Hama Hama's Lissa James admits the shellfish farm's "oyster hunts" tend to be somewhat anticlimactic.
"We take visitors on oyster hunts, and then they realize they just need to bend down and pick them up," James says.
Exposing area residents to the simplicity of oyster picking is one of the goals of the Hama Hama Oyster Rama, returning this May for a second year. The daylong party includes comparative oyster tastings, tide flat tours and instructional sessions in oyster picking and clam digging.
"Everyone in the Puget Sound should know how to pick oysters and dig clams," says James, adding that many attendees last year had never before participated in either pastime.
"With oyster picking, they think it's going to be more complicated," James says. She allows that clam digging can be complex: "You might dig and dig and dig and be in the wrong spot." But attendees who are comfortable picking and digging are invited to compete in the Shuckathalon, advertised as "the world's only intertidal sports competition." In addition to picking and digging for clustered oysters and single oysters, the relay includes a shucking component.
"Last year, we had to pull people out of the crowd," James says. "They were shy."
Low tide will occur around 11 a.m. - "it's sort of an uncooperative May as far as low tides on Saturdays go," James says - giving Washington Sea Grant staffers an opportunity to introduce festival-goers to the flat's wild inhabitants. "There's so much life we don't even know," says James, who encourages visitors to investigate the tiny critters surrounding the oysters that are so easy to pick.
"That's where things get really interesting," she says.