Our current and very first two-time Champion for the Marlene Dowdle Memorial Tournament is none other than Melissa Somers. With penalties her time this year was 1.27.09 which is an improvement over her time last year of 1.36.55.
Last year, I reached out to Melissa after the tournament for a bit of information so that we can get to know the very first winner such as how she got started and her experience in shucking….
I moved to Toronto in 2002 and got a job as a hostess at Starfish Oyster Bed and Grill owned by Patrick and Alison MacMurray. After a few months I started going in early for my shifts to learn how to shuck and was taught by not only Patrick but also by another top notch oyster shucker, Lawrence David. Imagine- an island girl learning how to shuck in Toronto!
I started competing by entering the Ontario competition at Rodney’s- determined, at the very least, not to place last. Since then I’ve always had a great time shucking and competing. It’s so much fun socializing with people at various gigs and competitions. Patrick used to tell me during my shifts at Starfish that I’d be a faster shucker if I would be quiet for a minute!!
In 2015 I placed 5th at the Canadian Oyster Shucking Championships and won the Joe Labobe award for the top PEI shucker. I had the unique opportunity to shuck oysters for Duke and Duchess, Will and Kate when they visited PEI in 2011.
I’ve been competing in the Shellfish Festival Raspberry Point competition for about 5 years and was so honoured this year to take home the Marlene Dowdle Memorial award for the fastest female shucker. It always makes my heart beat a little faster when I see I’m up against women like Phyllis Carr or Janet Hardy Callaghan!
To the Dowdle family, what a beautiful way to remember your wife and mother.
Keep on shuckin’!