PASS CHRISTIAN, MS (WLOX) – The west side of the Pass Christian Harbor transformed into a center for seafood delights Friday. Tables, tents, and 64 booths were going up for Pass Christian's first Oyster Festival.
The weekend event will showcase the people who helped build this proud industry.
"If you think about Pass Christian, before we had asphalt roads, we had oyster shell roads," said Festival Chairperson Renee Brooks. "Everything hinges on the oysters and the seafood industry. We have the second largest oyster reef in the continental US, and it's sitting there right off our beautiful shore."
But the industry has been hit hard by the BP oil disaster. John Livings and his brothers are second generation oyster fishermen. This year, they are coping with sack limits and a late start to the season.
"We were struggling after the oil spill, but we're glad to be back to work," said Livings. "I mean, it's a low limit, but I mean the reef, it can't handle it. So we'll just have to do what we have to do."
The industry is also trying to win back the hearts of consumers who are still leery about the safety of the local seafood.
"The festival would be great as far as getting the reputation back that the seafood needs. Our product is safe. Our product is good. People are looking down on it now. They're not trusting it. They're scared to eat it," said Seafood Business Owner Darlene Kimball.
Plans for the oyster festival actually started before the oil crisis. Organizers said promoting the industry now is more important than ever.
"We are trying to get the word out. We would never offer people seafood that was tainted. It's good. It's fresh and we're just so proud of that. We can't wait for people to come see it," said Brooks.
The festival is Saturday from 10:00 a.m. to 10:00 p.m. and Sunday from 10:00 a.m. to 5:00 p.m. The weekend event also features a children's fishing rodeo, a Pearl of the Pass competition, oyster shucking and eating contest, and a lit boat parade.
The festival is located on the west side of the Pass Christian Harbor.