© Guardian photo
Fisheries Minister Ron MacKinley, left, and Liam Dolan display some Island shellfish at the announcement of the Prince Edward Island’s International Shellfish Festival’s entertainment lineup at Red Shores Thursday. This is the 18th year for the festival.
When Liam Dolan came up with the idea for an international shellfish festival in P.E.I. people used to shake their heads.
Almost 18 years later Dolan is getting ready for the latest installment in what has surpassed his expectations and become one of the province's signature events.
"It actually feels fantastic," he said.
Dolan was at Red Shores in Charlottetown Thursday for the official announcement of 2013 P.E.I. International Shellfish Festival lineup.
This year's festival runs from Sept. 12-15 at the event grounds in Charlottetown.
Dolan said P.E.I. is beautiful in September and while the thinking was always that the province's tourism season ended after Labour Day it didn't have to be that way.
"We had to build something and they'll come," he said.
What started as a two-day event that a few hundred people attended has since grown to three days and saw more than 7,500 visitors last year.
Chef Michael Smith is the festival's host for 2013 and will provide live cooking demonstrations over the three days, including showing what it takes to make a Food Network show.
He won't be the only chef involved as 10 others compete in a cooking challenge that comes with a $10,000 grand prize for the winner.
In total there will be $24,000 in prizes for the festival's various competitions.
There will also be music throughout the three days, including the Chaisson Family, Signal Hill and The Trews.
But as the name implies, the focus is on shellfish with competitions for oyster shucking, mussel sock tying and potato seafood chowder spread out over the three days.
"As you can see it's going to be one hell of a party," Dolan said.
Dolan said this year's event will have the competitions outdoors under the festival's tent so people will be able to see everything that is going on, including the cooking competition that used to be held indoors.
"It's bringing a lot more to the event," he said.
For Smith, he said the event is all about fun and one of the best things that people do well in P.E.I. is taking food of a pedestal.
"This isn't some great big cooking lesson," he said.
Smith said he was proud to be part of the festival and the progress it has made over the years.
"It's an awesome good time," he said.
Festival tickets are on sale at www.peishellfish.com.