Hundreds of people listen to music as they walk through food stands.
Hundreds of people listen to music as they peruse food stands at Fiesta Oyster Bake on the St. Mary's University campus. Credit: Bonnie Arbittier / San Antonio Report

There’s nothing like the smell of oysters to put San Antonians in the mood for Fiesta. Heavy winds this year carried the fishy scent down Culebra Road and onto Northwest 36th Street as excited event-goers streamed onto the St. Mary’s University campus.

The 103-year-old Fiesta Oyster Bake began Friday night and carried on for a second day Saturday, filling the campus with revelers decked out in flower crowns and colorful shirts, carrying chicken and jalapeños on a stick.

By Saturday night, attendees will eat more than 32,000 of the notorious Fiesta delicacy-on-a-stick, along with more than 100,000 of the event’s namesake, officials estimate.

More than a century ago, Oyster Bake began as a small gathering of St. Mary’s University alumni. In the subsequent decades, the event has grown tremendously, bringing in close to 70,000 attendees annually. All proceeds benefit students from St. Mary’s through student scholarships and funding for university programs.

On Saturday, thousands perused food stands selling gorditas, beef fajitas, mangonadas, and oyster shots. Indie Latin, country, and rock music blared from stages throughout the event and rides twirled people around in a fair-like environment.

Thousands of oyster shells set for recycling Saturday had already been discarded into trailers, ready to be shipped to the coast, dried out for six months, then placed back into the ocean to develop more oyster reefs as part of Texas A&M University’s Sink Your Shucks program. Thus begins preparation for a future Oyster Bake.

Fiesta’s official start is Thursday.

Oyster shells are disposed properly to be recycled back into the ocean.
Oyster shells from the event will be recycled back into the ocean. Credit: Bonnie Arbittier / San Antonio Report

Emily Donaldson reports on education for the San Antonio Report.