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Oyster Festival Attracts Over 205,000 Visitors

Over 35 Not for Profits Will Spend Their Earnings with the Community

People will be asking “Were you there?” at the 29th Oyster Festival. You probably can just say, of course, – with a record breaking 205,000 attending. The weather was perfect. Theodore Roosevelt Memorial Park looked great with new landscaping adding to the ambiance.

It was a win-win day for the over 25 not-for-profits that served food at the Tom Reardon Memorial Food Court.

Still, as always, there was a lot to offer. The boats at the Western Waterfront Pier attracted a great deal of attention. The Arts & Crafts tents were filled with offerings in a central location. There was music everywhere.

Mel Warren who chairs the Arts & Crafts tents said, “It was a great weekend. It’s probably the best. The new layout just worked so well. It just seemed to make the people circulate. They migrated through the festival from one part to another. It brought them to my tents in greater quantities. I had the Kettle Corn and Pretzels outside and they are heavy draws.

“On top of that I had some very good vendors overall. That included alpaca sweaters. The best thing was that the animals were right there in a corral between the two tents with two little alpacas and they demonstrated how the sweaters went from the animal to the garment. Not just ‘made in Guatemala.’’’

Mr. Warren, who is the person in charge of setting the layout for the Oyster Festival, said the new configurations were great, “Separating the food court was a gem of an idea.

“There were three booths set up near the Atlantic Steamer Fire Rescue Building. They sold out by about 3 to 4 p.m. on Sunday: the Rod & Gun Club; the Life Enrichment Center; and the Rotary Club’s oyster booth. The Rotary Club ran out after selling 40,000 oysters by 4 p.m. Sunday. The Rod & Gun Club sold 135 gallons of fried oysters.

“My son Kenny Warren runs the Rod & Gun Club Fried Oyster booth. They have ‘been there and done that’ for so long they know how to do it. They get their crew together; do the shopping; order the oysters and get the crew working. It’s a production line and they do it very well. They won the food contest again,” he said proudly.

Patricia Aitken, executive director of Friends of the Bay agreed with Mel. She said, “On Sunday afternoon the Rotary oyster line wrapped around the food court. The shuckers hands were just flying. At the Rod and Gun Club booth they were working as hard as they could to keep up with the demand. Dave Relyea of Frank M. Flowers Sons, Inc. who runs the Oyster Shucking and Eating Contests thinks there was a record number of visitors this year. I wouldn’t be surprised if it was.”

Ms. Aitken added, ‘The Oyster Festival was a wonderful event. It’s so great to see everyone coming out to celebrate the fruit of our waters.”

Jennifer Sappell, Tall Ship co-chair said unequivocally, “The 9/11 fireboat John Jay Henry stole the show. People were lined up three deep behind the arts and crafts tent, across the boat basin from the pier, to watch when the fireboat shot off its water cannons. The fireboat spray could be seen from all over the festival layout.

Ms. Sappell said the Lynx and the Harvey were thrilled and overjoyed at the number of people who were there. She said, “Both of the boats thought there were a tremendous number of people coming to see the boats. The Captain of the Harvey went home Sunday night and was coming back Monday to drive the boat back. They are just ‘over the moon’. They said they never had anywhere near that number looking at the boat. And, they never had such generous people.

“I encouraged them to put out a tip bucket and to stand someone by it,” said Ms. Sappell. The Harvey needs a lot of help to continue its restoration work.

“There is really something to say about how they set off the water cannons to spray. People could see it from all over the park. It was a beautiful sight,” she added. “All I want to do at the festival is to be down by the boats. I also want to take a ride to the city on the Harvey too.” She said Monday she hoped to get her work finished quickly so she could join the people riding back to the Harvey’s berth in NYC. That included Dan Walker and Phil Blocklyn.

Ms. Sappell said, “The Coast Guard cutter was to have left at 1 p.m. on Sunday, but they didn’t leave until 3:30 p.m. because there was so much interest in the boats. The antique wooden boats were at the festival on Saturday. Richie Caramico was responsible for their coming. They were beautiful.”

She had a sweet story of a young family who came to the fireboat video at the Oyster Bay Community Center on Oct. 13. “They came to see the fireboat at the festival too. The girl was holding the fireboat book and the little boy had a fire truck. Tim signed the girl’s book on the page he is on.”

Ms. Sappell had a story about the Lynx too. “The owner of the Lynx, Jeffrey Woods came here from California. His father Woodson Woods was given an award at the New York Yacht Club by the American Maritime History Society. Therefore the father came in all the way from Hawaii.

“I took them for a walk through town. I went the back way through the park and out onto South Street and to Audrey Avenue. They couldn’t believe how many people were there. They never saw so many people and they all seemed happy.”

Being happy may have had something to do with the weather. At some festivals the cold weather keeps people hugging themselves to keep warm which doesn’t make them look as if they are having fun.

Ms. Sappell commented on the new configuration of the festival. She said more people seemed to be enjoying the beach as a result. You could see that people were taking pictures of each other with the water as a background. It was easy to watch, while sitting in the gazebo/bandstand where the town had put some picnic tables.

“There were tables all over in some little areas,” added Ms. Sappell.

She was at the festival as it closed. Once again the Nassau County Mounted Police were there to walk people gently out of town. Canterbury Ales closed its doors at 6 p.m. to get ready to serve dinner an hour later, as did other bars in town. The festival is “dry” but the commercial area is “wet”.

Ms. Sappell said, “On Sunday night I was driving around in the dark. The golf cart has no lights. I was taking down the street closing signs we had put up.” The festival comes and it goes away to come back another year. It will be Oyster Festival 30 in 2012 – that should make for some unusual excitement.