What makes the Milford Oyster Festival one of the biggest draws in the state each summer? The tens of thousands of locally sourced oysters likely have something to do with it. But another key, as Michele DiBella, the festival’s publicity chairwoman, likes to say, is that “there is something for everybody.”
Boasting about 30,000 oysters, the Milford Oyster Festival will hold its 45th annual edition Aug. 17 from 10 a.m. to 6 p.m. on the Milford Green. Connecticut’s oldest oyster festival not only celebrates the state’s rich history in oyster cultivation, but promotes the town as a year-round destination.
The free-admission, family-friendly event aims to please all ages and interests. Music is a popular attraction, with three rock bands this year. Grammy-nominated Extreme will headline the main stage, along with opening act Badfish, a Sublime tribute band, and Bon Jovi tribute band Bon Jersey. The festival also features canoe and kayak races, classic cars, schooner cruises (90 minutes for daytime rides or 2-hour sunset cruises), 200 arts-and-crafts exhibitors, amusement rides, a craft beer and wine garden at Lisman Landing, oysters (of course) and a food court, an open house at the Milford Fire Department, K-9 demonstrations, a children’s stage and a Coast Guard flotilla.
DiBella notes that the festival is entirely volunteer-run with a team of about 80 helpers and attracts about 30,000 to 40,000 visitors annually, making it one of the state’s largest tourist events. “It’s basically giving back to the community and bringing awareness to what Milford is,” she says. Organizers donated over $17,000 last year to more than 20 Milford organizations from festival proceeds.
Milford’s own Briarpatch Shellfish Co. cultivates and harvests the oysters off Milford’s waters for the festival.
Though the festival is a one-day affair, the smaller and low-key Oyster Eve has become a tradition the night before (Aug. 16) with food and music from 6-10 p.m. Bon Jersey will rock the stage at 7 p.m. Admission is $5, and children under 14 are admitted free but must be accompanied by an adult. “It’s a great event for people who love oysters and music but don’t want to deal with the crowds,” DiBella says.