Organizers: Milford Oyster Festival succeeded despite challenges

MILFORD — The Milford Oyster Festival didn’t draw its usual 30,000 to 40,000 visitors, but it came pretty close despite a pandemic, a storm warning and a vaccination requirement to enter the main entertainment area.

“It was slightly below average due to COVID, health department restrictions of no amusement rides or children’s activities and the impending hurricane,” said Milford Oyster Festival Vice President Jay Pinto.

Just days before the event, the city went into the orange alert zone, according to the state data tracker, with 10-14 reported COVID-19 cases per day over two weeks. The city’s health department initiated a series of protocols for the outdoor event, including limiting vendors to allow for greater social distancing, eliminating amusement rides and mandating proof of vaccination or a negative test to enter the concert area at Fowler Field.

Even with the restrictions, the festival and Friday Oyster Eve ran smoothly, according to Pinto.

“Attendees seemed to have a great time on both days, despite 2021 still not being completely normal year as far as COVID,” he said. “The festival committee is pleased with the turnout and the opportunity for the vendors, organizations and businesses to get back to raising money for their causes while bringing thousands of visitors to the beautiful downtown Milford.”

One sign of the times was the free COVID-19 vaccination clinic at the Milford Bank parking lot. Pinto said the clinic administered five vaccinations and 179 rapid COVID tests during the festival.

The festival headliner, Southside Johnny & the Asbury Jukes, performed to a large and enthusiastic crowd despite the requirement for those entering the concert pavilion to be vaccinated or show proof of a negative test, Pinto said. He added that the committee already was at work on next year’s festival.

“There was a solid crowd for the headliner on Saturday given the various circumstances (and) restrictions,” said Pinto. “Thank you to all of our volunteers and everyone that came and supported this important community event. We look forward to seeing everyone again next year on Aug. 20, 2022.”