PORT ANGELES — Fresh Dungeness crab was always the star of the show. Now, Sequim oysters will make their debut at the annual Dungeness Crab & Seafood Festival, which begins Friday.
Sequim Bay Jades, Sequim Bay Blue Opals and Sequim Bay Sapphires will be on the Port Angeles City Pier throughout the three-day festival through Jamestown Seafood, a collaboration between owner/operator and President Kurt Grinnell and the Jamestown S’Klallam Tribe.
The 16th annual CrabFest will be from noon to 10 p.m. Friday, 9:30 a.m. to 10 p.m. Saturday and 9 a.m. to 5 p.m. Sunday. Admission will be free.
“More than a signature culinary event, the annual Dungeness Crab & Seafood Festival is a celebration of the history, culture and traditions of the native peoples who have inhabited the Olympic coast for thousands of years,” said Scott Nagel, executive director of the festival, which will take over the Red Lion Hotel parking lot, City Pier and The Gateway pavilion at Front and Lincoln streets.
Jamestown Seafood “will make its CrabFest debut, offering distinctive and delicious new varieties of a tribal dietary staple: Pacific Northwest oysters,” Nagel said.
A career commercial fisherman, Grinnell started Jamestown Seafood in 2009 upon securing a 12-year lease on a tribal oyster farm in Sequim Bay.
“The waters are so clean and food production unsurpassed,” Grinnell said. “I simply had the feeling there was really a terrific and unique opportunity for us, the tribe and oyster lovers of the world.”
Located along the Strait of Juan de Fuca just before the entrance to Puget Sound, Sequim Bay’s proximity to the Pacific Ocean and nutrient-rich tides that replenish the bay allow oysters to thrive on a regular supply of fresh, clean food, promoting faster growth.
Additionally, the lack of urban runoff creates an environment perfect for sustainable, clean seafood, Grinnell said.
“Pacific oysters have been a dietary staple of our tribe for 2,700 years,” Grinnell added.
“And we continue to thrive on these oysters, geoduck clams and other seafood to this day.
“Because the watershed in Sequim Bay is distinctly different from the majority of oyster beds deeper in the Puget Sound, I foresaw the opportunity to farm new oyster varieties that would appeal to oyster lovers everywhere.”
Jamestown Seafood’s local Pacific oyster varieties are farmed by different methods.
Sequim Bay Jades and Sequim Bay Sapphires are beach-farmed, meaning they are grown directly on the sandy floor of Sequim Bay. The taste is similar — smooth and silky with a touch of sweet mineral and cucumber notes, according to the Jamestown Seafood website at www.jamestownseafood.com. The difference is in the size: Sapphires tend to be smaller.
Sequim Bay Blue Opals are tumble-farmed, allowed to tumble with the tides. These oysters have a deep, bowl-shaped shell and are plump, juicy and succulent with a subtly sweet, clean ocean flavor and buttery texture, the website says.
Grinnell and his wife and business partner, Teri, will serve freshly shucked Sequim Bay Sapphires and Blue Opals and grilled-in-the-shell Sequim Bay Jades on Port Angeles City Pier throughout CrabFest weekend.
In addition, festival-goers can enjoy fresh geoduck ceviche and geoduck sashimi shots.
More native traditions will be in evidence at the CrabFest when the Lower Elwha Klallam Tribe sponsors the welcome ceremony at The Gateway pavilion at 10 a.m. Saturday.
The Lower Elwha Drum Group will perform welcome songs, and a blessing will be offered.
The Dungeness Crab & Seafood Festival is a celebration of the crustacean that derives its name from the Olympic Peninsula town where it was first commercially harvested in 1848: Dungeness.
Sharing the aquaculture, agriculture and maritime traditions of the Olympic Peninsula, the festival offers food, art, music, Native American activities and children’s events.