Monday, October 18, 2010

Oysterfest 2010: Oysters Galore, and Fun, Too

“Hurry up, slow pokes!” called out a small blond girl, holding on tight to her dad’s hand as they preceded other family members up Main Street yesterday. Sven and I were traveling in the opposite direction, on our way home. I gobbled up the last bit of a delicious falafel sandwich from Karoo Kafé. In my bag, two pints of paella from The Boathouse for tonight’s super. Ahead of me, Sven strode resolutely towards the Long Pond turn-off. A stream of cars drove past, towards the marina, one of several designated parking areas for out-of-town guests. I glanced at my watch. Not even 1 pm yet. I was realizing, belatedly, that Sven was not the ideal person with whom to do Oysterfest, although he loves oysters. My husband can’t stand crowds. Next year I think I’ll come by myself …

Imagine Main Street, chock a block with bodies, and that’s what Oysterfest is like. The center of the village is transformed, even more crowded than during summer. Apparently Saturday was worse, or better, from the merchants’ point of view. An estimated 10,000 people descended on Wellfleet Saturday, despite the dreary forecast. And Sunday, there were still oysters available everywhere. Real ones on the half shell, of course, but also fried buttermilk oysters, oyster stew, oyster jewelry, oyster motifs on T-shirts and sweatshirts, chocolate oysters, oyster bird baths, etc. etc.

Our first stop was the hula hoop stand, a big draw for the children. Sven chatted briefly with our friend Mara, who was selling the colorful toys. Then it was on to the food court. Revelers, already tired, lounged at picnic tables. Some clasped glasses of beer. On stage, a band played a raucous tune. It was not yet noon, and the lines had not formed under the tent, so it was possible to get a peek at all the food options. Sven had a clam fritter, washed down with a bowl of Wicked Oyster clam chowder. Thus fortified, we forged our way down Main Street, not an easy feat. The stalls were quite varied and different from past years. Merchants offered reasonable prices on objects that all seemed like the perfect homemade Christmas gift. Customers were filling up their totes faster than you can say Wellfleet’s-Tenth-Annual-Oysterfest-Is-A-Resounding-Success.

Our next stop was Preservation Hall. I admired some great painted oyster plates on sale to benefit the hall and snatched up the one decorated by Kristen Shantz, glancing behind me for Sven. Tours were underway, and I would have liked to have seen the completed renovations, but he was already heading for the door. In the back yard, kids bounced on a variety of inflatable forms.

I love to watch the talented lady from The Juice, with dreadlocks piled on her head, the one who paints faces, but I barely had time to snap a photo. There was quite a line of anxious children, eager to go under her paintbrush. (I noticed she took the time to ask each child what look he/she preferred. One young man in his twenties chose to be a pirate, so this activity captured the attention of the young-of-heart as well.) Nearby,two oyster forms proved quite popular with amateur photographers.

I did insist on walking all the way down Main to the non-profit area. A still life of oysters was one of the prizes at the Affordable Housing table. There were raffles and a superb kayak, surely first prize for some raffle or silent auction but Sven had already plunged back into the crowd, so I didn’t get time to read the small print and cannot report on which one. On our way up Main, we watched adults sipping Bloody Marys at Winslow Tavern and kids chomping down on roasted corn. We stopped to chat with David Wright, at the Historical Society, seated in front of an array of merchandise, including the new book by Irene Paine. David has become quite the fixture there. “Someone even asked me if I stayed put overnight,” he joked.

Oysterfest 2010 seemed to have a bit of something for everyone. There were even recycling bins for oyster shells. Congratulations to Alex Hay and his team for throwing our town such a marvelous end-of-tourist-season party.

Did you attend Oysterfest this year? If so, what did you like best? Is this an event that would make you want to visit Wellfleet next fall?