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Year 30: Big Bang Festival

In honor of the Oyster Festival’s 30th year, there will be fireworks. Grucci fireworks will be doing a light show over the harbor at about 7 p.m. To accommodate the fireworks fun, the food booths and arts and crafts vendors and downtown venues will be open until 7 p.m. The buses will be running until 7:30 to allow visitors to get back to their respective parking lots.

The now iconic event comes the weekend after Columbus Day, Oct. 19 and 20, and while it is not a national holiday, locally, it seems like one. Especially since spending at the festival is “guilt-free” since the profits go to local charities.

The entire waterfront food festival filled with eye-candy is dedicated to help not-for-profits that locals are members of, to raise funds they funnel back into the local community and to such worthy causes as the Lions’ crusade against blindness and the Rotary project worldwide to eliminate polio as well as scholarships for graduating seniors that are presented by many of the organizations.

New Twists

This year, for the first time, the Oyster Bay Historical Society will have a location in the food court. Ronnie, at Messina Market will be preparing Thai Grilled chicken wrap with almonds and peanut sauce for them at Booth 1.

At the Life Enrichment Center at Bay’s Booth 33, Chef Anthony said they will be serving their Manhattan and New England Clam Chowder, prepared by an outside vendor, once again. They were originally going to serve Smoked Pastrami Sandwiches but he said the logistics didn’t fit. “We needed slicers and we didn’t want people to use the machine who were not familiar with it for safety reasons.” There were a few other glitches, so they decided to stay with their tried and true items. They are not going to do the clam fritters this year; it was a labor-intensive product. Once again you will see the seniors and LEC staff members serving at the booth.

Having eaten fried pickles on a rail fan trip to King of Prussia Mall in Pennsylvania it was exciting to see they will be available at the festival. The Friends of the OBHS Performing Arts Center will be at Booth 25 with pickles, fried pickles, turkey drumsticks, chicken wings and mozzarella sticks. And while mentioning the PAC, OBHS student Charlie Dane will be singing at the festival from 2 to 2:45 p.m., on Saturday, shortly after the opening performance at 11 a.m. at the mainstage.

This year, once again, Oyster Bay’s Jack Halyards American Restaurant will supply the menu for the Oyster Bay Railroad Museum: crab roll, grilled shrimp, New Orleans Gumbo, and shrimp cocktail.  Additionally, during these two days the OBRM Visitor Center, Display Yard, and for the first time, the historic Oyster Bay Train Station will be open both days.

Oysters, Oysters, Oysters

This year Rotary will be serving up Oysters on the half shell from Booth 32. They are adding Lobster bisque, cream of crab soup and mussels (they were there last year) at their second Booth 15.

You can also get fried oysters from the Mill River Rod & Gun Club at booth 34. This is a perennial favorite and annually wins as the top choice in the food court. People come especially for them, and wait patiently in line, often munching on other favs as the line moves. Americans know how to best use festival lines.

Don’t miss (a personal favorite) the Oyster po’ boy sandwich prepared for the Oyster Bay Coast Guard Auxiliary at Booth 2.

And an Oyster Festival favorite for about 30 years, is Oyster Stew served by the Oyster Bay Lions at booth 7. It is an item that many people like to bring home to enjoy.

Raynham Hall Museum will not be doing anything special for the Oyster Festival but they are hot into planning for their Halloween Masquerade Ball on Friday, Oct. 25 from 8:30 to 11:30 p.m. There is a charge, per soul. Call 922-6808 to reserve a space.

The Ida May Project, part of the WaterFront Center enterprises, will be doing tours of their facility and selling T-shirts and artist’s prints of the Ida May and Christeen. They are currently at work in Building J on making the Ida May II, the first Oyster Bay oyster boat designed to use a dredge to pull out the Frank M. Flower shellfish company’s farmed oysters from the bay. It will also be available for maritime education tours and private rentals. They are another group that needs your support.

Mel Warren, Arts and Crafts Tent guru reports that Kathleen Bart, the author of the Teddy Bear books is now a resident of Oyster Bay. She is the author of: Town Teddy & Country Bear Go Global; A Tale of Two Teddies; Global Gourmet; Town Teddy &  Country Bear; Town Teddy & Country Bear Tour the USA. She will be at the festival selling and signing her books.

Free Entertainment

Giving back to visitors the festival will present a great deal of free entertainment including its annual Oyster Eating and Shucking Contests at 2 p.m. on Saturday; the tall ship Mystic, homeport Mystic, Conn. and John J. Harvey Fireboat is back to Oyster Bay from NYC and will docked and ready for boarding.

New to the festival is the Anne (pronounced Ann-ie), 1884, an oyster sloop. She was built in Smithtown, by local townspeople as repayment to the grocer for debts incurred during hard times. Originally Anne was a gaff rigged centerboard sloop with no engine. She was used to carry deck cargo. Anne, is now powered by a 6 cylinder 200 hp John Deere diesel. In 1955 Anne was lengthened 4 feet to lessen her draft. Her history is chronicled, in the book, Working Thin Waters by Stephen Jones, her present owner.  

There will be pirates; and carnival rides; a petting zoo; and music performances; midway games; and food, food, food and of course three tents filled with arts and crafts.

Free Admission

There is free admission to the festival. If you come by car there are locations along Route 106 that offer free parking and a bus ride to the festival, even if you are local. If you come by train you enter through the carnival grounds with a turn left into events in downtown Oyster Bay, or turn right to enter Theodore Roosevelt Memorial Park where the food and fun awaits you.

Rotary Volunteers

Amazingly, the festival is all run by volunteers and they co-chair all the committees. Whom of us would volunteer to organize and be responsible for an event that attracts over 100,000 people a day for the two-day event. Well, it helps that there have been many people over those 30 years fine tuning the event so that they have a path to follow. And, part of the magic of the festival is the people who come each year. They are family people, music lovers, foodies, and patient visitors who don’t see a line as a challenge, but an opportunity to nibble food while waiting for the next offering.

Who wouldn’t want to welcome them to Oyster Bay!

That might be the real heart of the festival, the crowds. The really nice people, who come to visit from actually, all over the world.

It’s time to welcome the world to Oyster Bay: Oct. 19 and 20, so “see you at the festival.”