PARTY LINE: To Apalach and back: South Walton shucker reigns supreme

Published: Wednesday, November 7, 2012 at 09:45 AM.

The Festival's official parade started up the next morning at 10 a.m. It has tripled in size since my last visit. Bands, dancers, cars, beauty queens, and horses, with a healthy dash of folks running for office thrown in. As long as they put chocolate in my hands, I was happy to shake theirs and wish them well.

After the parade, we took the short walk downtown and perused some shops. One had a shelf lined with alligator heads that were for sale. One gator even came with a photo taken prior to his untimely demise.

Then, on to the seafood fest. The bounty of all kinds of seafood offered to those hungry, or not, was overwhelming. The choice was tough, but I went with the fried gator tail dipped in mustard. Good.

We finished up the gator just in time to watch two heats of folks claiming to be the fastest and best oyster shuckers around show us how it's done. Winning the second heat and coming in third overall was Grayton Beach's own Brandon Patrick of Hurricane Oyster Bar.

Following the shucking was the oyster eating contest. Now, it got interesting. These folks had to attempt to eat the most oysters in a 15-minute time frame and keep them down. Amazingly, we watched the winning female slowly and methodically plod through 12.5 dozen oysters, putting hot sauce on every one. Her male counterpart kept down 14 dozen. I do love me some oysters, but I think five or six dozen in 15 minutes might be my limit.

On my second trip to Boss Oyster, who should I encounter but Balder Saunders?  

During the adventure, side trips were taken to St. George Island (which has grown), Cape San Blas, Indian Pass, Port St. Joe, and Crooked Island, of which Balder sings. While there, I saw two bald eagles — one male and one female — who entertained us with an air show. Possibly a nest nearby. That was an exciting sighting.

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