BILOXI, Miss. (WLOX) - This year, the oysters just seem to look better at the fifth annual Gulf Coast Oyster Festival and Cookoff in Biloxi.
The festival kicked off Saturday at Biloxi Point Cadet Plaza with dozens of vendors, including many local restaurants, serving up a variety of oyster dishes.
They taste better, and they sound better on the grill. That’s because they represent a kind of new beginning as the pandemic is starting to appear in the rearview mirror.
Nikki White has been to the festival before.
“Feels really good to be able to get out and enjoy times with your friends a family,” she said.
Casey Dykes of Pensacola finds the open-air festival almost as nice as the shellfish.
“We kind of gave up on the pandemic thing and so coming out here, it’s really nice to see like a big outdoor thing happening when supposedly a lot of things are shut down,” he said. “So, it’s super cool.”
And his rating on the oysters?
“So far, I’m really liking the chargrilled,” Dykes added. “Ya’ll are really doing a good job. It’s awesome.”
Scott Weinberg said this is a good time for small businesses to be showcased.
“All these restaurants, they’re just doing a great job,” he said. “There are so many different flavors out here that I’ve tried, and they’re all really good. So, get out and eat at your local restaurants. Support them.”
It’s also a good time for conservation. In fact, in the five years of the festival, about seven tons of oyster shells have been recycled.
“We’ll dry them out, and they can be put back on the reef,” said Frank Parker, a sixth generation commercial fisherman. “And when they are put out on the reef, it basically makes a substrate for the new oysters to attach to, and one single oyster can grow up to 12 new oysters.”
Parker, is also president of the nonprofit Mississippi Commercial Fisheries United that helps with conservation, and he has his entire family on board.
“You have to keep recycling because it’s a limited resource,” said his daughter, Kaitlyn Parker. “It’s not going to regrow itself without the help that it needs, you know? And, it would really suck to grow up and see the industry just disappear like that.”
The festival continues from 11 a.m. to 5 p.m. Sunday. Admission is $10 for adults; children 5 and younger are free.