The Big Curri-Shuck was a big Thanksgiving celebration

By on December 1, 2017

Hunter Stuart of I Got Your Crabs overseeing the steaming of oysters. (Kip Tabb)

It would be hard to imagine a more perfect way to celebrate the Thanksgiving holiday than the Big Curri-Shuck this past Saturday at Sanctuary Vineyards in Jarvisburg.

Giant colanders filled with oysters and sometimes crab, white clouds of steam rising as the contents are dumped on long tables.

People lined up for eastern North Carolina pulled pork barbecue served with perfect hush puppies. Wine from Sanctuary Vineyards; beer from local breweries Lost Colony Brewery and Weeping Radish. Hayrides for the kids. And great music.

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If the historic meaning of Thanksgiving is a time to give thanks for the bounty of the harvest, then the Big Curri-Shuck is a celebration of the harvest of the sea.

“We went through 125 bushels of oysters this year,” Hunter Stuart of I Got Your Crabs said. “And 25 bushels of crab.”

And that doesn’t include the pulled pork barbecue Eddie Wissman cooks up.

“We’ll go through a few hundred pounds of it,” Wissman said.

Wissman, a professional plumber when he’s not smoking a few hundred pounds of barbecue, is, according to Sanctuary Vineyard’s John Wright, “A local pit master.”

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“I’ve been cooking barbecue for 20 some years,” Wissman said. “I’m here ‘cause I love it.”

This was the 6th Annual Big Curri-Shuck, a combined effort between Wright and Stuart. According to Wright the event came from an informal idea he and Stuart had discussed.

“It started on a whim,” he recalled. “We just sort of persisted with it, but we didn’t think it would be this big.”

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The concept seemed simple enough—gather a few hundred people and offer them a day of all you can eat oysters, crab and barbecue. Hold the event on the Saturday after Thanksgiving and sell some tickets.

Sanctuary Vineyards with its large wine storage room and backyard opening onto the farmland behind the Cotton Gin was the perfect location.

It’s an all-you-can-eat oyster feast.

The event has exceeded the expectations of Wright and Stuart.

“We didn’t think it would be this bit,” Wright said. “We just sort of persisted with it and added more of everything.”

The first year the event was open to about 500 people. This year around 900 tickets were sold.

As a part of Thanksgiving weekend, the event seems to have become a tradition for a number of people with recurring discussions comparing the 2017 happening with years past. The consensus was this year’s Big Curri-Shuck was one of the best.

Slightly salty and tender, there was wide agreement the oysters this year were excellent—an observation Stuart confirmed.

“They were very good,” he said. “The came from the James River.”

He added that if the weather had been cooler, the North Carolina oysters might have been on the menu, but the local oysters weren’t as meaty as what was served.

Unlimited quantities of oyster, crab and barbecue are the draw, but it’s not the only reason people keep returning to the event. There is always live music and this year the bands were excellent.

The Daniel Jordan Band from Elizabeth City was first with a rock, blues, country blend that was very good.

Buck Shot out of Virginia Beach stood country music conventions on its head with a high energy show that featured lead singer Curtis Cowles dancing and singing in the middle of the audience, jumping on tables and really rocking the house. A high energy, great performance.

Lead singer Curtis Cowles of Buck Shot.

A nice touch this year—some of the students from the Mustang Outreach Program took the stage. The program, under music director Ruth Wyand, gives kids a chance to learn how to perform on stage.

Surprisingly poised for their age – 10 to 14 – the performances showed kids with some real musical talent.

The Mustang Outreach performances highlight that the Big-Curri-Shuck has become a family event. There is wine and beer, and all you can eat oysters, crab and barbecue, but there are also hayrides for the kids, picnic tables where families can gather and quite a number of children were on hand with their parents.

“There are a lot of families there with their kids,” Wright said.

“It’s a group thing,” he added. “It’s about all the people you would want at that event.”

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