This story has been updated with corrected dates and times.
It's our wackiest festival, the annual Bivalve Bash at Samish Bay, 90 minutes north of Seattle. What makes it cuckoo (and great fun) are two eccentric activities: a low-tide mud run, and an oyster-shell sculpture contest.
The event is sponsored by Taylor Shellfish Farms and benefits the Skagit Conservation Education Alliance. Formally known as the 8th Annual Bivalve Bash and Low Tide Mud Run, it gets underway at 9 a.m. on July 24 (a Saturday) and ends with the incoming tide at 5 p.m. that day at the Taylor Shellfish waterfront facility in Bow. "The idea is to have some summer fun on the beach while raising awareness of water-quality issues," says Taylor Shellfish Farms President Bill Taylor.
In terms of food, there's to be "shellacious" bivalve fare from local restaurants, a salmon dinner by the Samish Nation, and luscious Skagit raspberry shortcake. For activities, the Bash offers the Mud Run, a Kid's Beach, the Oyster Shell Sculpture Contest, shell crafts, face painting, crab races, oyster shuffleboard, beach walks, amateur shucking contests, mud volleyball, and a silent auction.
Yard for yard, the mud run is probably the Northwest's toughest foot race. It starts at low tide, 10:49 a.m. precisely. This uniquely strenuous race, limited to the first 200 entrants, requires peak fitness, not to mention shoes. Runners stuck in the mud will be rescued before the incoming tide; clean-up hoses will be provided.
Each sculpture contest team will consist of the "primary artist" and up to two assistants who can start constructing their sculptures on the beach at 9 a.m. The rules are simple: oyster shells only. The sculpture footprint may be any shape but must be within the boundary circumscribed by a piece of rope 32 feet long. Taylor Shellfish Farms will provide over 40,000 oyster shells for castle building. Judging begins at 1 p.m.; winners will be announced at 2:30 p.m. from the event's Bivalve Bandstand. The incoming tide will then reach and cover the sculptures, creating dramatic video and photo opportunities.To register for this year's contest, contact Marco Pinchot, email@example.com.
In terms of access, there's bicycle parking only at the site, but there's plenty of free festival parking if you follow the signs going north and south on Chuckanut Drive. Shuttle buses will leave every 20 minutes or so. Pets and coolers are not permitted at the festival site.
Admission to the festival is $5, but is free for kids and for registered participants in the Mud Run. Additional information is available online at www.bivalvebash.com.