Shellfish festival to open at new Charlottetown event site

The 17th annual International Shellfish Festival is moving this year from the Charlottetown waterfront to the new $3-million Charlottetown events site.

The 17th annual Prince Edward Island International Shellfish Festival is moving this year from the Charlottetown waterfront to the new $3-million Charlottetown Event Grounds.

It's the first event on Charlottetown's new concert and event site at the corner of Grafton and Water streets.

"It's an experience-driven market and this festival is right smack in the middle of it," said Chef Michael Smith.

The festival was started in 1996 by restaurant owner Liam Dolan as a one-day event. It used to be held right on the waterfont by Peakes Quay.

"More people today are foodies, there's a lot of foodies travelling, and it's become a foodie festival," Dolan said.

It's now Fall Flavours' signature event — a four day event packed with shellfish demonstrations, to celebrity cooks, and entertainment.

The festival receives $100,000 from the province.  The Atlantic Canada Opportunities Agency and the Aquaculture and Shellfish Alliance also pitch in to pay for the event.

ACOA, the Charlottetown Area Development Corporation and the province each put up $1 million to build the event facility.

Rural Development Minister Ron MacKinley has been criticized for spending $1 million of his rural development fund for the new project in the city.

"You've got to look at it this way, you're not going to sell many oysters or mussels out in the woods somewhere, you're going to sell them where the public is," MacKinley said.

The minister said the events site will be used to promote things like the shellfish festival, and Old Home Week, and he says that all helps the rural, primary industries.

The site can be described as a paved staging area, adjacent to a large sloping grassed area in downtown Charlottetown, not far from the Hillborough Bridge. The province has now put out tenders to expand to the other side of Grafton street with another large parking lot.

"There's really no where to park downtown with a tent, I've [had] complaints about parking forever," Dolan said.