Over the past three plus decades, OysterFest has become a first class event and economic force in our community. For this, our community has Skookum Rotarian Dick Oltman to thank.
As a retired military man, Oltman found himself in the travel business in downtown Shelton and completing his masters thesis about the economic benefits of tourism – a new concept in the late 70s and early 80s. As part of that thesis Oltman created the first OysterFest roadmap, including a complete operating plan and all policies and procedures – many of which are still in use today.
Oltman’s vision was to create an event that would bring people to our community after the summer high season, extending the economic benefits of tourism for the entire community. He planned the event to showcase Mason County’s treasured oyster and aquaculture industry, throwing a spotlight on the fact that the shellfish and timber industries can and do co-exist successfully!
And from the beginning, the centerpiece has been the official West Coast Oyster Shucking Championship. This plus nearly 100 food vendors, all of whom are local, non-profit organizations using the festival to generate funds for their mission-driven operations in our community, has turned OysterFest into the largest annual fundraising event in our county.
Other popular elements to OysterFest include the Seafood Cook-Off, the Washington Wine hall, the Microbrew Tent, and the live entertainment stages. Through all of these activities, a great deal of education is provided through exhibitors who showcase best practices about maintaining clean waterways, shellfish habitat and recycling.
But the hidden pearls of OysterFest are the volunteers who run every single aspect of the event, caring for Oltman’s vision, celebrating some of our community’s most treasured resources, promoting the Rotary ideal of service above self and ensuring that OysterFest continues to give to our community for many years to come.