They don't call it "Oyster Bay" for nothing.
From it's historic waters, some 60,000 oysters will be consumed on the Oyster Bay waterfront this weekend. Some 40,000 of which will be eaten raw on the half-shell with a dab of something tangy.
But the 29th Oyster Festival is widely known for its variety of food and its food court is the central money-maker benefiting local charities, organizers said.
More than 30 vendors will occupy the food court, prepared and served by staff and volunteers of local charities and their business partners, said Beverly Zembko, co-president of the Oyster Bay Rotary and food court coordinator. A food vendor can't get into the food court without sponsoring a charity, she said.
Besides the requisite grinders, cheese steaks, burgers, and fried Oreos, Just consider a sampling of this year's line-up:
- Oyster po' boy sandwich, polenta fries, pumpkin & cheese ravioli, cannolis and apple-ginger soda (sponsored by the Oyster Bay Coast Guard Auxiliary.)
- Bratwurst & potato pancakes, mozzarepas (Oyster Bay Soccer.)
- Clams on the half shell, steamed clams and a full lobster dinner (Baymen.)
- Gyro, souvlaki, chicken sandwich, spinach pie, shish-ka-bob, chicken-ka-bob, falafel, Greek salad (Italian American Ladies Auxiliary.)
- Seafood gumbo, crab roll, shrimp cocktail, grilled shrimp on a stick, Saranac draft root beer (Oyster Bay Railroad Museum.)
It's an international feast, cuisines without borders: Scallops share the stage with crab cakes. There's Texas chili; Cuban sandwiches; Manhattan clam chowder and Brooklyn egg creams. You'll even find empanadas, popusas and tostadas with guacamole. See a complete list, and their sponsors here.
Some, like the Lions Club, make their famous oyster chowder themselves and serve it up hot. Other area businesses cook up their best dishes and use a combination of staff and volunteers to serve the masses.
And it's a massive operation, with planning for this weekend's festival beginning in February and continuing down to the wire, Zembko said.
"It's grown tremendously over the past 10 or 15 years," she said. "You always have to worry about the weather and whether the vendors (will have enough.)
Zembko admits the lines are sometimes long and the products pricey. The public, she says, seems not to mind. "They know it helps a lot of local charities," she said.
At the festival site Friday afternoon, vendors were staking their tents to the pavement and carting in equipment. The food will arrive Saturday in time for the 200,000 people expected over the course of the two-day event.
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