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Aw shucks: Galway oyster festival kicks off

Up to 2,000 foodies were gathering in the south Galway village of Clarenbridge last night to pay homage to the not-so-humble oyster.

The seafood delicacy, which officially only came on the market just 13 days ago -- you can't eat native oysters until there is an 'R' in the month -- is the focal point of the annual Clarenbridge Festival which attracts large numbers of gourmet food lovers from around the world each September.

The event is a hugely popular end-of-summer attraction used by companies to entertain corporate clients and there was no shortage of overseas accents at Festival HQ -- a giant marquee erected alongside Paddy Burke's famous oyster pub in the centre of the village.

But even the most enthusiastic of food-lovers will be hard pushed to survive the 10-hour Ultimate Oyster Gala Celebration scheduled for today.

Revellers can avail of unlimited access to various menus, including Clarenbridge chowder, soup, the inevitable platters of oysters, other seafoods, savoury hot plates, barbecued steak and exotic chicken, washed down by wines, liqueur and mineral water, followed by an array of desserts and specialty teas and coffees.

All of this and non-stop entertainment, compered by RTE's Ronan Collins, may just drive away any nasty thoughts of a recession.

Chernobyl Children's Project founder Adi Roche was the guest of honour at last night's opening session, and festival-goers contributed handsomely to a special Clarenbridge plan to build a 'Home of Hope' for orphans in Belarus.

Festival chairman Brian Costigan said: "The plan is to build a respite home for 10 children and two guardians at a cost of about €50,000. We are delighted to put on a festival celebrate our famous oysters, but also to lend a helping hand to such a worthy cause.

"The Clarenbridge Oyster Festival brings about €6m into the local economy."

Key moments in festival history


The first ever festival takes place

Over 300 guests attend the festival

3000 oysters consumed over the weekend which was attended by famed film director John Huston

The 1st world Oyster Opening Champion is local man John Cummins in a time of 3 mins 34.8 seconds

1st UK winner of the oyster opening championship, Sam Scott

21st Oyster Festival celebrations with Anita Leslie as guest of honour

Pascal Spellman hosts his last festival show after 23 years. Ireland's Willie Morans opens 30 oysters in 1 min 31 seconds - still a world record to this day

40000 oysters consumed

Festival moves into Galway City as part of the Quincentennial celebrations. The Friendship Band visit the city for first time

Sir Anthony O'Reilly is guest of honour. Sir Anthony is chairman of Independent News & Media Group - owners of the Belfast Telegraph.

The AA Travel Guide lists the festival as one of Europe’s Seven Best Festivals on a par with the Munich Beer Festival

John Hume Guest of Honour

Bob Hope attends the festival as guest of honour and sings. "Thanks for the memories" to an audience on Eyre Square

Top British travel show "Wish You Were Here" preside over the festival. 10000 revellers attend over the weekend

The Sunday Times (London) declare the Galway International Oyster Festival as one of the 12 greatest shows on earth

The Festival, still sponsored by its original sponsors Guinness, celebrates its 50th birthday

Oyster quotes

"He was a bold man that first ate an oyster"
Johnathan Swift

"Why then the worlds mine oyster, which I with sword shall open"
William Shakespeare

"If you don't love life you can't enjoy an oyster"
Eleanor Clark

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