TYNE VALLEY — More than 60,000 oysters were opened in Tyne Valley last week, and it’s not hard to see how.
Just a day after breaking a world record, oyster shuckers from across the country were competing again, this time against each other.
The Tyne Valley Community Sports Centre was near capacity on Friday night with 1,500 people to see who could open the most oysters successfully within a certain time period.
After midnight, and thousands of oysters later, a new national champion was crowned.
Eamon Clark has been at the top before and this year he regained his title at Canadian Oyster Shucking Champion.
“It’s a special honour for me,” said Clark. “You work all year for this moment and now that it’s finally happened is surreal.”
Clark currently lives in Toronto, but was born in Summerside.
He’s been competing for a decade and is a six-time Canadian oyster- shucking champion, but this year’s award carries extra meaning.
“I won this for my mentor and friend, Glenn Edison,” Clark said after a long, emotional pause.
Edison was a well-known figure in the P.E.I. sports community and educator, spending years as the principle of Summerside Intermediate School. He died in April at the age of 62.
“He helped me through a lot of things, I would go to his house and practice before competing,” said Clark. “Glenn was such a fantastic man who I looked up to in every way.”
On Thursday night, a 10-person team of shuckers from across Canada broke a world record for the most oysters opened in an hour with 8,840 successfully opened, 368 more than the previous record.
During individual competition Friday night, Clark opened his tray of 18 oysters one minute 27.09 seconds with 18 seconds in penalties for a total time of 1:45.09. Jason Nagy came in second at 1:59.62 and Josh Bishop finished third with a time of two minutes.
Throughout the evening musical acts performed while judges took time to tally up the results. And if you weren’t watching the entertainment, you were in line at the oyster bar.
Rachel Arsenault and husband, Dave, were two of the folks standing in the oyster line.
The couple recalled eating oysters growing up but neither have had any in years.
“I get grossed out by looking at them so I wasn’t fussy to try again, but once I had one I just kept going back for more,” said Rachel.
Speaking of the festival, they were impressed.
“There’s lots of food, music and dancing,” said Rachel. “It’s really fun watching everyone get so competitive trying to open the oysters on stage.”
Some may find it ludicrous to have a competition for oyster opening but others see it as a way of life.
“It’s what I love to do, it’s what I’m good at,” said Clark. “Shuckers like myself are a different breed of people and I’m okay with that.”
Being a past champion made Clark a heavy favourite, but he didn’t fall into the hype.
“My goal going in was winning, I didn’t take any competition lightly because everyone on that stage is good at this.”
Clark admits he holds himself to a high standard, but this time it paid off.
“If you’re not first you’re last.”