A LOCAL FEST, PLUS GUINNESS AND OYSTERS

Scenes from Saturday’s Only One Red Bank Guinness Oyster Festival, captured by Peter Lindner. (To enlarge the photo display, start it, then click the embiggen symbol in the lower right corner. To get back to redbankgreen, hit your escape key)

By DUSTIN RACIOPPI

Frank and Amanda Miles, of Tinton Falls, had rave reviews for the fried calamari they munched in the White Street parking lot.

Robin Reilly and Naomi Lebofski, who came from Nutley and Rutherford, had a couple of sandwiches, and said they had a blast.

They washed it down with water and white wine.

At the Only One Red Bank Guinness Oyster Festival, something seemed off with the selections of these four people. But that’s OK.

“We don’t like Guinness or oysters,” Reilly said. “But we’re still here.”

Turns out it’s not all about the bivalves and black ale — or is it stout? — that brought hundreds to Red Bank Sunday for its first foray into a long-lived tradition of beer and food.

Don’t be mistaken: many a mouth took in the Guinness and oysters, but the festival was never intended to be a two-trick pony. It was to be an addition to the borough’s lineup of downtown events, and expose visitors to its many businesses. And the local businesses dominated.

Taking a trip through the parking lot and seeing the small tents set up was like walking through a condensed version of Red Bank — from Taste on Bridge Avenue to the Globe Hotel on Front Street, many of the businesses seemed to be there.

That’s what the oysterfest was really about, said Kiera McElwain, director of operations for red.

“This is awesome. There’s a lot of people from out of the area and a lot of of people from the area, if they stop by, they say, ‘Oh, I haven’t been here in a while.’ And it’s like, we’re still there,” she said.

Business at red’s stand, like most, was booming. She gives a gold star to the town and RiverCenter for bringing the festival to Red Bank, allowing the local restaurants to show off in front of a crowd.

“They don’t really offer anything like this for the restaurants that doesn’t cost an arm and a leg,” McElwain said. “And this is a much better location.”

Downtown, the streets bustled with shoppers while others chowed down and guzzled drinks.

The festival proved to be a boon for Red Bank on a day that would have been, presumably, another ordinary Sunday in the fall.

Reilly and Lebonfski, who had never been to Red Bank before, shopped around town before they came to the festival. What started as “something to do” for them, they got a chance to see what Red Bank has.

“It’s cute,” Lebonfski said. “We loved it.”