Story by Sarah Deveau
DIGBY, NOVA SCOTIA — With more than 550 festivals taking place across Nova Scotia annually, there’s seemingly a celebration for every historic moment, place, or beloved foodstuff.
In pursuit of a feast of my personal favourite Atlantic bounty, the scallop, I took my family to the southwestern part of the province last summer where we stumbled upon the Digby Scallop Days Festival. The coastal town of 2,500 nearly triples during early August when the festival takes over, and we enjoyed our fill of sautéed, fried, and steamed scallops while learning about this bivalve mollusc and how it has influenced the lives of Digby and area residents.
Festival chairman David Thibodeau has been heading up Scallop Days for four years. “Though events begin on Wednesday, the opening ceremony and waterfront concert takes place on Thursday night,” explains Thibodeau. “Throughout the five days there are dozens of activities available for visitors to take in, including street vendors, a farmer’s market, bike rodeo, ball-hockey tournament, kite-flying contest, queen and princess coronation, and plenty of live music and great food.”
An Authentic Taste of Nova Scotia
Digby is 230 kilometres west of Halifax, a pleasant drive along Highway 101 through the Annapolis Valley and along the Bay of Fundy coast. While the scenery is worth the 2.5-hour alone, the festival is an occasion you’ll want to plan to attend. Three highlights not to be missed are the scallop-shucking contest (Friday, Saturday, and Sunday), firemen’s bucket brigade (Friday) and the net-knitting contest (Sunday). Saturday features an afternoon parade and Sunday closes with another waterfront concert and fireworks. My three daughters were mesmerized by the firefighters racing in the bucket brigade and were thrilled to have their photo taken with the queen and princesses. It was nearly impossible to tear my husband away from the net-knitting contest, while I marvelled over the incredible speed and dexterity of the rough hands and flashing knives at work shucking those scallops.
“Our most popular events are the scallop-shucking and net-knitting contests,” Thibodeau says. “There’s so much work that goes into creating these nets and it’s incredible to watch. Entrants have to cut a tree down to make the main pole for five or six nets, which are knit out of rubber rings and steel.”
This year marks the festival’s 38th year, and it promises to satisfy your appetite for fun, and, of course, for scallops.
More About the Digby Scallop Festival
Dates: August 7 to 11, 2013
Where to Stay: The Mountain Gap Inn (rates start at $99 for festival weekend) is nestled on 40 acres and offers traditional motel rooms, individual cottages and vacation homes as well. The Siesta Motel (rates start at $75) is within walking distance to the waterfront and downtown, as are numerous bed & breakfasts.
Where to Eat: Ed’s Take Out on Highway 303 in Digby is an unassuming shack serving no-nonsense fried fish, clams, scallops, and chips. The Fundy Restaurant at 34 Water Street is a lovely spot to enjoy seared scallops and home-cut fries. It’s a 45-minute drive farther up the coast to Freeport, but foodies absolutely must make the drive to Lavena’s Catch Cafe. Featured on the Food Network Canada’s “Pitchin’ In” with chef Lynn Crawford of Toronto’s Ruby WatchCo, this divine café features incredibly good homemade food from owner Lavena Crocker and her husband, Stanton.
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