The annual Oyster Festival avoided cancellation going into its 36th year after Town of Oyster Bay Supervisor Joseph Saladino recently announced the town was leading the charge to have it go on next month after a number of anticipated 2019 sponsors pulled out.
Altice USA was one of the bigger names that recently announced it was reducing its initial $20,000 sponsorship to $10,000, although the cable television provider/multiple system operator is offering to provide $30,000 worth of free advertising. With the Town of Oyster Bay stepping in with what Saladino defined as “kind services…garbage removal…assistance with safety,” the supervisor was brimming with optimism about the Oct. 19-20 festival that is going to be held at Theodore Roosevelt Memorial Park. Saladino held a press conference at the park, alongside other officials, to announce the annual event was going on as planned.
“We’re very happy to report there will be an Oyster Fest this coming October, right here in Oyster Bay,” Saladino said. “We’re proud to be here with the fabulous announcement to come in, help and continue, while working with so many great groups, especially the Rotary Club, to keep the Oyster Fest alive. This is the 36th year of the Oyster Fest. There were some issues this year as one of the largest sponsors changed. So I’ve stepped up with all of my partners, reaching out to the media and the community, to get sponsorships.”
The Nassau County Industrial Development Agency (IDA) is also stepping forward with sponsorship assistance after Nassau County Executive Laura Curran approached IDA Chairman Richard Kessel. Other businesses Saladino said were committing $5,000 each were Stop & Shop, the Syosset-based Blumenfeld Group, and Plainview’s Ferrari-Maserati of Long Island. Frank M. Flower and Sons will once again be donating tens of thousands of oysters to the event.
The Oyster Festival is the East Coast’s largest waterfront festival and will attract roughly 150,000 attendees. It is a project of the Oyster Bay Rotary Club and funded by the Oyster Bay Charitable Fund (OBCF). The budget for last year’s Oyster Festival was roughly $400,000. The OBCF’s 2017 nonprofit 990 tax form revealed that year’s festival brought in gross receipts of $465,527 against expenses totaling $414,000, leaving a net revenue of $51,527. According to OBCF president Jim Fuccio, escalating expenses led to organizers reaching out for financial help.
“We build the venue for our local organizations. They bring in volunteers or they hire vendors and what they make, they deal with. Our job here is to build the venue. It takes a week to build the venue and it takes a couple of days to take it down. We promote it and have arts and crafts tents and a carnival for the kids. The thing is what we do is try to get people in here to buy the food from these organizations and they raise their money that way,” Fuccio explained. “The problem, is quite frankly, it’s been more and more expensive to build the infrastructure between the cost of tents and labor. We’ve come to a point where this year, the costs were way ahead of what we’d raised so far. So we sent out the S.O.S.”
Proceeds from the Oyster Festival benefit a number of local causes the Rotary supports including veterans’ issues, school supplies and student scholarships. For former State Senator Carl Marcellino, who is also president of the Oyster Bay Rotary, not having the Oyster Festival this year was not an option.
“This festival is going on and will be a success because of the people involved. Because of the people who volunteer their services and want to be a part of it. It was started many years ago and we’re going to keep it going to make sure that those charities are taken care of,” Marcellino said. “Without the money from this event, many of these charities would not be able to continue the great work that they do. So this is a necessary thing that we have to do.”
Visit www.oysterfestival.org to find out more about the 2019 Oyster Festival.