MANDEVILLE, La. - It's a celebration of Louisiana seafood. And more than a year after the oil spill, vendors say this weekend's Mandeville Seafood Festival in serves as a small bellweather of the seafood industry's strength.
'It's coming back, slowly but surely,' said Roy Grillot, owner of Grillot's Restuarant and Oyster Bar on the Northshore.
Grillot has been in the seafood industry for years. He said he's still feeling the oil spill's effect, especially when it comes to oysters.
'You order 10 sacks you might get six,' said Grillot. 'You're hoping they're from Hopedale, they're coming out of St. Bernard.'
Grillot is one of 20 vendors at the 33-year-old festival. Organizers estimate attendance has quadrupled this year from last year. The event went on just months after the oil spill.
'You couldn't get Louisiana seafood,' said Rick Windhorst, who sits on the seafood fest's board. 'Some was quarantined or what have you, it was just hard to get. But what we had here, it was good, just the people were a little leary because of the oil spill, it was scary, you just don't know.'
According to Chris Jones, owner of French Market Crawfish and Seafood in Mandeville, seafood prices remain 25 to 35 percent higher than they were pre-oil spill. But Jones is optimistic the industry will continue to see improvements.
'I think the seafood industry is strong this year,' said Jones. 'We definitely have some increase in prices still, it's not what it was pre-oil spill, but the demand is certainly there, and the supply is there as well.'
But some aren't so sure.
'I still don't have any local fish coming in, although the Gulf has plenty of shrimp... crabs, I have not seen the longline species come back up to the level it was before the spill,' said Cheril Carey, a national sales representative for a seafood company specializing in yellow fin tuna.
As for people eating the seafood, some say, the spill never gave them any second thoughts.
'We trust the local vendors here. We've been eating seafood our whole lives, so we'll continue to do that,' said Meghan Duplechin, an attendee from Mandeville.
Others from out of town say it took Louisiana relatives to put their qualms to rest.
'We were concerned when we were at home,' said Kelli Fitzpatrick of Montgomery, AL.'We were concerned, until my sister moved [to Mandeville] and she told us she didn't have a problem... Tastes fine to me!'
The biggest concern now is whether lingering effects from the spill will impact the industry's future. But this weekend is all about celebrating what the industry has to offer now.
The festival runs through July 4th. For more information, log onto http://www.seafoodfest.com/index.php.