Oyster Fest draws 40,000 to Milford for shellfish and entertainment

Downtown Milford was packed with revelers and oyster eaters Saturday for the Annual Milford Oyster Festival.

Festival President Jay Pinto estimated a crowd of 40,000 people attended Milford’s biggest event of the year.

“We had a great day,” Pinto said. “Hot...but a great day.”

The oyster festival is not only a day for people to sample a wide variety of oysters and listen to bands — including this year’s headliners The Rembrandts, FastBall, and the Gin Blossoms. It’s also a day for local non-profit groups to set up tables, inform people about what they do and raise money for their programs and scholarships.

“It went very well....overall, we had a solid day,” Pinto said. “The non-profit, civic groups and arts and crafts vendors seemed to have a busy day based on early indications. Everyone was having a great time and one festival goer told me they enjoy the festival for that main reason.....it's very relaxed and people generally seem to enjoy themselves at this event.”

Oyster Eve, which takes place Friday, saw the biggest turnout this year, with nearly 2,000 in attendance. People paid a $5 cover charge to enter, and sampled oysters, clams and beverages while mingling and listening to Jimmy and the Parrots, a leading Buffet band.

All but 2,000 of the 35,000 oysters brought in for this year’s festival were eaten. Organizers said the only reason they weren't all sold was because those last 2,000 were in the Lisman Landing oyster location and not in the centrally located oyster booths behind the library, where the crowds lined up for oysters Saturday.

There were more oysters at this year’s festival than ever before. “Two years ago we had 20,000 oysters at the festival,” Pinto said. “We are very pleased to see so much interest in the oyster at the festival.”

The festival teams up with the East Coast Shellfish Growers Association to bring oysters and clams to the Oyster Festival and Oyster Eve. There were 19 varieties from eight eastern states.

Annual contests at the festival were a big hit. Resident Shaileen Hathaway, who hadn’t even planned on entering the oyster eating contest, won the event. Charlie Larkin from Mystic Oyster won the oyster shucking contest.

Mayor Ben Blake was among the list of winners in the annual canoe and kayak race, which starts the Oyster Festival off Saturday morning.

“We had a great race,” said organizer CIndy Bevan. “The weather was good and everyone had a great time. They work hard in their races but they also have fun. It's a great group of people that continues to come back year after year.”

The race winners are as follows:

Canoe racing: First, Cullen and Mike Mezerewski; second, David Johnson, Chris Carrano and Gary Clark, and third Ben Blake, Don Anderson and Vin Massey.

Novice canoe: First Jared, Brad and Zack Hubler; second, Spencer Gerwien, Jayne Miller and third, Jennifer Bridwell, Ann Fabian and Neville Hamblin.

Outrigger male: First, Ted Taylor; second Mike Smith and third, Mark Fitzpatrick.

Outrigger Female: First, Ann Peterson and second Kaitlin Kern.

Kayak male: First, Martin Dodd; second, Chenda Cernovsky and third, Daniel Woodin.

Kayak female: First, Pam Stevens.

Tandem kayak: First, Michael and Matthew Theodoseau, and second, Herbie Pritchard and Adam Hiatt.

Paddleboard males: First, Kevin Woodin; second, Michael Painter and third Tom Kerr.

Paddleboard female: First, Rebecca Pritchard; second, Christine Pritchard, and third Janis Tondora.

Best in show in the costume category went to Ann Fabian, Jennifer Bridwell and Neville Hamblin for their duck theme.