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Florida man wins national shucking crown at local oyster fest


Left to right, U.S. Men's Oyster Shucking Champ Brian Clark and U.S. Women's Shucking Champ Annie Bonifacio. Clark won the right to represent the nation at the world shucking championship in Ireland.

Leonardtown, MD - Restaurateur Brian Clark said Sunday, Oct. 21 that he has never been to Ireland. Minutes later he learned that his knack for shucking oysters quickly and cleanly had earned him a trip to Ireland as the U.S. representative in international competition. Clark was the overall winner in the U.S. National Oyster Shucking Competition held as part of the 52nd annual U.S. Oyster Festival in Leonardtown. Clark bested five other males and 2018 U.S. Ladies Champion Annie Bonifacio of North Carolina in the finals.

Clark told TheBayNet.com that he shucked his first oyster at age 12 and has only been competing for a few years. “Anybody can shuck ‘em fast, learning to shuck ‘em fast and clean is different,” said Clark, who lives in Eustis, Florida.

“This is his life,” said Clark’s wife Jessica, who was serving friends, family and fellow competitors the raw oysters Brian had shucked in the championship. “He manages his family’s restaurant.” The restaurant—Oyster Troff—announced Clark’s huge win in record time on its Facebook page.

The other male competitors were second-place finisher Honor Allen, third-place finisher Jay Gallet, fourth place finisher Chopper Young; and Duke Landry and Scott O’Lear, who finished fifth and sixth respectively.

In addition to Bonifacio, the female competitors were second place finisher Cathy Milliken, third-place finisher Isabella MacBeth, plus Lisa Bellamy, Allison Paine and Deborah Pratt.

“I shuck ‘em and I eat ‘em,” said Bonifacio, whose family made the trip to St. Mary’s County to watch her compete.

Earlier, Jason Whiteside of Chesapeake Beach was the winner of the amateur competition.

All things oyster and then some were there to behold at the two-day event at St. Mary’s County Fairgrounds, which is a presentation of the Rotary Club of Lexington Park. Dr. Linda Lymas, president of the local Rotary Club, served as the festival’s queen.

The array of food vendors served up the tasty bivalves raw, fried, scalded and charbroiled. Attendees chilled by the gusty late October winds could savor oyster chowder and oyster stew. Boy Scout Troop 793 even served up oyster tacos. There were plenty of goodies for the oyster spectators who simply wanted to watch the shucking and sucking that went on at several stations at the fairgrounds. Vendors served up crab soup, stuffed ham, burgers, crab cakes, clam strips, rockfish and, of course, funnel cake.

Live music by Gary Rue and Dance Hall Ghost provided an excellent score for the shucking competitions both Saturday and Sunday. Other Saturday performers included St. Mary’s College of Maryland Jazz Band, The Bootleggers and Wiskers. On Sunday, attendees who gravitated to the pavilion were entertained by Bushmill Band, Mach 25 and Monkey Business.

The event was supported by 12 corporate sponsors. Other vendors at the event included the Craft Guild of St. Mary’s County and the St. Mary’s County Women’s Club.

Contact Marty Madden at marty.madden@thebaynet.com

View photos from Saturday, Oct. 20 here

Click here to learn about competitive oyster shucking

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