Deborah Pratt began her quest for oyster shucking fame when she was a child sitting on the doorstep with her younger sister, Clementine Macon. The novelty of an oyster and how one goes about quickly getting it open became a lifelong obsession for both of them.
Deborah explains her easy way to crack into this bivalve treasure of the Rappahannock stating, "If you go into the oyster at 3 o'clock, 6 o'clock and 9, you will always get in." From there it's just about how fast you get in, and how little damage you do to the fragile sealife within.
The titles Deborah has won are too numerous to mention, but perhaps the recent challenge of edging out her nephew by mere seconds in the 2007 Urbanna Oyster Festival will be one of her most fond memories. That and making the trip to Ireland a few times to compete in the world championships.
Deemed the Official Oyster Festival of the Commonwealth by the Virginia General Assembly in 1988, the Urbanna Oyster Festival has been a tradition for far longer than those 24 years. The event began in 1957 as "Urbanna Days" and in 1961 possessed the current title in honor of the community's economic bread and butter.
Bringing 75,000 people each year, the two-day event includes 125 food and craft booths, a parade 160 entries strong, Oyster Festival Queen and Little Miss Spat pageants, and of course, the Oyster Shucking Contest!
Gems like Deborah Pratt are the stars of Virginia’s food festivals, numbering in the hundreds statewide throughout the year, and celebrating food finds unique to Virginia.
Last Updated: 1/21/2020