Chris Ivers, marketing team leader of Whole Foods of Jericho and Manhasset, a sponsor of the Oyster Festival.
The Oyster Festival is many things to many people. To Isaac Kremer, executive director of the Main Street Association (MSA) it is an opportunity to meet people who might want to open a business in the hamlet. "I will be there, wearing one of the official Oyster Festival red jackets and what I am looking to accomplish is to present a professional face for the MSA organization. Out of the 200,000 visitors, I might find some business people who will consider locating in Oyster Bay. After all, we are an economic development organization."
He will be at the visitor's welcome booth near the royal blue arch at the entrance to the festival.
The MSA recently put up banners using President Theodore Roosevelt's face as a logo for the town, to greet people. "Saturday, Oct. 4 we put up corn stacks with orange bows on the poles and put out 200 chrysanthemums," he said.
Over the years, the Oyster Festival weekend has been the time many new businesses opened in the hamlet to take advantage of getting known by the crowds of visitors.
Mr. Kremer said the Sagamore Hill National Historic Site, home of President Theodore Roosevelt will be stationed in front of the TRA office on Audrey Avenue and will be selling merchandise. They have a new pin, with a drawing by cartoonist Clifford Berryman of TR as their commemorative logo. There will be a lot of products for sale: pins, coffee mugs and T-shirts as well as commemorative coins celebrating TR's 150th anniversary that will be celebrated the next weekend, Oct. 24, 25, 26 and 27.
Chris Ivers, marketing team leader of Whole Foods of Jericho and Manhasset, is again a sponsor of the Oyster Festival "best of the Festival food" contest. The 25th Oyster Festival takes place on Oct. 17, 18 and 19. Friday night, the carnival area will be opened and on Saturday and Sunday local nonprofits will be busy cooking and serving their specialties. The festival is again being organized and run by the Oyster Bay Rotary Club with co-chairs Judy Wasilchuk of Century 21 Laffey Associates and Paul Rosen of Oyster Bay Manor/Harbor House.
At the opening press conference, Len Rothenberg, festival promoter said he was hoping the Mill Neck Rod and Gun Club would be challenged for the title they hold as serving the best food at the festival. That is doubtful seeing the patient customers waiting on line to be served at past festivals.
Gail Speranza, Doubleday Babcock Senior Center executive director, is co-chairing the food court with Bev Zembko. "Bev and I did the sign-up of the groups for the food court. The not-for-profits came to First Presbyterian Church to sign up for the festival the first week of June, on the fifth, at 7 p.m.
"I thought we had a better turnout than the year before. I'm a co-chair in training. Bev has been doing it so long she can do it blindfolded. I'm there to assist Bev and to take some of the burden off her. Bev is unbelievable. She does other things: the Rotary Bookbag program where she partners with Buckingham's Variety store and provides kids that need assistance to get a book bag filled with supplies through Rotary is one of them."
Ms. Speranza said, "Doubleday will again be selling clam chowder and our famous clam fritters and this year there will be a special Jubilee Dessert in honor of the 25th year of the festival. It will be based on our version of the English trifle. Trifles are always a surprise: our version will be delicious."
"I'm happy to be involved again this year," said Ms. Speranza. "This is my second year with the Oyster Festival."
This year again, Eileen and Dave Relyea of Frank M. Flower & Son, Inc. shellfishers will be providing oysters to the festival. They will again host their friends Kathy and Ed Nirschl and their family as they come down to volunteer at Oyster Festival 2008. It's a long standing tradition for the couples. Eileen Relyea said, "They live upstate in the Cooperstown area and are neighbors of ours up there. They come down and help out at the Oyster Festival and work at the Rotarian's raw oyster shucking booth. They work so hard both days! Kathy and her daughters are coming down. She stays with us. David said he was calling the Tides motel to see that they had rooms for the overflow. Now that the new entertainment park is open in Bayville, the Tides Motel is becoming more popular," she said. About 8 to 10 people will be coming from upstate New York to help out at the festival.
The Frank M. Flower shellfish company provides about 40,000 oysters for the festival. Some of them will be used for the award-winning fried oysters served by the Mill Neck Rod and Gun Club and some go into the Lions Club oyster stew. Mary Ann Bentley has been a part of the Oyster Festival Oyster Eating and Shucking Contest team. She is looking forward to joining in the fun again this year. Ken Bentley, who has often been a participant in the contests, is still deciding whether to join in the competition again.
Dave McLaughlin of Dodds & Eder said, "At the Oyster Festival, I just make oyster stew for the Lions. I used to be in charge of cleanup and parking. My co-chairs are Michael Corssen and Jerry Mavros, 'the character.' We have a good time. I've been doing it about 20 years with the Lions. We raise money for the blind and hearing impaired and we support a diabetes camp. We just don't brag about it," he said.
Paige Dawson, Oyster Bay Chamber of Commerce vice president, is working with the Oyster Festival Committee representing the chamber. She and Mark Fox of Canterbury Ales are working on the downtown area on Audrey Avenue. "We are looking forward to a really big year and are getting a lot of publicity for it - so it is a really big year," she said.
"We have a royal blue inflated archway at the entrance to the festival for Audrey Avenue at South Street. It's really stunning for an entrance to the fair. Twenty-five years of successfully holding a street fair is pretty exciting. I've been reading John Hammond's book, Oyster Bay Remembered, and he wrote that Oyster Bay had street fairs forever - and they were held on Audrey Avenue.
"There is a picture of one held in about 1940. The St. Rocco Festival also started around then," she said.
"St. Rocco's Feast, according to John's book, was held all the way down the road to 'Chinks', that's what we locals call the Bonanza stand. The book says that the circus was here, starting in the 1800s.
"On Page 66 there is a picture of a street fair on Audrey Avenue. It may have been that St. Rocco's Feast."
Ms. Dawson said one of the things she is looking forward to is the fireworks for Saturday night, Oct. 18, at 7 p.m. in Roosevelt Park. It gets dark earlier then.
This year the festival officially opens on Friday,
Oct. 17. "On Friday night, there will be an hour of carnival rides for special needs children. The rest of the evening, from 6:30 to 10:30 p.m., is open to everyone who purchases a ticket. The carnival midway is one of the links that ties the village and the park together for festival goers.
"We have two major bands that will be playing on Audrey Avenue: Crooked Foot and Six Guns Five will be in that area. My sister Alberta's son is in that band. He plays an electric guitar."
"Returning again will be the Elias Pekale Antiques and Collectibles Exhibition featuring an eclectic mix of dealers offering a nostalgic assortment of yesterday's memories soon to be your very own treasure.
"Local business will also be out on the street selling their wares. There will be lots of booths, including: cigar rollers, pickles, hot sauces, a woodcarving demonstration and Theodore Roosevelt gifts and memorabilia, just to name a few..... and of course, some good ol' home-cooked foods from our local restaurants and delis. The new owners of the Oyster Bay Deli will be taking part in the Oyster Festival on Audrey Avenue. He now has a few tables outside and he stayed open during Cruise Nights," said Ms. Dawson who sells raffles at the Tuesday night car show (closed until April).
There are also things for the kids in the downtown area. There will be street clowns, balloon artists, face painters, jugglers, a unicyclist, and fire eater; sand art and interactive entertainment with Steve the Scientist. There will be some rare birds courtesy of the Theodore Roosevelt Sanctuary. Back by popular demand are The Snake Maze - Obstacle Course - and the Trackless Train, offering rides for kids down to the Oyster Bay Rail Road Museum and their Preview Center. (There is a small admission fee.)
Ms. Dawson returned to the book by town Historian John Hammond. She said, "There were oyster shucking contests in Oyster Bay in the 1800s. John Hammond said, 'In Feb. 1891 there was an oyster shucking contest.' So they are not new in Oyster Bay. I read that book, Oyster Bay Remembered, when I am having tea in the morning so I can read a few sections at a time." Look for Mr. Hammond at the festival where he is sure to be selling his book again. There's room for it on every home library shelf in Oyster Bay.