From FOOD, DRINK & DINING OUT Whitstable Oyster Festival
21 July - 22 July Whistable, Kent. This celebration of the mouth-watering Ostrea edulis (native Whitstable oyster) strangely takes place when native oysters are out of season (the season begins on 1 September). This is because tradition dictates that the Festival coincides with the oyster dredgers' holiday. Pacific or European oysters, grown in Whitstable's cold waters, make a delicious festival alternative.

'Whitstable oysters' is an EU-protected geographical indication name, only applicable to native oysters. The Whitstable oyster beds of north Kent are closely protected, and the ownership of them and the beach was consolidated by a royal grant in 1793. The Whitstable Oyster Fishery Company, which still runs the oyster trade today, was set up by an Act of Parliament in 1897.

The Festival, an enthusiastic celebration of Whitstable's long history as a gourmet oyster centre, opens on Sunday with the ceremonial 'Landing of the Oysters' and the colourful Oyster Parade. On Thursday you can witness the historic 'Blessing of the Waters' ceremony.

The EPICentre Food Fair in Whitstable Harbour is the main highlight of the opening weekend, attracting thousands of people each year. A variety of stalls featuring over 50 local producers offer samples of Kentish produce, and there is also the fiercely competitive oyster eating challenge.

Later in the week the Whitstable Brewery Beer Festival offers a selection of over 30 cask beers for you to sample, plus live music.

A full menu of heritage walks and talks, open air performances, exhibitions, beach art, and Whitstable's very own Samba band ensure that there is never a dull moment. And if you like what you see, you can always return for native oyster season in September.
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