Thursday, August 9, 2012

Milford Oyster Fest Preview


MILFORD—It’s not every day that 20,000 oysters are consumed in Milford. The city’s Oyster Festival will be held on August 18
“It’s part of the fabric of our community,” said Mayor Ben Blake. “It’s something most people in the community look forward to, as well as many people from outside of the community.”
The event is Connecticut’s largest single-day festival. About 50,000 people attend the event every year, said Jay Pinto, the festival’s president.
The festival hasn’t always been as grandiose as it is today. It started as an event managed by the chamber of commerce that encompassed Milford Green.
“Since then, it’s expanded where we turn the entire downtown into a pedestrian area,” said Alderman Paula Smith, who is the festival’s first vice president.
Although oysters are one of the main focus points of the festival, there are plenty of non-oyster related events.
“You don’t have to enjoy oysters to enjoy the oyster festival,” Pinto said.
 Kansas is the headlining band for this year’s festival. The band, known for songs such as “Carry On Wayward Son” and “Dust in the Wind”, is scheduled to play at Fowler Field at 3:45 p.m.
The bands playing before Kansas include country band Northern Renegade, classic rock cover band Rum Runners and alternative band Waking Elliot.
There are about a dozen different varieties of oysters being served from Maine to Virginia and many places in between. Oyster-eaters don’t have to fret over the wide variety; world champion oyster shuckers will be on hand to educate people about the variety of oyster tastes and preparation.
“You’re not just getting a plate filled with 12 oysters,” Pinto said.
The festival’s oyster shucking contest is fierce, Pinto said. The competition follows international rules; shuckers are timed opening 24 oysters and are judged on presentation and how cleanly shells have been opened.  
“These are the Michael Jordans of the industry,” Pinto said. “They do competitions at a lot of different oyster festivals around the country.”
Average oyster enthusiasts with a big appetite for the mollusks can participate in the oyster eating contest. There is also a canoe and kayak race that will be held at the Milford Boat Launch behind the public library.
The mayor traditionally starts the race and awards trophies to winners. Blake said he has participated in many races since he was a child and may participate in this year’s race.
Although the festival is only one day, it draws in thousands of people from out of the city and even out of the state.
“It’s the only tourism event in Milford,” Pinto said. “Hotels and restaurants get filled and even if people don’t go into businesses it still brings awareness.”
About 125 to 150 people volunteer every year and there is always more work to be done, Smith said. Those interested in volunteering should email info@milfordoysterfestival.com or call (203) 878-5363.
See the full schedule for events at www.milfordoysterfestival.com
Call Rich Scinto (203) 789-5748

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