Rain goes, and Oyster Fest fills up nicely

Saturday morning rain made the opening of the Annual Milford Oyster Festival a little slower than usual.
At around 11 a.m., Broad Street was nearly empty of festival-goers, though some raincoat-clad shoppers meandered among the arts and crafts on the green, and firefighters did their best to sell three balls for a dollar to anyone willing to try to dunk the fireman in the dunk tank.

Ryan Burns stood on the corner of River and Broad streets handing out menus for the newly opened Milford Green Pizza, and representatives of businesses and non-profit groups manned tented booths on the far end of the green, near Subway, some giving away pens, lip balm, balloons and other things.
In the basement of Mary Taylor Church, where a sizable tag sale was spread out in several rooms, a young boy tried to hurry his mother along as she lingered in front of bargain-priced holiday decor.
By noon, the sky started to clear and the foot traffic really started to pick up. “Yeah, I think it’s going to clear up, and then it will get packed as usual,” Burns said as he was called back to Milford Green Pizza to wait on tables.
Smells of food — pizza, popcorn, hotdogs — and more were mingling with the rain at midday. Patty Newlan and her husband were just buying a plastic container filled with clams from outside the Seven Seas Restaurant.
Patty admitted she likes clams, but isn’t a big fan of oysters, which actually were the star of the Saturday event.
The people moved in as the day progressed and Kansas, the headliner, prepared to take the stage. Firefighters had a big crowd around their dunk tank; shoppers walked down the green with their purchases — there were a number of hula hoops and soft-sided bow and arrows bought that day from a couple of crafters; children rode on carnival rides at the harbor, and residents lined up to watch an oyster shucking and an oyster eating contest behind the library.
Al Bertrand of Bethel, who has a boat at a local marina, said walking to the festival for the food and music is a great way to spend the afternoon. “I’m having a great time,” he said as he waited in a beverage line at Fowler Field.
Representatives of Star Distributors, who provided the been and Mike’s Hard Lemonade for the event, said sales exceeded expectations. They expected to go through 90 kegs of beer Saturday.
Wine sales were strong, said Andrew Gumbus, a Milford Oyster Festival spokesman. While there was wine at other Oyster Fests, this year it was centrally located, and people seemed to like that. Gumbus said the event sold out of wine at about 3 p.m.
The crowd appeared to be larger this year as people made their way through an entrance into the band area to see Kansas at about 4 p.m. The field was muddied from the morning rain and lots of feet, and the listening area was filled nearly to the back fence. Other years the crowd stretched only two-thirds of the way to the back fence.
People stood outside the fence, too, as the band kicked in, playing some old favorites like “Dust in the Wind.”
“Everything went great,” Gumbus said. He guessed that attendance was on par with past year’s events, when turnout was estimated at 50,000 people. The morning rain may have hampered that a bit, but by afternoon, “people were out in full force,” he said.
“The Oyster Festival is great for Milford,” he added. “People come and stay at the hotels, they shop in town, they stay at the marina — it’s a great day for Milford.”