SUMMERTON - Though no one remembers exactly how or when oyster roasts came to be a popular tradition in Summerton and surrounding areas, the tradition has continued in recent years with the St. Matthias Episcopal Church annual Oyster Roast.
First held in 2004 to benefit the church's Montessori Preschool, this year's roast will be held 6 p.m. Jan. 21 at the Flowers' Tomato Shed on U.S. 301 between Interstate 95 and Summerton. In 2010, Father David Thurlow said the roast had its largest gathering yet.
"We had about 400," he said of the roast, which also featured barbecue, cole slaw and catfish stew. "That definitely is the largest number we've had."
The roast's roots extend back more than three decades, Thurlow said.
"It used to be that St. Matthias had oyster roasts that were the talk of the county," he said. "It went dormant for a number of years, but we revived it. People were saying, 'Remember when we had the oyster roasts?' It gave an opportunity for people in town to get together, and the oysters are always a big hit."
It also served as an opportunity to raise money for the school, which opened in 2004 as an outreach ministry of the church after members visited a similar school in Bluffton. They were impressed by the "Montessori method," formulated by Dr. Maria Montessori in the early 1900s, which emphasizes the uniqueness of each child, recognizing that children are different from adults in development and thinking. The method regards traditional measurements like grades and tests as negative competition that damages a child's emotional and academic growth while deficiencies in a particular area of study are treated as places to improve rather than failures.
"Everything is sequenced," Mary Lynn Williamson, former director for the school, said in a file story. "These children learn how to take care of the material and they learn manners from the beginning. They learn to take care of one another. If a child is Montessori-trained, they will know exactly what they can and cannot do."
Thurlow said the event has been popular whether temperatures were hot or cold and even with rain.
"We put tarps up to keep the wind out, put heaters inside," Thurlow said. "We have a bonfire outside. It's a good atmosphere."
St. Matthias Episcopal Church Oyster Roast
WHEN: 6 p.m. Jan. 21
WHERE: Flowers' Tomato Shed on U.S. 301
COST: $30 each
FYI: (803) 485-2504; (803) 435-4032; (803) 485-2504.