The Capital City kicked off Fourth of July festivities with Jolie Pearl Oyster Bar’s inaugural Baton Rouge Oyster Fest on June 30, where oyster lovers everywhere were invited to come together and eat their heart’s content in oysters while listening to live music.

The event was held downtown at the Galvez Plaza and was free to the public. It kicked off with a pre-party at 10:30 a.m. with Bloody Marys provided by Bloody Revolution.

“I wanted to do a premier seafood festival and showcase as much of Baton Rouge as possible,” Eric Carnegie, Jolie Pearl Oyster Bar manager and festival coordinator, said.

Louisiana natives know you can only eat oysters during months that have an “r” in them, but the Baton Rouge Oyster Fest proved that theory wrong. Attendees could enjoy delicious chargrilled oysters provided by The Oyster Man and Mansurs on the Boulevard, while Stinky’s Fish Camp offered freshly-shucked raw oysters. Cecelia Creole Bistro quickly sold out of oysters, but offered other food such as crawfish mac-and-cheese. Half Shell Art also had a booth at the festival, offering artwork made from oyster shells. Tin Roof Brewery was also selling beer on tap.

“I was a little skeptical at first to eat the oysters, considering how hot it is,” said Oyster Fest attendee Ryan Trexler. “But these were the best oysters I’ve had in a long time. I wish I could order more, but the lines are just so long.”

Nearly 8,000 festival-goers enjoyed their food and drinks while listening to performances by Parish County Line, Werewolf “The Legendary 80s Cover Band,” Dirty Dozen Brass Band and The Spin Doctors.

“I am beyond thrilled with the turnout,” Carnegie said. “We ran out of food pretty quickly, but that’s not really a bad problem to have.”

The festival held an oyster eating and shucking contest. Laci Nguyen, 24, took home the title of oyster eating champion after knocking back 55 oysters in two minutes. Jolie Pearl’s own employee Bayley Mowatt won the shucking contest for shucking 18 oysters in two minutes.

Carnegie said this will be an annual festival and he hopes to expand it to a two-day event. He said the goal is to always keep it as a free event.

“We love to see Baton Rouge was so supportive of it, even though it was so hot,” Carnegie said. “It was a great day for Downtown. I’m very happy with it.”

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