Due to the pandemic, the Town of Oyster Bay and the Oyster Bay Chamber of Commerce had to make the decision to cancel the annual Oyster Fest for the second year in a row.
Though the fest was called off, the town and chamber held its first ever Oyster Bay Day street fair instead on Oct. 16, a pared down version of the famous festival that still drew a solid crowd.
Axe throwing, a rocking band from School of Rock and food galore lined the streets as fest-goers took in the beautiful day.
The fair was not only a fun day for those that came, but a way to boost businesses that may have struggled through the pandemic.
“When we knew that the Oyster Fest wasn’t happening, the chamber stepped up to try and support local businesses,” said Chamber Board Director and owner of Hive Market and Maker’s Mark Laura Escobar.
She knows how difficult it was for businesses in the village throughout the pandemic. As new businesses actually opened, others had to shut their doors for good.
“Not everyone survived, which was really sad,” said Jo Wider, treasurer of the chamber.
Hive Market was one of the businesses that actually opened during COVID. The Market had a tent set up outside the shop where it sold items like jewelry and soaps.
“This was a good opportunity to appease them, make them happy and have something going during these crazy times,” Wider said.
Over on East Main Street, Oyster Bay Yoga owner Amy Garvey was selling essential oils, handing out class schedules and giving out information about sessions to people who passed by her tent.
“We were really pleased that they [the chamber] decided to do something because it’s a really big event for the town and it brings a lot of people in and a lot of new faces in front of our business,” she said.
During the pandemic, Oyster Bay Yoga closed its doors for six months as a safety precaution. Now back open again, Garvey said that sessions are starting to feel more normal again. The fair, she said, has given her an opportunity to bring in more business.
As people walked through the closed-down street, classic rock could be heard throughout the festival, played by young artists from the School of Rock.
The local music school had its own stage at the Oyster Fest in the two years before it was canceled. This time around, they were the sole act on the main stage, playing songs like “Reelin’ in the Years” by Steely Dan.
Monica Rubin, who owns the Syosset, Huntington and Rockville Centre locations of School Rock, said it was a nice opportunity to bring her stage-ready students to play live music in front of a crowd.
“It’s exciting and we’re happy to be here,” Rubin said. “We were really happy that the chamber stepped up and put an event together—really with short notice—and it’s a really good event.”
The music was a nice way to set a fun tone for families and fest-goers who parused the different booths and eateries. People sat and sipped beers from Oyster Bay Brewery, indulged in a classic German snack from Knots Pretzels, had a pickle on a stick and were still able to snag a few oysters from a booth set up on the street.
For kids, there were balloon animals, science crafts from Stemtastic they could have fun with, and a Halloween costume parade that marched straight through the festival.
Frankie Reilly and Dean Sampson have been going to the Oyster Fest since 1984. Though they would have liked to go to the real deal this year, this was a good alternative.
“It’s fantastic that the town put on Oyster Bay Day in the place of Oyster Fest,” Reilly said. “During the pandemic, the fact that you can still bring people together is a wonderful thing, especially outdoors, which is key.”
Wider noted that the Oyster Fest started out as a local street fair started by the chamber like Oyster Bay Day, so some residents actually preferred this.
The festival was planned on a short notice. It was announced two weeks ago, and planning started only two months ago, but it seemed as if people responded, as hundreds came out from 10 a.m. to 6 p.m.
All in all, the festival was a success.
“The local businesses depend on its residents to keep them going. Unless you want to see tumbleweeds blowing down the streets, you have to shop local,” Wider said.