Pemaquid Oyster Festival Celebrates Half Shells and History

Oysters have been a food source and part of the local economy along the Damariscotta River for hundreds, if not thousands, of years. The river’s deep, cold saltwater is ideal for growing the shelled delicacies.

Midcoast Maine celebrates the humble oyster each year during the Pemaquid Oyster Festival on the last Sunday of September. The 2014 festival will be held from noon to dusk September 28 at the Schooner Landing Restaurant and Marina in Damariscotta. The restaurant is right on the riverbank.

The festival is just one of many fall events to entice travelers to Maine, and Newcastle Inn is a 1/2  mile from the restaurant. The Damariscotta River produces some of the tastiest oysters in the northeastern U.S., and some call the region the oyster industry’s version of some of best wine-producing areas in France. Pemaquid and Glidden Point oysters are among the most well-known oysters grown here.

Rowan Jacobsen, author of The Oyster Guide, offers this description: “Maine oysters grow slowly. While southern oysters can reach market size in a year or less, a Maine oyster needs three years minimum. A four-year-old, cold-water Maine oyster has a glorious depth of texture and flavor, a deep cup, and a beautiful green-and-white shell, sometimes edged with purple, that can be remarkably tough and hard-bitten, like Down Easters themselves. “The Damariscotta River estuary, midway up the Maine coast, has been ground zero for oyster lovers for thousands of years. High up the estuary sits the Glidden Midden, an enormous hill of oyster shells dating back more than 2,000 years. The mound is thirty feet high, runs along the river for 150 feet, and contains some oyster shells a foot long.”

The Pemaquid Oyster Festival is a fundraiser for the Edward A. Myers Marine Conservation Fund. Myers was a pioneer in aquaculture in the Damariscotta river and other areas. The fund continues his vision of maintaining sustainable, working waterfronts as well as protecting the river environment. Along with Schooner Landing, the Pemaquid Oyster Co. is one of the sponsors of the festival.

Naturally, the festival includes plenty of fresh, local oysters, but there are other items on the menu for folks who haven’t acquired a taste for oysters. The festival also includes music and educational information about the marine environment and the oyster business. The oyster festival is just one of many things to do and see in Maine during a fall vacation or a weekend trip. Late September is a great time to take in our fall foliage. Let Newcastle Inn be your base for your next trip to Midcoast Maine.

Newcastle Inn 2014