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Oyster Festival draws record crowd for weekend, spokeswoman says

Mariel Acosta Melo, of Forest Hills, Queens, enjoys

Mariel Acosta Melo, of Forest Hills, Queens, enjoys a fresh oyster Sunday, Oct. 16, 2016, at the 33rd annual Oyster Festival in Oyster Bay. Festival officials said the two-day weekend event drew an estimated crowd of 285,000. Photo Credit: Steve Pfost

The replica of a Spanish Crown-era ship sat docked in Oyster Bay Harbor Sunday as a fireboat’s cannon released streams of water. Hundreds in town for the 33rd annual Oyster Festival stood by the dock and watched. A small rainbow arched to the side of the vessel.

The dock served as a calm refuge from the long lines for oysters and soft-shell crab.

On a picture perfect fall weekend, a record crowd of 285,000 packed into Theodore Roosevelt Memorial Park for the two-day festival, said Kerry Gillick-Goldberg, a spokeswoman for the event.

Lines were so jammed Sunday that organizers ran out of oysters three-hours early. They had ordered 15,000 more than last year.

“The lines were outrageous,” said Marguerite Buccola, of Rocky Point, watching the waterworks with her daughter at their first festival.

But mother and daughter enjoyed views of the ship on the waterfront.

“It’s beautiful,” she said. “This is picturesque.”

Some visitors skipped the long food lines and took tours of the 160-foot-long, 500-ton wooden replica of the “El Galeon,” which was among a fleet of Spanish tall ships that set sail across much of the globe in the 16th Century.

Once inside the ship, festival visitors could learn about Ponce de León, the Spanish explorer, and St. Augustine, Florida, the earliest ongoing U.S. settlement.

Others reveled in the chaotic scene at the famous food court, buying servings of oysters or other festival fare from among the dozens of booths staffed by nonprofit organizations. Workers shucked oysters and plated them at a frenetic pace. For shorter waits, there was lobster mac and cheese and calamari.

Organizers had ordered 60,000 oysters for the festival. In 2015, they had run out of 45,000 oysters by 3 p.m. Sunday, Gillick-Goldberg said.

“We were hoping to be able to last until 6,” she said, “but because the weather’s beyond gorgeous, everyone is out and about.”

A crowd of 150,000 turned out Saturday. Some took part in an oyster eating contest. About 135,000 came Sunday, Gillick-Goldberg said.

Sen. Charles Schumer (D-N.Y.) took selfies with festivalgoers on the streets of Oyster Bay as he finished his corn-on-the-cob.

“I come every year,” Schumer said Sunday. “You get the greatest corn, and the greatest oysters.”

Charlie Parlapiano, of Deer Park, was among 15 members of his family at the festival Sunday.

“We try to eat ourselves into oblivion while we’re here,” said Parlapiano, who was attending his fifth festival.

Oyster lovers braved the lines at the food court to feast on the end result — servings of the bivalve mollusks plucked from the waters nearby, said Walter Imperatore, president of the Rotary Club of Oyster Bay, which put on the festival.

“They wait on the long lines because, how many times do you get an opportunity to get something from literally where it comes from?” Imperatore said as he pointed to Oyster Bay Harbor.


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