LAURINBURG — Saturday’s Laurinburg-Scotland County Area Chamber of Commerce Chamber on the Half Shell oyster roast brought in seafood fanatics from all over North Carolina.
More than 500 people came through the St. Andrews University Equestrian Center Saturday evening to celebrate, food, fellowship and endless bushels of oysters. The event brought out Laurinburg natives, families from up north and even served as an experience for a few Brazilian soccer players at St. Andrews.
“I came all the way from Fayetteville and this is my first time,” said Earnest Galloway who came down with his brother, Don. “I’ll be back next year though, I just like the atmosphere and the oysters.”
Earnest’s brother first attended the event last year with his wife, Betty, who works as the human resources director for the city of Laurinburg.
“We came for the oysters, we love oysters, we’ve been here several times and with the price, food, fellowship and music, it’s really nice,” Betty Galloway said while enjoying the live performance by a two-man band. “This is my fourth time here and I actually brought back my old towel — they used to give us towels with the oysters.”
Complimentary towels have been replaced by oyster knives as party favors.
“We look forward to it and my husband is calling it our date night,” said Betty Galloway. “I take care of my mother who is 93, so we get very few days and nights together and so this is our date night.”
Don Galloway was also excited to enjoy an event that brought him back to his roots.
“We were born and raised down in Brunswick County so we grew up on seafood, being very close to the Atlantic Ocean,” he said. “I love seafood. I don’t care for that other food, this is it right here and we will eat as many oysters as they put in front of us. You can’t put a number on it, that’s for sure, because they’re so good.”
Galloway enjoys oysters more than any other seafood because when you pull open the shell it feels like you win a prize inside. He also enjoyed the service provided by the St. Andrews soccer team.
“You have to go get your shrimp, chicken, coleslaw and hush puppies in line, but the guys from the college will come around and dump the oysters on the table.”
The soccer team worked in two shifts to serve all 500 oyster-eating attendees. They migrated from table to table with a bucket of oysters and tossed them on the tables by hand — wearing gloves, of course.
“We are volunteering with the soccer team, there are two groups and the other players are coming after us,” said Thadeu Rocha.
Rocha, along with two of his friends, are Brazilians attending St. Andrews on soccer scholarships. They were excited to experience the oyster roast because it was a cultural experience they’ve never seen before.
“We don’t have schools like this at home and we don’t get an experience serving people and doing different stuff like this,” Rocha said. “We don’t have stuff like this in Brazil so it’s a new experience and it’s awesome.”
For Rocha and his fellow international students, Saturday’s oyster roast was actually their first time trying oysters.
“We tried them because they made us and some of the guys didn’t like them, but I actually like them,” he said. “It’s awesome because we just serve and grab more and serve.”
There was also a raffle giveaway during the event offering many prizes from a baseball signed by Curt Britt to $1,000 cash.
“We’re going to have wonderful raffles here today, we’re going to have a thousand dollar raffle, jewelry, gift sets and many other wonderful opportunities for gifts,” said volunteer Norman Clingerman. “The best gift here is the thousand dollar raffle of course — if I won I would go to Florida where it’s warmer.”
The event was put together by a long list of sponsors, donors and organizations.
“I’ve worked with the Chamber for this before and enjoyed it, so I wanted to come out and actually sit down and eat,” said Angela Taylor. “This is my second year coming and I enjoy the atmosphere, all the people and everything.”
After working the event the year before, Taylor knows all the hard work that goes into it.
“I appreciate everybody’s help that’s out here, it’s a lot of effort and it’s easy for the ones that come and sit down, but it takes a lot of time to set up and get everything ready and prepared,” she said. “They usually start getting ready for the event around March because it takes a lot of people to help and there is a lot to it — it’s not just getting the oysters.”
However, at the end of the event many were in agreement to attend again.
“I will definitely come back again next year,” she said.
Abby Hackmann can be reached at 910-505-3171.