When it comes to oysters, Connecticut has a lot to celebrate, especially Norwalk which has long been known as “Oyster Town”. The Norwalk Island chain, including Sheffield Island, creates the ideal environment for renewed oyster growing operations such as the Copps Island Oysters based in Norwalk.
The Eastern Oyster was designated as the state shellfish in 1989. It is a bivalve mollusk that grows naturally in Connecticut’s tidal rivers and coastal bays and is cultivated in seeded beds in Long Island Sound by oyster farmers. Norwalk has had a long history with oysters so it is no surprise the members of the Norwalk Seaport Association has organized an annual festival to fete this delicious shellfish. September 7,8 and 9 marks the 41st annual Norwalk Oyster Festival that is held in Veterans Park on Seaview Ave. in Norwalk.
The Norwalk Oyster Festival is the perfect place to slurp fresh off the boat oysters raised right here in Norwalk. Norwalk’s oysters are known for their freshness, sweet briny flavor, and buttery plump meats. If you are new to oyster slurping you might want to start small. Although there is no incorrect way to slurp an oyster, we recommend that you slurp the meat with its “liquor” and give it two or three good chews. Salt and brine hit first and is followed by a sweet buttery flavor that tastes of the sea. Oysters come with a variety of accouterments such as lemon, cocktail sauce or red wine vinegar it’s up to you how you want to garnish your oyster.
The Norwalk Oyster Festival offers a wide array of attractions the whole family will enjoy, including continuous entertainment by local musicians and national acts such as Steve Augeri, Journey former lead singer, a vast array of food at the International Food Court, an unlimited ride wristband for kids on Sat. & Sun., 100 plus art and craft vendors, and several special entertainment venues that round out three days of fun. Best of all, entertainment is included in the cost of admission.
Tickets, Parking & Metro-North
The event is held at Veteran’s Park, adjacent to Norwalk Harbor on Seaview Avenue in Norwalk, CT. Admission for adults is $10 on Friday, $12 on Saturday and Sunday. Senior tickets are $10 all days. Children 5-12 year’s old are $5. Children under 5 and U.S. military personnel on active duty are free. Tickets can be purchased online at www.seaport.org.
Festival Hours: Friday, Sept. 7, from 6 p.m. to 11 p.m., Saturday, September 8 from 11 a.m. – 11 p.m., and Sunday, September 9 from 11 a.m. to 8 p.m.
For those that want to take the train Metro-North is offering a discount package with free shuttle service from the train station to the Oyster Festival.
Free parking and shuttle service available from Calf Pasture Beach, Norwalk City Hall, and Norwalk Community College.
About the Norwalk Seaport Association
The Norwalk Seaport Association was founded in 1978 as a non-profit organization dedicated to the preservation, education and public awareness of Norwalk’s maritime environment and heritage. The Seaport Association and its volunteers are solely responsible for organizing and financing the Oyster Festival. In addition to the Oyster Festival, the Norwalk Seaport Association owns Sheffield Lighthouse and its volunteers maintain the lighthouse and grounds as a museum and nature preserve. For more information, visit www.seaport.org. or call (203) 838-9444.
Oysters were an important source of food for Native Americans and became a staple in the diet of early European settlers who learned how to harvest them from Long Island Sound. By the 18th century, many natural oyster beds were depleted so laws were enacted relating to the designation of individually parceled oyster grounds.
The 1800s is when oystering boomed in Norwalk and by the mid.-19th century, Connecticut led oyster seed production north of New Jersey. By 1911 Connecticut’s oyster production peaked at nearly 25 million pounds of oyster meat, that was much higher than nearby states of New York, Mass. and Rhode Island. Demand for Norwalk oysters increased and with the expansion of the railroad’s new markets were opened up. Norwalk was the largest producer of oysters in Connecticut and had the biggest fleet of oyster boats with steam power in the world, and Norwalk became known as “Oyster Town”.
Economic depressions, coastal human population, industrialization, and marine traffic lead to a decline in oyster production. In 1997 and 1998 80% of the state’s oysters were destroyed because of a spike in the water temperatures that resulted in a naturally occurring parasite.
Today, marine biologists have teamed up with local oystermen to develop hardier parasite resistant oysters and ways to improve water quality in order to create a sustainable breeding and farming environment for oysters. Because of the success of these programs, there is a resurgence in renewed oyster growing operations like Copps Island Oysters based in Norwalk.