ARCATA MAIN STREET'S OYSTER FESTIVAL, June 17, 2017
"A loaf of bread," the Walrus said,
“Is what we chiefly need: pepper and vinegar besides
Are very good indeed-
Now if you're ready, oysters dear,
We can begin to feed.”
And feed we did, at the Arcata Main Street's Oyster Festival. Our Walkabout took us back to Arcata where we met over 35 years ago. A lot has changed, but the area still holds plenty of nostalgia for us; abundant clean air, flowing rivers, green pastures, empty beaches, foggy cool mornings, windswept sunny afternoons, and the coast redwoods.
The “Redwood Curtain” is real. We started our trip driving up the Redwood Highway US 101 and stopped in Southern Humboldt County along the Avenue of the Giants. Humboldt Redwoods State Park, Albee Campground should be declared “the Redwood Experience.” There is a very real curtain of the tallest redwoods including “Tall Tree” and “Big Tree” both registered with the American Forestry Association. A wall of second growth and old growth coast redwoods surrounds the campground and a lovely mat of fallen redwood leaves cover the ground and deadens the sound in the area.
The Arcata Main Street’s Oyster Festival is now the largest one-day event in Humboldt County. Every year, more than 13,000 ecstatic festival goers and community gather on the Arcata Plaza to celebrate and showcase our local aquaculture and savor the delicacies that have earned us the reputation as the Oyster Capital of California.
Arcata Bay’s Oyster Festival is the prized pearl of summer festivals, where food lovers have the opportunity to tantalize their taste buds with fabulous oysters and other local food. Attendees drink our local beer and wine, and dance the day away to local music. Many other activities entertain the festival goers, like the quirky Oyster Calling, and Shuck-n-Swallow contests. Local chefs compete for the best raw and cooked oyster.
The Arcata Plaza was filled with venders; BBQ’s smoking, cooks shucking, music playing, and oysters for the buying. Our friends Tom and Mary joined us. “People just don’t understand how wonderful oysters are when they are properly prepared,” they shared. Represented here were some of the best presentations of local oysters. Pacing ourselves, we feasted: Hog Island Oysters – raw with only fresh squeezed lemon, and sizzling grilled bourbon BBQ was our favorite. Humboldt Bay – served cold and raw with a cucumber chutney, and Arcata's Folie Douce - oysters raw with a lemon sorbet and another chilled with wasabi.
During the oyster calling contest we savored a delightful selection of local beer: Sharkinator from North Coast Brewery, Redwood Curtain IGA, and Mad River Pale Ale. After a few glasses you could almost hear the oysters calling back.
The next day, we drove to Trinidad State Beach to look for oyster catchers, the bright red billed sea bird, but we saw none. So, we headed back to Eureka for a final display of oyster artwork at Brick and Fire.
As much as we enjoyed the beer and oysters, life behind the Redwood Curtain is not the Arcata of 35 year ago. The drug culture has become hard to disregard.
"Come this fall, tourists and curious locals may be able to hop in a van, visit local cannabis farms, purchase primo bud and soak up Humboldt County's multi-generational marijuana culture during day-long tours," reports the Mad River Union.
Is this the future of economic development in Humboldt County? Thirty-five years ago, then and now, I have no interest in touring a cannabis grow site or sampling buds.
We stayed in Mad River Rapids RV park, eating in town and sleeping in Eggburt. Under what circumstances does someone smoke pot at 3:00 AM in a RV Park women’s restroom? On our urban hike through Arcata, the Pacific Union Elementary School gutter was littered with used vials of NO2, nitrous oxide sold for whipped cream dispensers, but used as a cheap high. Grade school recreational whip-it? Not cool.
Departing Humboldt County, Keith and I have revised our life plans to "move up to Northern California". Now we are on walkabout and there is no telling where we will land. That's the beauty of being on walkabout! Our future home is uncertain, but we do know thatwe will return to reminisce about “the good old days” and enjoy the beauty of an empty beach and the lovely little tasty bits of ocean goodness.
Tasty Bits of Ocean Goodness - Arcata Main Street's Oyster Festival 2017
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