One of the most popular events of the year on Long Island — the Oyster Festival — returns to Oyster Bay next month with new elements, including beer, wine and a VIP area. The annual event is expected to draw nearly 200,000 people to Theodore Roosevelt Memorial Park Oct. 13-14.
For its 35th anniversary, organizers announced Wednesday, the festival will stay open an hour later — until 7 p.m. on Oct. 13, and that Saturday will conclude with a fireworks display over Oyster Bay Harbor.
Many of the festival’s traditional elements are returning, such as oyster-eating and shucking contests, arts and crafts tents and the large food court featuring more than 100 specialties, ranging from lobster banh mi sandwiches and fried oysters to Southern fried chicken and bacon on a stick.
New this year: A beer and wine tasting tent. Five breweries and three wineries will offer 2-ounce samples to ticketed attendees who must be 21 or over. For $45, guests receive six tickets for six tastes or 12 tastes for $75. Tickets are limited to 800 per day.
“This is for the beer or wine connoisseur who really enjoys the experience and wants to hear the story behind each selection,” says event producer Harlan Friedman, adding that the area will have its own enclosure and security. The Oyster Festival had traditionally been an alcohol-free event.
“The reason the festival went dry years ago was because it was being run differently,” Friedman says. “We recognize there’s a want and need for it at the festival. So many people have been asking, ‘Where can I get a beer? Where can I get a glass of wine?’ We want to service everybody, but in a safe and sensible manner.”
Those who want to avoid the crowd can purchase a ticket to a new VIP lounge overlooking the water, near the food court and main music stage. Guests in the 2,500-square-foot area will get complimentary soft drinks and freshly shucked oysters, private bathrooms and access to lawn games, among other concierge services and preferred parking perks, being designed by concerts and events promoter Live Nation. Prices start at $99 and are limited to 200 people each day.
“Every kind of event like this today has a VIP area where guests go to escape. We felt it was time to start offering it here,” Friedman says.
Tickets for the wine and beer tent and VIP experiences go on sale Sept. 24, beginning at noon, via theoysterfestival.org.
The festival’s main stage will host tribute bands saluting the music of Crosby, Stills & Nash (Four Way Street), Aerosmith (Pump), the Beatles (Penny Lane) and The Beach Boys (Endless Summer). Meanwhile, DJ Theo will take over the West End Avenue Stage noon to 5 p.m. Oct. 14 with a New Wave dance party complete with dance troupes and live art installations.
Says Friedman, “It will bring a little bit of that Williamsburg feel to the festival.”