DAMARISCOTTA, Maine — Maine’s oyster farmers may be turning into tourist attractions. People have come from as far away as Texas to enjoy oysters this week at the Damariscotta River Oyster Celebration.
On Friday, three boatloads of oyster tourists were on the river to tour several of the oyster farms that have grown up along the clean, saltwater Damariscotta River. Growers say the cold water and rich nutrients of the tidal river are ideal for growing oysters. The Damariscotta River is the center of oyster aquaculture in Maine, sending an estimated six million oysters to market each year. The farms now employ a total of about a hundred people.
Restaurant chef Kevin Truong came from Austin, Texas to see first hand where the oysters come from.
“We have used Maine oysters before, currently not using Maine oysters but for sure when I get back we will put them on the menu,” the chef said.
The chance to see how oysters are grown -- and eat a few of them -- attracted chefs, writers and just plain oyster lovers from a number of U.S. states and from Canada. Oyster farmers, of course, are hoping it means more business. That included Peggy Thomas from Connecticut, who said she never expected to be an oyster tourist.
"And here is this event that’s kind of total immersion into the oyster world, reading about them, eating a lot of them, and it's really fun. It's the most unusual vacation," said Thomas, as the boat moved downriver.
The oyster celebration also highlights what the farmers say is the clean river environment where the oysters are grown.
That event wraps up Saturday with an international oyster shucking competition.