OYSTERFEST II SLIDES INTO TOWN SUNDAY

oysterfest-2010-1The event is once again a showcase for borough-based eateries, organizers say. (Click to enlarge)

By JOHN T. WARD

An ongoing effort by Red Bank restaurateurs to reclaim downtown visitors and show off their skills with a spatula marks a milestone Sunday.

That’s when the second edition of the Guinness Oyster Festival, an event widely considered a success in its 2010 inaugural, returns to the White Street municipal parking lot for an afternoon of food, dry stout and music Sunday.

Born of frustration with carpetbagger events that would roll into town with caravans of food trucks and draw away foot traffic, restaurant owners last year lobbied for and organized the first edition of the festival, fencing off the parking lot and hosting a food-sampling extravaganza of the kind not seen here in years. Some 12,000 people attended.

This year’s version is a near-exact replica, says Red Bank RiverCenter executive director Nancy Adams. Some 25  food purveyors are participating, only three of which are not borough-based, including seafood supplier the Lusty Lobster of Highlands. Lobster rolls, oysters, Angus steak, sausage sandwiches and more will be available.

A full list of the participating restaurants is here.

Among the minor tweaks from last year to this: two performance stages instead of one, at the east and west ends of the lot, and better signage indication the location of the portable lavatories, she said.

Live music includes shows by Brian Kirk and the Jirks; Peter Karp and Sue Foley; and headliner 2U, a U2 tribute act.

Like last year, a $5 donation is asked of all patrons over the age of 13 years, as the event is a fundraiser for the Booker Cancer Center at Riverview Medical Center; the Cancer Institute of New Jersey Foundation; and RiverCenter itself. The overseer of a state-chartered special improvement district on two sides of town, the agency last year pocketed $30,000 from the event, which it put toward the cost of holiday decorations downtown and general marketing purposes, Adams said.

Entrances to the event are on the White Street and the Monmouth Street sides.

The rain date for the festival is Sunday, October 2. A decision about whether to postpone the event will be posted on the RiverCenter website Saturday afternoon, officials said.

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