Whitstable Oyster Festival expected to be biggest ever

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An oyster-eating competition, a mud tug and salsa dancing - probably not the ingredients of your average family day out.

But they're just a small part of what's on offer at the Whitstable Oyster Festival this week.

Attractions include a two-day food fair full of local produce, samba music, arts taster sessions, belly dancing and a day dedicated to children's sport on Friday, July 24.

This year, traditional ceremonies like the Landing of the Catch and the Blessing of the Waters sit alongside new events, including a closing ceremony where the wishes of hundreds are floated out to sea.

Festival-goers also have the chance to build grotters on the beach. These are hollow structures made from oyster shells which are traditionally built by children to mark St James' Day (he was the patron saint of oysters). The grotters are candlelit when dusk falls, creating a unique spectacle.

The oyster-eating competition sees people race each other to see who can devour oysters and beer the quickest. Keeping the theme going, the festival also features a campaign to have pie-throwing reintroduced as an Olympic sport.

Last year's event attracted an estimated 75,000 visitors, and the organisers are hoping to top that this year, as fewer families head abroad thanks to the credit crunch.

Festival coordinator Mair Stratton said: "Last year was the most successful festival ever but this year is set to be even better.

"We've got more events than ever before and most family events are free."

For more details visit www.whitstableoysterfestival.com.

If you're travelling to the Continent with Eurostar or Eurotunnel, why not spend some time in the garden of England as well? Our three four-star hotels in Kent are a great base for exploring the county.

The Holiday Inn Ashford Central is just half an hour from Whitstable - and you can visit the historic city of Canterbury, with its cathedral and 6th century abbey, on the way there. Prices start from £112 a night.

This price was correct on July 24, 2009. Prices are subject to change and availability. Book your Kent hotel with Holiday Extras for the best prices and availability.