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Annual Oyster Fest: October 16, 17

This Oyster Festival is unique in that while all Oyster Festivals are to promote local not-for-profit groups as their major fund raiser, this new festival is dedicated to helping the new Rotary Rides! program that will replace the defunct MTA Able Rides in this north shore area of Long Island. Rotary Rides! will service handicap residents of Oyster Bay hamlet, East Norwich, Bayville, Locust Valley, Syosset and now Glen Head. Rotary Rides! is funded by the Oyster Bay Charitable Foundation that is funded by the Oyster Festival.

“So it begins again? What number is this?” asked Kathy Wilson at the kick off for the festival. She ran several Oyster Festivals when she was executive director of the Oyster Bay Chamber of Commerce. Today, she is the communications director for NYS Senator Carl Marcellino and in that position helps his contribution to the festival – electric signs for Route 106 suggesting people take the LIRR to Syosset to get to the festival.

“It’s the 27th Oyster Festival,” said Cindy Smith, Oyster Festival press liaison person.

Oyster Bay Town Supervisor John Venditto called the Oyster Festival a “Signature Event.” He said, “It puts a great face on Oyster Bay. It begins with the volunteers in this room that make it happen. We have so many residents who love this town. It’s a great example of what happens when people come together and stage a great event – and our great residents come and make it a success.”

The town is a partner in the festival, helping in many ways: from the garbage removal; safety; showmobiles; and allowing the use of Theodore Roosevelt Park’s parking lot areas for the food court. Supervisor Venditto was the first town supervisor who allowed the use of the township park for the festival.

NYS Senator Carl Marcellino, a Rotarian said the money raised by the Rotarians at the festival goes back into the community. The not-for-profits, too, funnel their money back into the community.

He said, “This is a year-round function. The planning for the next festival begins as one ends. The Oyster Festival Charitable Foundation meets regularly to see how the funds will be distributed as they get requests constantly.

It’s a year round business,” he said.

“This is a great family entertainment venue – bring your children. We want everyone to come,” said the senator.

Cablevision, a Sponsor Again

Jeff Clark,  director, government affairs of Cablevision, a major festival sponsor said, “This is our own town. In 1973 Charles Dolan opened Cablevision here. We are in Bethpage now, (another part of the Town of Oyster Bay).” Mr. Clark said he’s worked with Cablevision for 20 years and remembers being at the Cablevision booth at the festival years ago. “I’m proud to be here again and look forward to a great festival,” he said.

Rotary President Jim Fuccio said, the Rotary Club of Oyster Bay started in 1942. Rotary International, of which they are a part has 1.2 million members worldwide, on every continent except Antarctica. He said, “We are committed to ‘Service above self.’ Rotary is happy to give its time to the Oyster Festival and to facilitate other not for profits to fund raise.

“The Oyster Festival also showcases the natural beauty of the harbor; the hamlet’s restaurants, businesses and art galleries and schools. It also helps other organizations in town.” He listed the work that Rotary has accomplished using the funds earned at the festival and handled through the Oyster Festival Charitable Foundation. They sent eight children to the Theodore Roosevelt Sanctuary summer camp; refurbished seven Rotary benches in town; supported DBSC by lunching there and hosting a spaghetti dinner for seniors; paid the insurance for the B.O.B. program and chaperoned there; invited honor society members to lunch from Oyster Bay High School and St. Dominic’s; gave dictionaries to children in St. Dominic’s, OB-EN School District and Mill Neck Manor; took part in the Wings international service project in Guatemala; gave bookpacks to children; gave $4,000 in scholarships to graduating seniors at OBHS and St. Dom’s; partnered with East Woods School to provide shelter boxes for earthquake victims in Haiti – two boxes provide shelter for 12 people each - for one month; sent 25 students to a leadership conference; donated to the CSAC holiday sharing program; donated to local food programs; gave $5,000 to the Rotary Rides! program which Rotarians Paul Rosen and Gail Speranza hope to sustain,” through the funds gathered at this year’s festival.

Rotary Rides!

Ms. Speranza, Doubleday Babcock Senior Center executive director spoke about the Rotary Rides! program. She asked that donations be sent to the Oyster Bay Charitable Fund, at P.O. Box 132, Oyster Bay, NY  11771.  Please be sure to enter “Rotary Rides” in the memo line. (More next week.)

Kings of Fun

Len Rothberg, Oyster Festival event manager and  in charge of finding sponsors, introduced the Kings of the Coast, returning again with their treasure chest, and pirate gear. “I’m the King of the Pirates,” said the taller one. “I’m the king of the pirates,” said the one with the Johnny Depp pirate headscarf. The third pirate brandished an Oyster Festival silver mug and with threats of raiding the merchants of Oyster Bay, they promised lots of excitement for festival goers.

Chris Ivers was there too, he is the manager of Whole Foods of Jericho. He brought along the refreshments for the kick off. Whole Foods will again be sponsoring the Whole Foods Food Court Best of the Food Court Contest.

Len Rothberg said Newton Shows will be back with their carnival midway and rides.

Oyster Eating and Shucking Contests

Once again contestants will be competing in the Oyster eating and shucking contests, sponsored by Frank M. Flower & Son, Inc. Each year festival goers have gathered in front of the Town of Oyster Bay showmobile chanting; “shuck, shuck, shuck,” for the shucking contest and “go, go, go” for the eating contest.

Car of the Year: This year the Oyster Festival will be raffling off an Audi. “I’d like one in white and black,” quipped Mr. Rothberg.

Tall Ships Arriving: The tall ship Gisela is returning to the festival. She is 185 feet long. “We will all love being able to see her now that the lighthouse Nantucket has left the dock,” said Mr. Rothberg. It is now under the care of the Lighthouse Museum in Boston.

Coast Guard Presence: Joe Orlich, Flotilla Commander Coast Guard Auxiliary gave a rundown of the great things in store for visitors along the Western Waterfront including ships and helicopters. (Look for more coverage next week.)

Mr. Rothberg said this year the LIRR will be offering more Oyster Festival specials.

He thanked everyone for coming and said to come again, and said the dates for the festival are Oct. 16 and 17, and added,  “We’ll see you down the road!”