In the summer of the “staycation,” the 35th annual Milford Oyster Festival offered tens of thousands some old-fashioned family fun, with rides, games and lots of tasty food.
And, of course, oysters.
Festival-goers waited in long, winding lines for a taste of the fried and raw oysters and clams, and — a new addition this year — grilled topped oyster varieties.
Ed Rhodes, a Milford native who lives in Baltimore, and the past executive director of the East Coast Shellfish Growers Association, which provided the shellfish, estimated they had served more than 20,000 clams Saturday. The group also held a shucking competition, where the winner, William “Chopper” Young of Wellfleet, Mass., shucked 24 oysters in about 1 minute 50 seconds. Young, an oyster grower, was the past champion from two years ago, and came in second place last year, said Rhodes.
For those who don’t enjoy oysters, the festival offered much more. Marines hosted a booth selling strawberry shortcake; the Milford Elks sold lobster. There was also plenty of fried dough, crab cakes, French fries, ice cream, hotdogs and beer.
Katherine Ayala, 6, loved the rides at the Oyster Festival, especially the dragon ride and the Ferris wheel. Her mother, Lidia Ayala, said she comes to the festival to “just relax and watch everybody else walk around.”
“We usually go home and cook,” she admitted.
Bailey Pierce, 3, of Fairfield came to the festival for the first time Saturday, and immediately dragged her parents over to the rides. Bailey’s mom, Brenda Pierce, was pleasantly surprised by the festival, and enjoyed its waterfront setting.
“I like the fact that it’s all spread out,” she said. Next year, she and her husband, Michael, plan to come earlier and spend more time walking around. “I think it’s a great thing for the community.”
But Pierce thought the rides, at $3 each, were too expensive, especially since parents are required to buy an extra ticket to ride with their children.
For some, the convenience of the event drew them.
“It’s close to home. We usually walk down from the house,” said Jaime Johnson of Milford. Her 3 1/2-year-old daughter, Jaiden, likes the merry-go-round and having her face painted.
Jay Pinto of Milford, vice-president of the Milford Oyster Festival Committee, called the turnout this year “phenomenal.” He estimated that about 2,000 to 4,000 people came out on Friday night, and between 50,000 and 60,000 people on Saturday, the final day. “People want to come to an event that doesn’t break the bank,” especially this year, he said. “There’s something for everyone here.”
Pinto said all the vendors —there were more than 80 Saturday — are nonprofits, and “when you spend money here, you’re going to help further their causes,” he said, including several local churches, Little League teams, homeless shelters, centers for medical research and animal shelters.
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