The Tyne Valley Oyster Festival & Rock the Boat Musicfest – PEI’s best-kept secret!

Come for the oysters and stay for the music, plus see the coastal experiences that PEI has to offer. Rock the Boat Musicfest is a signature event for the 56-year old Tyne Valley Oyster Festival and is a one-day family-friendly music event that is now into its sixth year and it’s a full deck of new and old faces in this year’s line up that offers something for everyone’s musical tastes.  Speaking of tastes, the Rock the Boat Musicfestival is a signature event along with the Canadian Oyster Shucking Championship held on Friday, August 2nd. The festival is all about oyster shucking, community involvement and amazing music in a festival that is truly unique and like no other in Canada or South of the border which brings thousands and thousands of people to Tyne Valley each year and best of all the profits from the festival goes right back into the community making it a truly feel good experience for all and why The Tyne Valley Oyster Festival and Rock the Boat Musicfesthas made our top picks for summer music festivals for the third straight year.

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The Tyne Valley Oyster Festival has been around since 1953, and the Canadian Oyster Shucking Championship has been part of the festival since 1973 with competitors and spectators travelling from all over to see the best shuckers in Canada compete.  The Rock the Boat Musicfest was added to the Tyne Valley Oyster Festival in 2014 though a Provincial stimulus initiative called the PEI 2014.

Spotlight on Business Magazine spoke with festival chairman, Adam MacLennan to learn more about the festival and what it means to the community and the people of Tyne Valley, PE, Canada.

Festivals like these need volunteers to make them successful and considering that these events take more than 250 people to put all the events together in a community of about four or five hundred, you are getting more or less everybody in the community involved either directly or indirectly during the event, which is something that most readers might find would be hard to believe in such a small community, but the people of Tyne Valley really love to help out.

SBM: Tell us about Tyne Valley, its people and what the Tyne Valley Oyster Festival has meant to the community?

AM: Tyne Valley is a village in western Prince Edward Island, located approximately 50 minutes from the Confederation Bridge.  Minutes away in one direction is the schoolhouse where Lucy Maud Montgomery once taught, and in another is provincial Green Park where Rock the Boat is held.

Our community is composed largely of farmers and lobster and oyster fisherman, but looking beyond professions, you will find a village full of community spirit and pride. The volunteerism in Tyne Valley is unmatched to any other community.

Our oyster and scallop suppers alone call for nearly 200 volunteers, and we need a total of about 500 for the whole week to run smoothly. That being said, it is clear to see that without the support and enthusiasm of our community the festival would not be possible.

The festival brings a huge sense of pride to everyone in Tyne Valley, and it is highly anticipated for community members of all ages. The week of the festival is a time where families and friends from all over come together in the community and enjoy the festivities.

Our festival is set up with families in mind, with affordable (and often free) events throughout the week as well as lots for all members of the family to participate in. In fact, there is only one event in our whole festival that is restricted to the 19+ crowd.

We are very committed to giving back to the community that never fails to support our events, and with the introduction of Rock the Boat came the opportunity to give back in a substantial way. Profits from the concert has allowed our festival to pay off the Tyne Valley Community Sports Centre’s mortgage, where many families flock to in the winter months. Now, we are helping to support the installation of solar panels at the arena, with future goals to reduce the cost of minor hockey and figure skating for families. 

SBM: The Canadian Oyster Shucking Championship has been part of the Tyne Valley Oyster Festival since 1973, tell us about this event that sees competitors and spectators travel to Tyne Valley from all over to see the best shuckers in Canada and what makes this a great part of the festival?

AM:  The Canadian Oyster Shucking Championship is the signature event of our festival. We have about 30 participants each shucking 18 out of 20 oysters, which are donated from local P.E.I farms.

The shucking championships can be compared to the Olympics for these shuckers. Competitors come from all over Canada to shuck, with the champion going to the World Championships in Galway, Ireland.

This event draws over a thousand spectators, and it’s an opportunity for members of the close-knit oyster community to come together. It’s a really special event for not only the spectators, but the competitors as well. We’ve heard some of the shuckers compare this event to Christmas or a birthday.

Given the fact that this is a nation-wide competition, and many may not be able to make it to Tyne Valley to watch, we have introduced the option to watch the championships via livestream over the past few years. 

This year’s Rock the Boat Musicfest has an amazing line up of headliners for the sixth year of the closing event for the Tyne Valley Oyster Festival.  Big Wreck, The Road Hammers along with Canadian rock legends Honeymoon Suite, legendary P.E.I. band Haywire, P.E.I. Indie rockers Soul Filter and, back by popular demand, fan favourites, The Ellis Family Band all taking the stage for the August 3rd one-day festival.

SBM: What can festival goers expect from this year’s event at Green Pack in addition to the amazing music?

AM:  With Rock the Boat, we wanted to break away from the typical concert hassles while keeping the event family oriented. We pride ourselves on giving our concert goers a smooth experience without breaking the bank.

From the concert tickets, to the drinks, or the variety of food at our multiple vendors, you will find fair prices all the way around. We also have many volunteers helping out on the concert grounds all day to ensure that the parking process is simple and lines entering the festival and when purchasing something are kept short.

Keeping families in mind, there is also the option to bring lawn chairs to view the concert in comfort. For those travelling to Tyne Valley for Rock the Boat, we also have campsites available at Green Park for the concert. And of course, there will be lots of oysters!

The fact that both the Tyne Valley Oyster Festival and Rock the Boat Musicfest bring in thousands and thousands of people to the Tyne Valley community every summer is amazing.

Since its inaugural year, which saw Blue Rodeo, Alan Doyle, and Jimmy Rankin jump on board and Rock the Boat Musicfest has been a tremendous success and they have grown this family-friendly festival both in terms of attendance and ability to reach out to talent with the vision of having a mix of headliners who could headline a show anywhere in Canada and a couple of performer or groups from the local area as well as a couple from the other Maritime Provinces creates a nice blend for concert-goers that offers something for everyone.

What is also amazing is that both are not for profit events so, all the profits go right back into the community to support the Tyne Valley sports centre, which helps pay for hockey, figure skating and other programs in the community.  This has been the main goal of the Musicfest from the start and will continue to be the main goal of the festival moving forward.

SBM: Speaking of goals for the Tyne Valley Oyster Festival and Rock the Boat Musicfest, do you have any plans that you would like to share with our readers about future festivals or plans?

AM:  Our organization is very serious about continuing to expand. This year we are introducing a new shucking event, the Canadian Junior National Shucking Championship. This is going to give younger shuckers from the ages of 12 to 18 a chance to showcase their abilities and compete for a national title.  We hope that with time this event will not only draw in local young people, but also others from across the country such as its older counterpart has.

Our committee also has further plans for the festival.  However, we do not have anything finalized yet.

To get tickets to PEI’s best-kept secret go to tvoysterfest.ca.  VIP tickets for Rock the Boat MusicFest are already sold out however general admission tickets to all events are still available and there are still some limited camping sites remaining.

by Jamie Barrie