonprofits offering educational exhibitions. Some vendors will be offering oyster-shucking lessons, and local celebrity chef Barton Seaver will also be on hand to prepare wood-fired oysters.
“I’m really excited to try those,” she said.
Attendance is free, with some vendors selling food products directly to visitors, while some vendors requiring tickets purchased from event organizers on site. Edwards said she hopes in future events to have everyone licensed to sell, once organizers work out the complexities of licensing regarding selling oysters.
“Working with shellfish, there’s a lot of other things we have to consider,” she said.
Edwards said she has been inundated with calls about the event.
“We’re really expecting a large turnout this weekend,” she said.