Milford fest has music, rides and 41,000 oysters
MILFORD >> Organizers of the 43rd annual Milford Oyster Festival hope visitors won’t think, “Aww, shucks, they’re out of oysters again.”
After running out at recent festivals, they have ordered a record number for this year: 41,000 oysters in 21 varieties from eight states on the East Coast.
Last year, they ran out with what seemed a high number: 35,000 oysters in 19 varieties, said publicity chairwoman Michele DiBella. She said it’s the largest variety of oysters at any festival in the nation.
There will also be 6,000 clams.
The festival will be held 10 a.m.-6 p.m. Aug. 19, with “Oyster Eve” events 6-10 p.m. Aug. 18 at Lisman Landing on Milford Harbor.
Activities extend downtown from both sides of the harbor to the Green.
The event that typically attracts some 50,000 people — with proceeds benefiting many causes — is the No. 1 food festival in Connecticut, according to a state-by-state ranking in National Geographic’s Traveler’s Magazine.
“There’s so much for everyone,” DiBella said.
The event will include live music, carnival rides, civic organizations, entertainment, food galore and a craft beer tent.
But it all seems to come back to the oysters, and the shucking, or opening, of them.
There are oyster-shucking contests at 10:30 a.m., noon and 1:30 p.m., as well as a few shucking champions.
A special guest shucker this year will be Honor Allen, 22, the 2016 U.S. national champion.
“Having Honor Allen and several other former shucking champions at the festival confirms why it has become a nationally recognized oyster festival,” said Ila Tokarz, festival president.
Allen was raised in Panama City and got his start shucking oysters as a 12-year-old watching employees at Hunt’s Oyster Bar in Panama City, according to a festival press release.
Since age 18, Allen has worked at Hunt’s, where he shucks about 1,000 oysters a shift, the release says.
Allen competed at the U.S. Championship, earning him a spot at the International Oyster Opening Championship in Galway, Ireland, in September.
William “Chopper” Young, the 2008 national champion and regular shucker at Milford’s Oyster Festival, offered Allen the oyster knife he used to win the championship, the release said.
Allen is going to use that knife in the international championship.
The headline band is Blackberry Smoke, Southern rockers from Atlanta. Opening is The Artimus Pyle Band, and local band DizzyFish, led by Eric Herbst of Milford, which combines classic rock and blues.
The music is on the Fowler Field main stage behind Milford Library, 57 New Haven Ave.
For more information, visit milfordoysterfestival.com.
On the Green
• The Milford Environmental Protection Initiative will sell $3 raffle tickets for a handmade quilt. MEPI’s 2018 calendar with photos of Milford will be on sale for $12. Proceeds will go to grants for local projects.
• Old-fashioned toys at old-fashioned prices, along with books on city history, will be sold by the Milford Historical Society, two blocks from the Green at 34 High St. The society’s three 18th-century houses, and a collection of Native American artifacts, will be open 1-4 p.m. for free tours.
• The Elm City Party Bike offers free, pedaled sightseeing at the Oyster Festival, 10 a.m.-4 p.m. Aug. 19. Groups of eight-15 can pedal the bike while an Elm City driver steers.
• A Friends of the Milford Library book sale, opens at 9 a.m. Aug. 19 in the parking lot of the Milford Bank at the Green.
Purchased books can be left with the Friends during the festival.
• Festival parking at St. Mary Church, 70 Gulf St., is $5, 10 a.m.-6 p.m. Aug. 19.
• Volunteers are sought for the Milford Oyster Festival, the evening of Aug. 18 Oyster Eve; all day Aug. 19 Oyster Festiva; and at 9 a.m. Aug. 20. Contact Michelle Hill at firstname.lastname@example.org. Trash bags and some litter pickup grabbers will be provided. Bring gloves.