The Amite Oyster Festival is a one-of-a-kind festival. In the spring of every year this family fun fest attracts visitors from all over the country. Great music, great fun, and of course great oysters are waiting to be enjoyed in Amite, Louisiana. A full weekend festival includes music from Cajun, country, rock and roll, and reggae artists.
The Amite Oyster Industry and the Amite Oyster Festival History
The Oyster Industry came into existence in Amite in 1949 when Carlo Venterella and Tony Relan began operation of Carlo’s Oyster House with a capital investment of $600, employing 10 people to open oyster in a building on South First Street know as the Old Blue Bonnet Creamery Building.
They operated only five months that year: January to May, peddling their oysters to nearby points; serving the oyster bars in the area. However, their business grew so fast that it was soon necessary to go into plant operation in which they opened and packaged oysters.
Mr. Relan, being a farmer at hear, had a successful crop year, and in 1950, pulled out of Carlo’s Oyster House, leaving Mr. Venterella to operate alone.
Mrs. Frances Venterella, Carlo’s mother, owned a building at 205 South First Street which house a fish market; and being unable to continue with the over head at his present location, Carlo, asked his mother to let him move his Oyster House into her building, which was done in 1950.
In 1951, Carlo Incorporated with Anthony (better known as “Slick”) Venterella and Joe E. Bellavia; and they started trucking oysters to such markets as Baton Rouge, Monroe, New Orleans and various other points.
By 1955, their building had become entirely too small for their operation, so they moved into the building which now houses Bellavia’s Oysters on Highway 51 South.
In 1957, Carlo withdrew from the partnership and opened Carlo’s Oyster House at 301 South First Street where he remained until late 1957 when he moved into the long-time location on Highway 16 West.
Joe Carona and Frank Boudreaux rented the Joey Oyster House in 1970 when Joe E. Bellavia condensed his operation to oyster boats only - supplying the other houses with oysters. In 1975, they built and moved into a new building and Joe came back into the oyster business at his old location and named it Bellavia’s Oysters.
Until Hurricane Katrina and the BP Oil Spill (both of which severely effected the Oyster Industry), oysters were shipped from Amite to as far away as Oregon by air freight and trucked to points in Louisiana, Mississippi and Texas.
At one time, each plant employed a boat crew, a plant crew, and a delivery crew which consisted of approximately 300 people; and during the height of oyster season the costs could run as high as $30,000 per week in salaries alone.
This, along with maintaining buildings, buying and maintaining trucks and equipment, made the oyster industry a very important factor in the economy of Amite and also meant a great deal in other areas because those men also owned the boats that gathered the oysters.
A far sighted man, Weldon Russell, realizing the importance of the Oyster Industry conceived the idea of an Oyster Festival for Amite, which started as the Amite Oyster Day, a one-day event that has grown tremendously over the years. The first Amite Oyster Day was held on March 20, 1976 at the Tangipahoa Parish Fair Grounds.
From that first Amite Oyster Day forward the festival has been planned and organized by the local Amite civic clubs. The festival itself is made up of three days of fun events with live entertainment, carnival rides and oysters of all varieties. There are weekend events leading up to the festival such as a scavenger hunt, formal gala as well as a parade, chili cook-off and oyster eating contest during the festival.
In the planning year of 2012, the Oyster Board made the decision to move the 2013 festival to downtown Amite. With the help of Mayor Reggie Goldsby and Mayor Buddy Bel the move proved to be a success.
The entire community feels a pride in taking part in the activities that made up Amite’s tribute to the Oyster!
March 20, 21 and 22
Friday 5 p.m. – midnight
Saturday 10 a.m. – 11:00 p.m.
Sunday 12 p.m. – 6 p.m.
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Amite Oyster Festival
P.O. Box 1100
Amite, LA 70422
Oyster Festival: (985) 969-5340
Tangipahoa Parish Convention & Visitors Bureau: 1-800-542-7520