Governor McAuliffe traveled to the Northern Neck this week to fire up the Virginia Oyster Trail.
That’s an initiative he announced last year that connects 250 miles of seafood producers, restaurants, wineries, craft breweries and artisans around the Chesapeake Bay's rural communities.
Instead of the traditional ribbon-cutting ceremony the governor and his Virginia Oyster Trail team shucked an oyster and slurped.
The governor presented a $35,000 grant to help Eastern Shore and Northern Neck Counties promote the Oyster Trail. The partnership of watermen with tourism-based businesses is an effort to boost the economy in rural areas that sorely need it, bringing in a share of the state's $22.4 billion tourism revenue.
“Today is the day the oyster trail opens up here. What you think this means not only for our economy, for all the folks who make their livelihoods on the water, but what I always talk about what it means to our tourism industry.”
The ceremony hosted by the Tides Inn, featured oyster and wine from the trail's seven regions from the upper bay on Virginia's Eastern shore around to the upper bay on its western shore. Alongside the many watermen serving up their oysters, Dudley Patterson, owner of the Hope and Glory Inn and Dog and Oyster Vineyard in Lancaster had something more to celebrate. He came up with the idea of the trail several years ago.
“Over in Europe there's an organization called Relais and Chateaux they have a trail for their guests to go on from one hotel to another all within oyster country tasting the different oyster of France. And I said, let's just take that and put it on the state level and blow it out. And that's what they've done and that's what's happening here.”
Not missing an opportunity, Governor McAuliffe set the record straight one more time about the blue crab birther debate that ensued with Maryland's governor earlier this year.
“As you know the oyster is to Virginia what lobster is to Maine and I did create a little bit of controversy but blue crabs are to Maryland, but let me reiterate every one of those blue crabs were born here in the Commonwealth of Virginia.”
Information on watermen heritage tours, as well as restaurants, hotels and vineyards on the trail can be found at virginiaoystertrail.com