Consider the oyster: a fabled food-of-love aphrodisiac to many, and a must-to-avoid mollusk to others. A naturally nurturing jewel-box to hunters of precious pearls, and mere hapless-prey packaging to the otter, The Walrus and The Carpenter.
But whether you shuck ’em or shun ’em, there’s no doubting that the briny bivalve has a certain star-quality luster as the centerpiece of some increasingly popular post-Labor Day events — particularly when paired with the “Irish aphrodisiac” known as Guinness. And here on the banks of the Navesink, the coming of autumn signals the oyster’s turn to shine as the featured attraction of the Red Bank Guinness Oyster Festival, the sixth annual edition of which returns to the White Street municipal parking lot Sunday. The Nerds, above, return to Oysterfest with their dorky look and ubercool sounds. Below, Lance Larson and Marc Ribler team up as he Mighty Shillelaghs.
Presented once again by Red Bank RiverCenter and produced by RUEevents, the event known familiarly as “Oysterfest” raises a pint of stout while raising funds for two leading regional cancer treatment nonprofits — the Jane H. Booker Cancer Center at Riverview Medical Center and the borough’s own Lunch Break soup kitchen/social services provider — with a portion of proceeds also helping fund the ongoing events and programs of the RiverCenter partnership.
Running between noon and to 7 p.m. it’s an event that doesn’t lack for local flavor, as more than 20 borough-based restaurants, caterers, eateries and desserteries — from perennial participants like the Bistro, Boondocks and the Windmill, to newcomers 10th Ave. Burrito and Runa — offer up a strolling smorgasbord of epicurean eclecticism that encompasses Maryland crabcakes, Italian sausage, French pastries, Philly cheesesteaks, Mexican chimichangas, Chill Bubble Tea and “chowda” (take it here for a listing of food vendors). To say nothing of the fresh clams, lobster rolls and, yes, oysters purveyed by Highlands-based favorite the Lusty Lobster.
The event’s soundtrack has historically been a variety menu in itself, and Oysterfest 2015 is no exception. In between strolling sets by the Pipes and Drums of the Atlantic Watch, attendees will be treated to two outdoor stages’ worth of entertainment that ranges from the Irish step dancers of Patty Murphy School of Dance and the young talents of the Idol Time Elite Vocal Troupe, to ever-popular coverband kingpins the Nerds and Brian Kirk & the Jirks. Returning faves also include the Pat Roddy Band and Daddy O’Pocketful, while the rich banquet of classic Jersey Shore sounds is amply represented by Bob Burger (fronting his celebrated Fleetwood Mac tribute set), and the Mighty Shillelaghs — a salute to Irish-born icons Van Morrison and U2, co-headlined by Asbury circuit legend Lance Larson and ace bandleader Marc Ribler. Take it here for a detailed schedule and band bios.
Naturally, the event won’t lack for the sublime stout whose name adorns the banner — and even after the last festival pint is pumped, the fleadh continues during the by-now-traditional afterparty at the Dublin House, commencing at 7 p.m..
Admission to Oysterfest is $5 for anyone over the age of 10, and any weather-related news or other updates (there’s a scheduled rain date of October 4) can be found at the RBGOF’s Facebook page.