Hundreds turn out for annual Oyster Fest


More than 200 people made their way to JJ Coopers on Sept. 15 for the 3rd annual Long Beach Oyster Fest, where they enjoyed live music, beer and oyster sampling.

“It was home run,” said festival producer Terence Mulligan. “It exceeded our expectations. The oysters and beers were flowing and everything worked together. The JJ Coopers staff was great — it helped make it a smooth run for the afternoon.”

The festival — sponsored by Heineken — is organized each year by Mulligan, a West End resident who also puts together the annual Wee Craic Festival, a showcase of Irish short films and music, as well as the Rockaway Oyster and Music Festival.

“It’s been a wonderful day,” said Island Park resident Ken Colon. “It’s a lot of fun and there’s a lot of nice people.”

A kickoff launch party was held on Aug. 14 at JJ Coopers, where guests ate oysters and sipped beer as a preview of what was to come.

At the festival, the shuckers went through about 3,000 oysters and 1,000 clams, Mulligan said, adding that there were “plenty of oysters for everybody.”

And they were local — the oysters came from the Peconic Gold Oysters farm in the Great Peconic Bay and the Lucky 13 farm from the Great South Bay Area. Additionally, local artist Jahstix provided live music for the evening.

Mulligan partnered with CORE, the Community Oyster Restoration Effort, to collect the used shells, which would be used to help build oyster reefs around Long Island. Volunteers from the Town of Hempstead, Adelphi University and Long Beach High School are helping with the effort.

“The [oysters] will be seated at the hatchery and they’ll be deployed as reefs out into the bay,” said Ruth Coffey, a CORE representative and visiting professor at Adelphi University. “The first step is to collect them at events like this, or restaurants that serve oysters.”

Once the shells are aged and dried at a Hempstead Town facility, Coffey explained, they’re shovelled into mesh bags and placed into a hatchery where oyster spat, or larvae, settle onto them. Once the larvae is attached to the hard shell, the bags are deployed into reef sites in Hempstead Bay and throughout the South Shore Estuary.

The South Shore Estuary Reserve Council granted about $29,000 in funding to the Town of Hempstead to conduct the shell recycling program, said Hempstead Town Biologist Stephen Naham, the director of the town’s shellfish hatchery.