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Celebrate the Oyster Festival on Long Island

An oyster-shucking contest is one of the highlights

An oyster-shucking contest is one of the highlights at the annual Oyster Festival, Oct. 18-19 this year, at Theodore Roosevelt Memorial Park in Oyster Bay. Photo Credit: Randee Daddona

If you visit Oyster Bay this weekend and see pirates wandering around and people slurping raw shellfish (45,000 oysters!) while live rock music plays in the background, it must be Oyster Festival time again.

Here are things you can see, hear, taste, touch -- and, well, buy -- at Long Island's largest waterfront festival, now in its 31st year.

WHAT TO SEE

What's an Oyster Fest without a pack of pirates? The Kings of the Coast return to their encampment by the Western Waterfront Pier.

Kids and their parents can watch a 20-minute show, "The Search for Poseidon's Crown," then venture on an interactive treasure hunt led by Captain Black Jack Callan. Performances start at 12:30 and 3:30 p.m. each day.

"We sing, dance, sword fight and have some gunplay," says Thomas J. McKenna, who plays Capt. Callan. "Nobody gets hurt. It's family-friendly, cartoonish silliness in fancy costumes."

Once you grab your share of pirate booty, head over to watch the Marvelous Mutts, trained rescue dogs that jump, run through tunnels and tires, and catch Frisbees in midair. Shows run at noon, 2:30 and 4 p.m. daily. "This is a high-energy, action-packed, fast-paced show," says trainer Nadja Palenzuela. "People cheer for their favorite dog and encourage them through the obstacle course. Dogs jump off our backs, flip in the air and chase down Frisbees to choreographed music."

WHAT TO HEAR

If you didn't get to see Fleetwood Mac at Madison Square Garden last week, catch tribute band Fleetwood Macked on the Main Stage at 1:30 p.m. Sunday.

"We go from pre-'Rumors' to present day," says Hillary Epstein, who portrays Stevie Nicks. "We re-create set lists and even do multiple costume changes."

WHAT TO TASTE

Sure there are hamburgers, hot dogs, steak sandwiches and sausage and pepper heros. But when you come to the Oyster Fest, you've got to go seafood. Sink your teeth into an oyster po' boy sandwich ($9), which blends fried oysters with Cajun coleslaw and pickles on a freshly baked roll.

"It's got a bit of a kick," says Valerie Elefonte, who will work the U.S. Coast Guard Auxiliary Oyster Bay Flotilla's food booth. "People can put whatever they like on it, and they do."

Add a side of Yucca fries ($5), a dish of pumpkin ravioli in butter sage sauce ($9), then finish strong with locally made cannoli ($3).

Of course, you can always down the traditional oysters on the half shell (5 for $10) at the Oyster Bay Rotary booth or grab a cup of oyster stew ($7) at the Oyster Bay Lions Club booth.

WHAT TO TOUCH

Climb aboard the Freedom Schooner Amistad, a re-creation of the 19th century slave ship La Amistad, and take a dock tour. Learn the story of this 129-foot vessel -- about how slaves took control of the ship on their way to being sold in Cuba.

"People have an emotional reaction," says receiver Katharine B. Sacks. "It's a spiritual place for many."

Steps away from the dock, the R.W. Commerford & Sons Zoo has exotic animals such as ring-tailed lemurs, a baby kangaroo and Beanie the lama on display. Take a ride on a Shetland pony or a camel ($6), then check out the petting zoo, where you can feed (25 cents a cup) lionhead rabbits, four-horned sheep and miniature horses.

"Our animals are friendly and lovable," says co-owner Tim Commerford. "They're like teddy bears."

WHAT TO BUY

With more than 120 arts-and-crafts vendors, guests can peruse a wide variety of merchandise, which has been carefully selected for each booth. "We're looking for quality, unique, handmade items created by the individual selling it," says arts and crafts chairman Mel Warren. "We don't want stuff that comes off a boat from China."

One hot item this year could be furniture made out of wine barrels by Wine Barrel Designs from Elmer, New Jersey. Whether it's a bench ($250), a coffee table ($600) or countertop with four stools ($1,750), these handmade, rustic-looking furnishings will be sold for the first time at the Oyster Fest, and delivery is free.


OYSTER FESTIVAL

WHEN | WHERE 11 a.m.-6 p.m. Saturday and Sunday, rain or shine, Theodore Roosevelt Memorial Park, Oyster Bay.

INFO 516-628-1625, theoysterfestival.org

ADMISSION Free

GETTING THERE

Free parking in designated lots -- including the Syosset train station -- with shuttle service to festival grounds. The Long Island Rail Road is also adding extra service to Oyster Bay, which lets passengers out directly at the festival site.

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