Middlesex County Lions Club's oyster fritter booth at the Urbanna Oyster Festival is one of the most popular. Several nonprofits can fund their entire year with profits from the festival. Photo: Tom Chillemi

Urbanna Oyster Festival Attracts Tens of Thousands in Record-Breaking Warm Weather

If you’re planning one of the town’s biggest events of the year, you hope and pray for good weather. The Town of Urbanna’s prayers were answered on Friday and Saturday, Nov. 4-5, in a rare stretch of November tshirt weather at the Urbanna Oyster Festival.

 The temperatures felt more like August than November as record breaking high temperatures were felt on both days and that helped bring in crowds.

“It has to have been one of the largest crowds ever. High attendance years bring in nearly 60,000 people and I have a feeling we hit that,” said Pam Simon, event administrator for the Urbanna Oyster Festival Foundation (UOFF).

This was the 65th annual Urbanna Oyster Festival. The festival started in 1958 when a group of town businessmen met to consider ways to bring more people into town. They started the forerunner of the festival known as “Urbanna Days.”

By 1961, the two day event was renamed the Urbanna Oyster Festival and the rest is history. The festival grew and grew and in 1988 the Virginia General Assembly named it the official “oyster festival of the Commonwealth of Virginia.”

The oyster shucking contest was named an official state event and winners competed in national and international competition. This year Robert Minor of Gwynn’s Island is the Virginia State champion. He defeated crowd favorite Deborah Pratt who has been a national champion several times and competed in international competition. Pratt won the professional women’s competition at this year’s festival and was second overall in the event.

Since 1960, there has been a Queen’s pageant competition which has evolved into a community service event where contestants are judged on their contribution to the community and rewarded with scholarships for college. This year Courtney Harrow was the festival Queen winner and Kayleigh Carias was named Little Miss Spat.

The festival is run by UOFF, a nonprofit formed in 1991 specifically to run the festival. “A key to a successful festival is good weather and we had great weather both days this year,” said Simon. ”We had record crowds at both our parades and Festival Village was slammed both days.”

“Good weather is something we hope for every year but no matter how much we plan, we can’t always count it,” she said.  

-Larry Chowning