The Oyster Festival will return to Oyster Bay for an in-person...

The Oyster Festival will return to Oyster Bay for an in-person event this fall.  Credit: Newsday/Steve Pfost

After two seasons of dormancy, one of Long Island's largest outdoor events, the Oyster Festival, will return to the historic hamlet of Oyster Bay on Oct. 15 and 16 in Theodore Roosevelt Memorial Park. The festival, which has in past years drawn more than 150,000 people, features a wide array of food booths, live music, arts & crafts vendors and nautical attractions.

“People in the area have missed it,” says event co-producer Harlan Friedman. The festival was held virtually in 2020 and canceled in 2021 due to the pandemic. “For many of the local charities, this weekend is their entire fundraising. To bring that opportunity back is the goal.”

This year’s event will offer a host of changes along with the revival of some past favorites including food trucks and oyster eating and shucking contests. 

“... We miss the Oyster Festival,” says Bev Zembko, director of the Oyster Bay Cooperative Pre-School, which sells hamburgers, hot dogs, pizza, funnel cakes and homemade gelato in the food court. “It’s not only about the fundraising but the camaraderie of the whole event. All my parents help out and it creates such a good vibe among them. We’ve missed that part too.”

WHAT TO EXPECT 

The beer and wine tent, which was introduced in 2019, will return with some modifications. Alcohol will be contained to the designated area, which will be limited to adults 21 and older, who present photo ID to obtain a bracelet in order to enter.

“We are expanding the beer and wine tent this year,” says Friedman. “There will be standing high-top tables plus a lounge area with flat screens showing football games and some possible sponsor activations.”

The food court will be a mix of old-school food booths and some food trucks.

There will be plenty of oyster-themed treats like the Mill River Rod & Gun Club’s famous fried oysters, the Oyster Bay Rotary’s raw oysters on-the-half-shell and the traditional oyster stew, once operated by the Oyster Bay Lions Club, which will be helmed by the Rotary.

The Main Stage will be the only stage for performances this year as the West End Avenue Stage has been removed. All entertainment will be centralized on the Main Stage on the foot of the food court with the backdrop of Oyster Bay Harbor. The stage will be visible from half of the beer and wine tent.

“We are going to expand the Main Stage entertainment to add some new things this year like DJs and other entertainment mixed in with live bands,” says Friedman. “The oyster shucking and eating contests will be moved to the Main Stage.”

TRADITION RETURNS

Oyster Festival traditions like the carnival at Firemen’s Field, run by Newton Shows, will return as well as the pirate encampment by the Kings of the Coast, the tall ships at the pier and the giant arts and crafts tent featuring more than 100 vendors selling handmade items.

Bus shuttles will be centralized at two locations — the Syosset train station and the James H. Vernon School in East Norwich. The Long Island Rail Road will also offer a special Oyster Festival package to encourage arrival by rail.

“We want to keep as much traffic out of the town if possible,” says Friedman.

The event, which is being dubbed the 39th annual, is presented by the Oyster Bay Rotary and helps raise funds for local nonprofit groups like the Boys & Girls Club of Oyster Bay-East Norwich, the Life Enrichment Center at Oyster Bay, the Oyster Bay Railroad Museum and others.

Additionally, the Oyster Bay Charitable Fund, the giving arm of the Oyster Bay Rotary, will honor members of the team who died since the last festival such as the head of sponsorship sales Len Rothberg, past president of the Oyster Bay Rotary Jim Fuccio and arts and crafts organizer Mel Warren. Catholic Health has signed on as the title sponsor of this year's festival.

2022 OYSTER FESTIVAL

WHEN | WHERE Oct. 15 and 16 from 11 a.m. to 6 p.m.; Theodore Roosevelt Memorial Park; 63 Larrabee Ave, Oyster Bay. 

INFO theoysterfestival.org

ADMISSION Free