Urbanna Oyster Festival: History and Festival Events October 30, 2019 @ 5:12 pm

Urbanna Oyster Festival: History and Festival Events

Published on October 30, 2019 @ 5:12 pm

The Urbanna Oyster Festival in Urbanna, VA: History and Festival Events

Wondering what to do in the autumn months? Join us in November for one of the largest festivals of its kind held here in Urbanna, VA. A local event, yet the largest oyster festival in the country, the Urbanna Oyster Festival has grown and is loved beyond our small area. Starting in 1958, a few locals of Middlesex County, VA decided to start something called the “Urbanna Days.”  The “Urbanna Days” were a community event held in Urbanna to support surrounding areas. In 1961, the name of the event was changed to what we now know as, the Urbanna Oyster Festival. In 1988, the Virginia General Assembly named the Urbanna Oyster Festival the official Oyster Festival of the Commonwealth. According to virginia.org, the Urbanna Oyster Festival is the largest and longest running in the country.

Opened oyster with rock salt, lemon, and hot sauce

Attending the Urbanna Oyster Festival

Urbanna’s historic district is only half a square mile, the area includes Urbanna Creek and part of the Rappahannock River. The Urbanna Oyster Festival is always held on the first full weekend in November, rain or shine, with food, including plenty of seafood options, local and out of the area art and craft vendors, parades, children’s activities and much more.  In these two days, the town of Urbanna, VA will have 50,000 to 75,000 people throughout its streets. The Urbanna Oyster Festival is a free event, though there are parking charges. One may drive into the town on Friday, but parking on either side of town is $10. Saturday the town is completely shut down to traffic and parking is $20, there are hay rides or the option to walk into town.  Additionally, attendees may come to the festival by boat and either rent a slip or anchor. Another option is to take the water taxi in for only a $2 charge.  

Water taxi to the Urbanna Oyster Festival

The Urbanna Oyster Festival weekend is packed with parades, eats, drinks, arts, activities and more. Friday is when the fun and food all starts, there are over 50 food vendors in town for this event. Oysters are a main feature, of course, bringing up the important question of how do you like your oysters? You can find oysters prepared in a variety of ways at the Oyster Festival including raw oysters, roasted oysters, fried oysters, stewed oysters, oyster fritters, oyster shooters, and more. Additionally there are plenty of other fun food options including crab bisque, fried Oreos, funnel cakes, turkey legs, burgers, shrimp, clams, Philly Steak, fries….you name it, the Urbanna Oyster Festival has all the tasty treats! While you digest, walk around the festival to check out the local and out of the area arts and craft vendors located throughout the town. Types of arts and crafts featured at the festival include wooden statues, jewelry, shirts, oyster decor, Christmas gifts and more.  Also, each year the Urbanna Oyster Festival committee awards an artist with the award for the poster for the year so be sure to buy your collectors item poster while at the festival. The Urbanna Oyster Festival is a family friendly event that even the children will enjoy. Kids will have plenty of fun things to keep entertained, from bounce houses to pony rides near the vendors at the town park.  


A dozen open oysters on the half shell next to two glasses of wineThe adults can have fun too! Wine or beer provide a good pairing for all of the festival food. At the Urbanna Oyster Festival, you will find a Beer Garden serving over eight beers. To enjoy the adult beverage fun, you must be 21+ years of age, of course. A charge of $10 at the Beer Garden which will get you 4 tastings and a souvenir glass.  There is also a Wine Garden at the festival offering five or more wine options. A $10 charge at the Wine Garden gets you tastings and a glass. 

During the festival, there is great music around town as well! Enjoy music shows down by the Urbanna waterfront, up by the town park, or in some of the local restaurants which will surely be serving up amazing dishes and cocktails. Starting at the 2019 festival, there is a new VIP Oyster Lovers Experience at the festival for $100 per ticket. VIP tickets are limited so be one of the first to have the exclusive experience that includes front row seating to events, tastings, oysters, a commemorative festival poster and much more. 

Friday Activities at the Urbanna Oyster Festival 

The local Firemen and rescue squad play a large role in Friday’s festival activities.  Friday night of the festival is the Firemen’s Parade starting at 7pm. The Firemen’s parade is a fun atmosphere where you’ll hear festival and firetruck noises, flashing lights and lots of cheering for the men and women who serve to protect their communities and come from around the state to this parade. The Firemen’s Parade consists of over 80 units from antique firetrucks and ambulances to the modern age vehicles we know today. The Firemen’s parade starts Friday night and festival weekend off right. The parade is followed by the Firemen’s dance starting at 8pm behind the firehouse. The fireman’s dance has a cover charge of $5 per person and you must be 21+ years of age to attend. These events are a great time and a nice way to kick off the festival activities!

Saturday Activities at the Urbanna Oyster Festival Automotive show of antique cars

Saturday of the oyster festival, the festivities are in full swing in the Town of Urbanna with all the food and art vendors as well as the Oyster shucking contest, which begins at 11am behind the firehouse.  The Oyster Festival parade, starts at 2pm on Saturday with local community floats and floats from around Virginia. Don’t forget to wave to the Grand Marshall, plus the Urbanna Oyster Festival Captain and Queen and Little Miss Spat (baby Oyster) who will surely be waving and smiling.  Saturday of the festival also hosts the Antique Car Show at 9am on the corner of Waverly Road & Virginia Street with 10 classes of vehicles with cars, trucks and motorcycles dating from 1900 to 1992.. The car show is something for the whole family to love.

Urbanna Oyster Festival Faces and Supporters

The Urbanna Oyster Festival represents a small community of local volunteers who support our area and surrounding communities by giving back.  The Oyster Festival Foundation sponsors the event and is a non-profit organization promoting Educational and Civic events throughout the year. As this foundation gives, they also look for others to be part of this event who donate their time and energy around the community. These individuals are recognized for their community efforts during this festival.  Each year a Grand Marshall, a Captain, a Queen and a Little Miss Spat (a baby oyster) are chosen to represent our Middlesex County area and the festival best. The Grand Marshall and Captain are chosen by their good deeds. The Queen and Little Miss Spat contest dates back to the 1960’s. It was once a beauty contest and is now based on community involvement with five guidelines. The admission for the contest starts in the early spring. In order to participate, you must be a Senior in high school and a resident of Middlesex County.  The crowning of the Queen takes place on Friday afternoon during the Festival. Plus don’t forget Mr. Oyster who goes around the festival greeting festival attendees and posing for pictures. Mr. Oyster has been part of the Oyster Festival for over 30 years.

About the Urbanna Oyster Festival Education Day by the Oyster Festival Foundation

In the early 2000’s, the Oyster Festival Foundation started the Oyster Festival “Education Day” down at the Urbanna Town Marina waterfront. On Thursday before the Oyster Festival Weekend is opened, local schools have the opportunity to learn the heritage and history of oysters in the Middlesex County and Urbanna. During “Education Day” they get to see how oysters filter water in the Chesapeake Bay, learn about watershed science, and much more. The “Education Day” is part of the Marine Science Legacy Program by the Oyster Festival Foundation with many other supporters in the area including the Chesapeake Bay Maritime Museum, Reedville Fishermen’s Museum, Friends of the Rappahannock and many more.  

Aerial view of Urbanna Creek in Urbanna VAThe Town of Urbanna 

The historic town of Urbanna is off of the Rappahannock River/Chesapeake Bay. The town was known as a “port town” and participated in open trade with the Colonies. In the 20th Century, the Town of Urbanna became better known for the oyster beds and packing plants. Today, the town is known for the Oyster Festival, retail, and bringing tourism to a small community throughout the year.  

The 2019 Urbanna Oyster Festival is held from Friday, November 1 through Saturday, November 2, 2019. To learn more about the Urbanna Oyster Festival, visit the Urbanna Oyster Festival website at urbannaoysterfestival.com.

If you are unable to make it to Urbanna the first weekend in November for the Oyster Festival, please make sure you check out www.Urbanna.com for other great activities and events in this quaint Virginia town throughout the season and the year.  

Horsley Real Estate and the Urbanna Oyster Festival

As a local company to the Middle Peninsula and Urbanna, IsaBell K. Horsley Real Estate is proud to have participated in the Urbanna Oyster Festival since 1975. Horsley Real Estate opened in a small, old gas station across the street from Marshall’s Drug Store. In 1980, IsaBell built the beautiful Charleston-like brick building you see today.  Over the years, Horsley Real Estate has had parade floats on the Saturday parade.  Each year we provide the land used for the Wine Garden area located between the ABC store and the Post Office, and we provide the electric power to the Christchurch Vendor (selling best HOB-Ham and Oyster Biscuits).  We also donate monetarily to the Middlesex County Fire Department and Rescue Squad each year as well as other areas around.  We believe in this local tradition and the benefits it provides throughout our community. We welcome you all to come visit the Middle Peninsula of Virginia for yourselves and make the Urbanna Oyster Festival a new tradition for you and your family.

Horsley Real Estate Pipe in Tree listing in Urbanna, VA

Love Urbanna and want to make it your new home? 

If you are interested in making Urbanna or another area in Virginia’s Middle Peninsula or Northern Neck the place you call home, take a look at our listings of homes for sale and visit urbanna.com to learn more about the Urbanna area. With offices in Urbanna, White Stone, Deltaville, and Mathews, Horsley Real Estate is here to help with your residential real estate needs throughout the Middle Peninsula and Northern Neck areas of Virginia. Contact us today for all real estate assistance and more information! 

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