By Michael Biggiani
The 2018 Oyster Festival was once again a huge success as thousands of visitors came into downtown Oyster Bay and Theodore Roosevelt Memorial Park to enjoy the hospitality of our community. The first day of the festival began with some rain, but the weather quickly turned picture perfect. What was readily observable was that everyone was having fun.
The atmosphere of the Oyster Festival, or “Oyster Fest,” as it is often referred to, is always electric and this year was no exception. Visitors walking through the festival have the opportunity to experience great shopping, a wide variety of vendors, a food court with every type of food one can imagine, rock bands playing at two different locations, and stations where patrons can feast on oysters that have been harvested right out of our own local bay. For the children, there is a fun amusement park, a petting zoo and other entertaining activities at the waterfront. For those who want to experience our beautiful hamlet from the water, visitors can board the Oyster Sloop Christine and take a cruise around Oyster Bay.
The Oyster Fest is organized by the Oyster Bay Rotary Club. Many of our town’s organizations raise money for charities and other great causes. By way of example, Wagnor Ortuno, who worked at the Hispanic Cultural Center booth, stated, “We sell authentic Latin American food specialties to raise funds for the Hispanic Cultural Center,” a local organization that is committed to educational, social and economic development of Hispanic communities in Oyster Bay, East Norwich and the surrounding area.
At least one booth was dedicated to using Oyster Fest to help launch a business. Nikki Thiesen of Discover Long Island stated, “The Oyster Fest is a great way to start my mobile business because of the large number of people attending the festival.” Discover Long Island is the official tourism promotion agency responsible for promoting the Long Island region as a destination for tourism, meetings, conventions and sporting events.
Many students from Oyster Bay High School volunteered their time to work in booths to raise money for school activities and to log in community service hours needed to fulfill requirements for honor societies they belong to. The Girls Varsity Lacrosse team sold fish and chips and chicken fingers. The student volunteers of the Interact Club were also out in full force.
David Archer, a parent volunteer for the Oyster Bay East Norwich Booster Club made it clear at the beginning of the festival when it was raining that “the rain is not going to spoil this fun day” and he was “looking forward to working the club booth to raise money for the booster club.”
The Friends of the Performing Arts had a record number of student volunteers selling turkey legs. From the vantage point of this booth, one could view patrons gorging on their turkey legs and others across the way devouring Philly Cheese Steak Sandwiches, eating delicious fudge or drinking bubble tea. Just outside the booth, visitors experienced a band playing with the beauty of Oyster Bay directly behind them. This is just a sampling of the many sights and sounds that occurred during this two day event.
In the Friends of the Performing Arts booth, student volunteers coordinated excellently with the parent volunteers to cook, wrap and serve the turkey legs to lines of customers. The students spend their work shifts with their friends, having fun, while making many sales. The President, Ravin Chetram, who is a parent volunteer, spends many hours with the other members of the Friends of the Performing Arts preparing for Oyster Fest since it is the largest fundraiser for the organization. Last year the Friends of the Performing Arts donated $5,000 to transport the Oyster Bay High School Wind Ensemble and Symphonic Band to New York City for their Carnegie Hall performance.
One common thread existed throughout the Oyster Festival: whether you were working in a booth or walking around and enjoying the day, all were having a great time. The Oyster Festival is truly a pearl in the oyster of Oyster Bay.