It’s hard to imagine October on Long Island without the Oyster Festival. Due to the pandemic, the 37th annual event is a virtual experience this year instead of physically being held in Oyster Bay’s Theodore Roosevelt Memorial Park. Enter "Oyster Week," running Oct. 16-25 with some streaming events and food to-go.
Festival media spokeswoman Alissa Marti said the effort will support "local businesses and most importantly our nonprofit organizations" that count on proceeds from the two-day event that draws more than 150,000 visitors each year.
EATING & SHUCKING CONTESTS
One of the highlights of the Oyster Festival is watching people go to battle over shellfish during the oyster eating and shucking contests. Plans are in the works for this year’s competition to air online as a pre-recorded event at theoysterfestival.org, Marti says, in partnership with the Oyster Bay-based shellfish farmers Frank M. Flower & Sons.
In place of the food booths, some Oyster Bay restaurants will offer festival-inspired takeout dishes with proceeds going to local nonprofits.
Coach Meeting House of Oyster Bay will be selling the YOLO slushie (Grey Goose vodka, pink lemonade, Chambord black raspberry liqueur and edible glitter) with proceeds going to the YOLO Strong Foundation, which is comprised of moms who compete in obstacle course and foot races to raise money for local sick and special needs children.
"We are so grateful because we always have our annual race and we couldn’t do it for 2020," says co-founder and board co-chair Danielle Taylor of Oyster Bay. "This year, we were concerned as to how we were going to raise money for these families in need."
Craving some oysters? Head to Cooper’s Bluff overlooking Oyster Bay Harbor where bayman Michael O’Neill will be shucking local clams and oysters at the raw bar all week. For every clam or oyster sold, money will be donated to Friends of the Bay, an environmental organization that protects local waters.
Fish tacos will be available at both Coach Meeting House and Cooper’s Bluff, raising funds for the HPS Network, a global organization aiding people afflicted by Hermansky-Pudlak Syndrome.
"It’s a tough time for everyone right now," says Rustan Lundstrum, owner of Coach Meeting House and Cooper’s Bluff. "Being charity-minded is super important because it shows people we will get through this together. This is an excellent opportunity to serve the community and put a smile on people’s faces."
COMMUNITY MOVIE NIGHT
The Town of Oyster Bay is lending a hand by hosting a Halloween-themed drive-in movie night at Theodore Roosevelt Memorial Park on Friday, Oct. 23, featuring Disney’s family-friendly film "Hocus Pocus" for town residents as part of the festivities. Vehicles will be admitted to the parking lot on a first-come, first-served basis beginning at 5 p.m. Attendees must remain in their cars, which will be arranged in a socially distanced manner.
Part of the Oyster Festival experience is the big arts and crafts marketplace where festivalgoers can shop for handmade wares. This year, a special online auction has been put together by Long Island Picture Frame & Art Gallery of Oyster Bay. Items include sports memorabilia (signed Mike Tyson boxing glove, signed Keith Hernandez Mets batting helmet), virtual experiences (private comedy show, guitar lessons), jewelry, art lithographs, autographed actor (Johnny Depp, Sylvester Stallone, Jack Nicholson) and rock star (Eddie Van Halen, Ozzy Osbourne, Sting) photos and more.
"Instead of physically shopping this year, you can bid on auction items at theoysterfestival.org which support the Oyster Bay Charitable Fund fueling donations to Oyster Bay Rotary and other nonprofits," says Marti. "It runs similarly to a silent auction where you can see the latest bid and choose to top it or walk away."
A special GoFundMe campaign has also been set up for those who want to show their support monetarily for nonprofit organizations like Oyster Bay Fire Co. #1, North Oyster Bay Baymen's Association, the Life Enrichment Center at Oyster Bay, American Legion — Quentin Roosevelt Post No. 4, Veterans of Foreign Wars — Oyster Bay Memorial Post 8033, the Youth and Family Counseling Agency and more.