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Same But Always New Oyster Festival

A festival devoted to helping charities exceeds expectations

There were new things and old things at Oyster Festival 29. The Oyster Festival Shucking Contest was again won by David Mahnken of Melville. He shucked 35 oysters in the allotted four minutes and for the tenth time came out the winner. Something new was the winner of the Oyster Eating Contest, Abraham Ozdemir of Manhattan. This was the first time he devoured oysters.

Something else new at the festival were the T-shirts on sale at The Ida May Project in J Building on West End Avenue. Based on an original design Gregory Druhak had created for Butler Flower in the late 1970s, volunteer Jack Hoyt ordered shirts that featured the Ida May Project logo on both the front and the back. 

The profile drawing of the Ida May was originally made at the suggestion of Ida May Captain Richard Townsend and the first shirts were intended to be used only by the crews and dock workers at Frank M. Flower and Sons (FMF). Mr. Druhak bought the shirts wholesale in Boston and made the screen in his darkroom. Captain Townsend funded the effort. Captain Townsend and Mr. Druhak together hand silk-screened the initial 80 T-shirts on Mr. Druhak’s mother’s ironing board in his basement.

Butler’s granddaughter, Joan Valentine, introduced the design to the public several years later at the 1985 Oyster Festival where the T-shirt was used to raise money to help provide food necessities for people in and around the Oyster Bay area. Butler Flower felt it was very important that no one in his community go hungry. Subsequently, the shirts were sold for many years at the FMF booth at each Oyster Festival and raised many thousands of dollars to benefit the Celia Flower Pantry. 

Clint Smith, president of the Ida May Project said they still have some of their T-shirts available. “We did sell a couple of prints too,” he said.

The prints of the Ida May are by artist Ken Marcell and are done in mixed media. They are available both framed and unframed. They are 22.5” x 19.75” for $125; and 17” x 10.25” for $115. (Call 922-0458 for information.)

Mr. Smith said Saturday they had a bigger volume of visitors to the Ida May Project. “People were drawn in by the DeLoreans we had on exhibit in the shipyard. They came in to look at the cars and then the wives grabbed them to come inside and see the boats. We had people explaining about the work. It turned out very well for us,” he said.

One of the visitors looked at the boat and asked if they were building an ark? A volunteer said, “No, that’s happening over the hill at Planting Fields where they are building an ark for the movie Noah that will star Russell Crowe. Here we’re building an oyster boat.” The woman said she had been in Israel and saw a 3,000 year relic and this boat — with all its ribs showing, looked the same.

The DeLoreans were a very successful way to bring people into J Building. There were young kids who never saw the car before or even knew the movie it was featured in, Back to the Future, which starred Michael Fox. If that didn’t interest the visitors, there was a sawmill operating where they were cutting wood for the boat.

The festival is all about charity and the Ida May Project is in need of funds, so it qualified as a good cause.

A Great Committee

Something old at the festival is the great work of the Oyster Festival committee.

The festival happens seamlessly as a result of the planning of the committee members. They meet monthly starting in November and meet weekly from August as the festival date gets closer, with problems solved as they come up. “It’s a well-oiled machine and everybody wants to be doing it,” said Kerry Gillick-Goldberg, festival promoter.

Co-Chair Paul Rosen runs the meetings held at Oyster Bay Manor with Co-Chair Kristin Reardon at his elbow. They were out on Friday seeing that the festival was set up as planned and the two rode around in a golf cart on Saturday, Oct. 13 and Sunday, Oct. 14 seeing that everything ran smoothly.

People started arriving at the festival at about 10 a.m. although it officially opened at 11 a.m. As country music recording artist Lisa Matassa sang Star Spangled Banner, and people walking in the Tom Reardon Memorial Charity Food Court stopped still, and stood listening until she ended and they cheered and applauded the American anthem.

The food was wonderful and the cool weather kept people eating.

Another staple of the Oyster Festival is the great fried oysters sold by the Mill River Rod & Gun Club (MRRGC).

When Peter DeNacale was asked what the secret of the MRRGC fried oysters was, he said, “I told my wife that I couldn’t tell her. It almost caused a divorce.” But he added, “I’m lucky,” that his wife Kathy Fuicelli DeNacale is still with him.

Something new was the BMW of Oyster Bay booth on West End Avenue where manager Bob Federico chatted with BMW owners. They know their BMWs down pat by the numbers. As in, “It’s the 5 Series, ’89.” At the festival Bob said he had a 2011, pre-owned BMS with only 6,000 miles.

They had a bucket of Halloween candy out on the table. One lovely lady visitor and owner of a BMW confessed, “I’m addicted to Starburst candy.”

On the Western Waterfront, the something new was the Peacemaker and amazingly, something old, back for the second time was the John J. Harvey, fireboat. The Coast Guard was there again, too. They are regulars.

The car raffle winner this year comes with an endearing story. The winner, Fran Laurence of Selden won the car raffle and took the option of the $15,000. She is a part time employee in Community Outreach for Newsday, a sponsor of the festival once again. Ms. Laurence works full-time at the Long Island Developmental Disabilities Service Organization. Ms. Gillick-Goldberg said, “Fran Laurence opted for the $15,000 prize. She plans to get caught up with her mortgage payments and then take her two daughters, Celeste Montalvo (32) and Alissa Laurence (14) on a trip to visit an elderly aunt, cousins and friends in St. Maarten.”

It appears the raffle winner was a worthy recipient of the largesse of this, the largest waterfront festival on the eastern seaboard — dedicated to raising funds for charity.


A lot of people think that our world would be better off without all of the insects in it. Not so, according to Lois Lindberg, volunteer naturalist at the Sagamore Hill National Historic Site. Lindberg and fellow naturalist Wendy Albin gave a presentation about the importance of butterflies and insects in our ecosystem at the site of Theodore Roosevelt’s former home on Saturday, Aug. 23, from 1 to 2:30 p.m.

“Butterflies and other insects are very important in nature,” said Lindberg. “People see bees, wasps and ants and other insects as pests, but they actually contribute to our ecosystem by each doing their own unique job. They pollinate the flowers and fruits and without them we would not be able to eat a lot of the stuff we eat every day.”

Building J at Oyster Bay’s Western Waterfront is again up and running as the Ida May Project builds the 40-passenger oyster boat that will be operated by the WaterFront Center. The Ida May Project of the Christeen Oyster Sloop Preservation Corp. is a not-for-profit 501(c)3 organization whose mission is to preserve Oyster Bay maritime heritage by involving the community in traditional boat building.

Bill Shephard, Herb Scheirhorst, President Clint Smith and Project Manager Hank Tiska were there on a recent Thursday. Smith had left at around 2 p.m. to get a part he had at home they needed to fix the tractor they use to move the logs they cut to size in their saw mill. Fixing their equipment and cutting logs are some of the many projects that encompass the work.


Picture-perfect weather was on board for the Mill Neck Family of Organizations’ Third Annual Sail the Sound for Deafness Regatta on Thursday, Aug. 7. The event, featuring an evening race of yachts, followed by a cocktail party, was held to benefit the organization that serves individuals who are deaf, hard of hearing or have other special needs.

In this year’s race, fifteen sailors took to the waters of Oyster Bay Harbor; three aboard their own boats, others on several boats provided by Oakcliff Sailing Center. The WaterFront Center’s oyster sloop, Christeen and two vessels from Oyster Bay Marine Center, brought a total of 45 spectators out to watch the race.

Kevin Mercier, 39, of Oyster Bay, led a large contingent of local runners in the Lynne, Gartner, Dunne & Covello Sands Point Sprint 5 Kilometer Run, held on the grounds of Nassau County’s Sands Point Preserve on Saturday morning, Aug. 9. Mercier was the 18th finisher overall and third in the 35-39 age group with a time of  21 minutes, 7 seconds.

Other local runners winning awards at the Sands Point Preserve were Nicholas Cuddy of Oyster Bay, who earned first place honors in the Clydesdale Weight Division with a time of 25:53, Joanne Gallo of Oyster Bay, who  took home the first place award in the women’s 65-69 age group with a time of 28:11, and Anja Hermann of Oyster Bay, third place woman in the 20-24 age group, who finished in 28:47.


Movie at the Library

Thursday, August 28

Sagamore Hill Walk

Saturday, August 30

Hooks and Needles

Tuesday, September 2


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