Raise a shell and toast the Oyster Festival, which turns 40 this year. The two-day event will draw more than 150,000 people to Theodore Roosevelt Memorial Park in Oyster Bay on Oct. 14-15.. Hosted by the Oyster Bay Rotary Club and presented by Catholic Health, the festival focuses on food, family-friendly activities and nautical fun, plus shopping.
“This festival is not just a main staple in Oyster Bay, but for Long Island in general,” says Monica Rubin, president of the Oyster Bay Rotary Club and the Oyster Bay Charitable Fund. “People wait all year to bring their families here, which has significantly broadened the community. It’s an event for everyone.”
The festival is so large sometimes it’s hard to know where to start. Here’s a five-point plan on how to Oyster Fest.
START AT THE FOOD COURT
Skip breakfast and come hungry. It’s always best to begin in the food court when everything is fresh and the lines are not too long.
This year the food court will be broken into three parts: the Tom Reardon Memorial Food Court offers a mix of meats, international specialties and more, the Oyster Booth Food Court spotlights seafood and The Sweet Spot focuses on desserts.
“We want to see the festival get back to its roots as a food festival. Our plan this year is to show that off,” says coproduction director Patrick Greenawalt. “This is not about gathering a random group of concessionaires. We want to offer quality food that’s as local as we can get from Long Island-based companies proving what they can do.”
New this year will be truffle cheesesteaks, truffle mac-n-cheese, truffle potato chips, smashburgers, fried chicken sandwiches, popcorn chicken, wagyu beef fried rice, fried garlic cheese curds and assorted burrata sandwiches/bowls from Center Cuts of Roslyn and Mattituck.
Returning will be old favorites like Mill River Rod and Gun Club’s fried oysters, clams on the half shell, steamed clams and mussels plus a lobster dinner from the North Oyster Bay Baymen’s Association, the Life Enrichment Center at Oyster Bay’s New England and Manhattan clam chowders and, of course, oysters on the half shell from the Oyster Bay Rotary Club.
Desserts such as apple pie a la mode, caramel and candy apples, homemade fudge, frozen cookies and cream and more will come from Gooseberry Grove of Bayville. Gelato Kings of Farmingdale will serve up multiple flavors of the Italian treat.
The New Belgium Beer tent is coming back, near the Town of Oyster Bay dock, adjacent to the Atlantic Steamer Fire Company’s Marine Facility. The enclosed area will hold more than1,000 people, 21 and older (with valid ID), who must drink within the boundaries of the tent plus some outdoor picnic tables. Here, three craft beers from New Belgium Brewing of Colorado are served as well as their hard seltzer Fruit Smash and wine. Inside there will be a 20-foot video wall showing live games, high-top cocktail tables and charging stations.
HEAD OVER TO THE DOCK
While the food court starts getting busy, dodge the crowds and burn off your recently consumed calories by walking down West End Avenue toward the pier.
Come aboard the Nao Trinidad, a replica of the 16th century tall ship that sailed as part of Magellan’s fleet, where visitors can take a tour, talk with the crew and see the ship’s exhibition on deck.
The John J. Harvey fireboat, which can pump up to 18,000 gallons of water a minute, returns to educate folks about its 92-year history of service to the New York City Fire Department, including its legendary rescue following the Sept. 11, 2001, attacks.
WATCH OYSTER SHUCKING AND EATING CONTESTS
If you attend the first day of the festival, it’s essential to catch the annual Oyster Shucking and Eating Contests. These are 40-year traditions that have to be witnessed to believe.
The annual Oyster Shucking contest takes place at 2 p.m. on Oct. 14 Here, contestants race the clock to see how many oysters they can shuck in four minutes.
This is immediately followed by the Oyster Eating contest where brave souls gobble down as many oysters as possible in two minutes and 40 seconds.
PICK AN AFTERNOON ACTIVITY
Now it’s time to choose your own adventure because there’s a variety of entertainment to fill the afternoon:
DANCE THE DAY AWAY When it comes to live entertainment, the Len Rothberg Main Stage schedule is packed starting with a 50-year voyage through hip-hop curated by DJ Belal of Wyandanch on Oct. 14 from 11 a.m. to 12:30 p.m. and 3:30 to 6 p.m.
“Hip-hop is based on soul, jazz, rock, reggae, disco and even symphonic music. We took all of that, put it in a pot and out came hip-hop,” says DJ Belal, who was part of the late Biz Markie’s crew. “I educate through music and make everyone dance, giving off positive energy to the party people in the place to be.”
On Oct. 15, DJ Theo of Commack throws his “Party in the Park, Part II” utilizing two sets of turntables, transforming the day into an old-school vinyl party with special guests DJ Riz and emcee Mark MK from noon to 6 p.m.
ACTIVITIES FOR KIDS If you have children, venture down West End Avenue to Beekman Beach to the Family Fun Zone where family-friendly activities are set to include the Newton Shows carnival with rides and games. Don’t miss the pirate encampment featuring shows from the Kings of the Coast where children can go on a hunt for a buried treasure at 12:30 and 3:30 p.m. on both days.
ROCK OUT In the mood for some live music? Check out School of Rock house bands on the West End Avenue Stage and the Oyster Bay Town Hall parking lot stage off Audrey Avenue downtown in the hamlet throughout both days.
Save the shopping for last to avoid carrying around packages all day. Go inside the Mel Warren Arts & Crafts Tent and Outdoor Venue where more than 140 artisans sell a variety of handmade items and collectible pieces. On Audrey Avenue leading up to Theodore Roosevelt Memorial Park, various vendors and businesses will be on display in a street fair layout. The Main Street Association will host a Farmers Market on Audrey Avenue offering fresh, locally grown produce on Oct. 15 only. Those looking to take home a piece of the Oyster Fest can visit the official merchandise booth at the festival entrance where T-shirts, hoodies, hats and more await.
40th ANNUAL OYSTER FESTIVAL
WHEN | WHERE 11 a.m. to 6 p.m. Oct. 14-15,, Theodore Roosevelt Memorial Park, 63 Larrabee Ave., Oyster Bay.
ADMISSION Free. Proceeds from the event sales go toward local nonprofit organizations through the Oyster Bay Charitable Fund.
MORE INFO theoysterfestival.org