The Conventures Crew posed during the Seafood Festival.

by Richard Campbell

Sunday August 13th proved to be perfect weather for the Boston Seafood Festival, a rustic promotional event of all things seafood that draws New Englanders from the industry to entertain visitors to the South Boston Seaport.  From the shucked shellfish, to witty chefs, campy music-crowds soon gravitated to standing room areas that supported plenty of beer.  Sponsored primarily by the Boston Fisheries Foundation to raise awareness of the state of the industry, as well as to promote products and services. The better part of the festival is locals offering their fresh seafood at cut rate prices.

One of the most important items on the agenda is to get yourself some fresh oysters or cherry stones, and venerable John Nagle Company, founded in 1887, housed on the Boston Fish Pier, had a few shuckers on hand to deliver mouth-watering shellfish.  Next stop would be to grab a good lobster roll, and here South Boston’s own Yankee Lobster proved once again to have the winning ingredients of big pieces of fresh lobster nestled in the hot buttery roll.  Washing this down with a Harpoon IPA, and you’ve got the bases covered- or do you?

The cooking demonstrations had a more sophisticated audience, with limited seating and small stage appeal, the chefs created recipes that looked and smelled great, and people wanted to try, but sampling was limited.  The shucking contest, sponsored by Manutuck Oyster Farm, certainly had more appeal to this seafood novice than the fish cleaning contest- no thank you from this spectator. SBO had a chance to interview Tom Lanigan, a professional shucker at the Harpoon bar, celebrating his 22nd wedding anniversary to Lori Lanigan, who are veterans of the festival, and seafood bar events. At the edge of every discussion about seafood was the frightening realization of the crisis the industry finds itself in, from over fishing to pollution, as well as the various efforts to bring about more sustainable aquacultures in New England. There were informational booths, like the Ask the Nutritionists table that assured me that it was okay to buy the farm raised salmon because it is less likely to have been exposed to pollutants. Free sample drinks from Hubert’s Lemonades were offered up with glowing sweetness to the parched masses.

The arts and crafts exhibits were limited, but enough to draw interest for a short period of time. Suzanne Fareri’s, framed glass pieces were a standout, as well as the metal creature sculptures by George Chambers.  The Wheelhouse Rodeo Band provided blue grass with a foot stomping beats, ample plucking, dressed up pirate to milk every seaport cliché.  There was something not convivial about the main stage planning- not big enough to be arena entertainment, and not intimate enough to support a gathering.   I was looking for oversize aquarium replete with a giant octopus. Too many vendors lacked originality that would put this over the top, and upgrades in ambience await some design magician.  Part of this impression is it’s a festival that closes up shop before sundown, missing out on the glittery carnival appeal of the North End’s Fisherman’s Feast.  By the time Ayla Brown appeared, things were winding down, and her sweet crooning seemed an appropriate swan song to the prematurely ending festivities.