Weather, not health concerns, cuts 45th Norwalk Oyster Festival short

The Norwalk Seaport Association had to cancel the last day of its 45th annual Oyster Festival due to the weather.

Tom Krosnowski

Sep 10, 2023, 10:41 PM

Updated 256 days ago

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The Norwalk Seaport Association had to cancel the last day of its 45th annual Oyster Festival due to the weather.
The three-day event went on despite an eventful summer for Connecticut’s oyster industry. First, after two residents died from vibrio infections - including one that ate raw oysters out of state. The state Department of Public Health warned residents of consuming raw shellfish.
Then in September, the FDA issued a “do not eat” advisory for oysters pulled from Groton and Stonington due to potential sewage contamination concerns.
The state Department of Agriculture said all affected oysters are off the market, and Connecticut’s oysters have never been associated with vibrio bacteria - which is present in Long Island Sound.
Although the rain put a damper on the final day of Norwalk’s oyster festival, any safety concerns didn’t.
“Our oysters are fresh, they have been cleared by the health department in Copps Island,” Flotilla 72 chairperson Troy Pivarnik said. “We do have certificates on hand, in the field that we can show if there’s any question. Everybody has loved the oysters. So, there’s no fear, knock on wood, we’ve never had an issue.”
The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention says an oyster contaminated with vibrio doesn’t look, taste or smell different than others. That didn’t stop tens of thousands from being consumed at signature festivals in Milford and Norwalk.
“They're delivered in the refrigerated trucks at the proper temperature,” Pivarnik said. “As we open them fresh, raw, they’re put on ice. As we open them, they go from the ice to our hands to open them, and directly back onto the ice - so at no time do they drop a significant amount of temperature where it becomes unsafe for the individual to eat the raw product.”
There’s more to the festival than just oysters. It serves as the Norwalk Seaport Association’s largest fundraiser of the year - the work of 1,100 volunteers.
“It’s all about getting everybody together and celebrating our maritime heritage,” Norwalk Seaport Association president Mike Reilly said. “This is what raises money for our education programs and to keep the lighthouse looking beautiful. Having a very old lighthouse isn't easy to keep together.”
“Things happen, so we adapt to the change,” Pivarnik said. “We’ve done it, we’ve always done it, we will continue to do it.”


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