Mayor: 'Host of precautions' for Milford Oyster Festival

The 47th Annual Milford Oyster Festival takes place Saturday, Aug. 21 and features 30,000 locally harvested oysters, plus wine and craft beer, vendors, activities and more.

The 47th Annual Milford Oyster Festival takes place Saturday, Aug. 21 and features 30,000 locally harvested oysters, plus wine and craft beer, vendors, activities and more.

Hearst Connecticut Media file photo

MILFORD — With up to 40,000 attendees expected for next Saturday’s Milford Oyster Festival, officials are taking action to keep the event safe despite a recent surge in the COVID-19 infection rate.

“The Oyster Festival committee is taking a whole host of precautions this year,” said Mayor Ben Blake. “Some of their annual events like the oyster eating contest, they canceled that because of COVID. But overall the Oyster Festival is an outdoor event.”

Oyster Festival officials have come up with a list of COVID-19 precautions they are taking during the festival. Some of those include a ban on food sampling by vendors, encouraging festival-goers to wear a mask if they are unvaccinated, providing individually wrapped silverware to lessen contact, and installing hand sanitizer stations at various places.

Michele DiBella, publicity chair for Milford Oyster Festival, added that the traditional Oyster Eve kickoff event, which is scheduled for Friday, Aug. 20, from 6 p.m. to 10 p.m., had been moved from Lisman Landing to Fowler Field.

“It’s a much bigger spot so people can space themselves out more,” she said.

Those attending the festival are encouraged to take the train, which stops just a block from Milford Green. Those who plan to drive can take a shuttle from lots at Jonathan Law High School and the Connecticut Post Mall. Masks will be provided, and must be worn, by anyone riding the shuttles.

Of the events on festival day, the children’s activities area under the Rotary Pavilion will not be open this year because children under age 12 are not vaccinated, DiBella said.

“That’s who usually attends these children’s activities. So out of caution, we have elected not to have children’s activities,” said Dibella. “But, we will have our amusement rides, and a lot of them are going to be geared toward the younger children. So there is something for the kids to go and see.”

Oyster Festival officials also have reduced the number of vendors to 130, to allow for greater social distancing.

In addition to the cancellations, there have been a few additions to the program, including a free COVID-19 vaccination clinic from 10 a.m. to 5 p.m. at the Milford Bank parking lot, located at 22 Broad Street.

Anyone getting vaccinated at the festical will receive a free gift, courtesy of the bank, the city’s Health Department and Griffin Health.

“We are very excited that we are able to have a vaccination site right in the middle of the festival,” DiBella said. “As a thank you to those who get vaccinated at the festival, we are going to be giving them a voucher for half a dozen oysters. We are doing this in conjunction with Milford Bank, Milford Health Department and Griffin Health.”

The classic car and motorcycle show, traditionally held on River Street, will move to the Armory Square parking lot, which in normal years is the setting for the youth activities. DiBella said the lot was a larger space that would allow the antique and classic vehicles to be more spread out.

“We will have a DJ playing there all day, the National Guard is going to have a booth there with interactive games, and vendors will also be there,” she said.

The entertainment lineup is unchanged, she said.

“We have two stages with six bands playing during the day, which of course Southside Johnny and the Asbury Jukes being the main stage headliner,” said DiBella.

The Oyster Festival is still looking for volunteers for multiple jobs, from checking IDs to get a wristband to buy beer and wine, to cleanup crew and handing out maps and information.

“You can volunteer the whole day or for a couple of hours. We always appreciate the volunteers. They get a free Milford Oyster Festival T-Shirt which is very nice,” said DiBella.