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Galway Oyster Festival

The Galway Oyster Festival has evolved from very modest beginnings. In September 1954, 34 guests attended the very first Oyster Festival Banquet. The idea presented itself when in 1953, Brian Collins manager of the Great Southern Hotel was facing a bleak September with a deserted hotel, Brian was mulling over the challenge of filling his hotel by extending the tourist season into September when the head chef recommended that oysters be included on their menu as they had just come into season. Eureka! Therein born the idea of celebrating the opening of the oyster season with a festival and the creation of what is now regarded as one of the most celebrated and longest running festivals in the world. Some highlights to date:

1950 - 1959

  • 1954 - The first ever festival takes place
  • 1958 - Over 300 guests attend the festival

1960 - 1969

  • 1960 - 3000 oysters consumed over the weekend which was attended by famed film director John Huston
  • 1968 - The 1st world Oyster Opening Champion is local man John Cummins in a time of 3 mins 34.8 seconds

1970 - 1979

  • 1971 - 1st UK winner of the oyster opening championship, Sam Scott
  • 1975 - 21st Oyster Festival celebrations with Anita Leslie as Guest of Honour
  • 1977 - Pascal Spellman hosts his last festival show after 23 years. Irelands Willie Morans opens 30 oysters in 1 min 31 seconds - still a world record to this day!

1980 - 1989

  • 1982 - 40000 oysters consumed
  • 1984 - Festival moves into Galway City as part of the Quincentenial celebrations. The Friendship Band visit the city for first time
  • 1985 - Sir Anthony O'Reilly is Guest of Honour
  • 1987 - The AA Travel Guide lists the festival as one of Europe’s Seven Best Festivals on a par with the Munich Beer Festival

1990 - 1999

  • 1991 - John Hume Guest of Honour
  • 1993 - Bob Hope attends the festival as Guest of Honour and sings "Thanks for the memories" to an audience on Eyre Square
  • 1994 - Top British travel show "Wish You Were Here" preside over the festival. 10000 revellers attend over the weekend

2000 - present

  • 2000 - The Sunday Times (London) declare the Galway International Oyster Festival as one of the 12 greatest shows on earth
  • 2004 - The Festival, still sponsored by its original sponsors Guinness, celebrates its 50th birthday

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