By Anna-Marie Menhenott
FORT PIERCE -- Oysters are often associated with good food. However for a group of Fort Pierce residents, shucking oysters are a way to help the environment.
The second annual Oyster Festival will take place along the Riverwalk from 10 a.m. to 7 p.m. on April 6 in downtown Fort Pierce. Festival goers will be able to enjoy delicious oysters, and contribute to a better ecosystem as the shells will be gathered for oyster reef restoration projects.
After the shells are collected, they sit in the sun for three months to cure. The oysters get their sun at Harbor Point where materials for the artificial reefs are staged.
After the shells have cured, they are bagged and deployed as new oyster reefs. After the reefs are deployed, oyster spat, which travels naturally through the water column, lands on the bags of shells and oysters begin to grow on the shells. The oyster bags provide a place for the oysters to make home. Many of the areas where the shells are deployed are known to once be oyster beds.
Besides helping the environment, this family-friendly festival will feature music, arts and crafts, educational exhibits, marine items, food and more.
Last year's inaugural event exceeded expectations, with more than 6,500 people coming out to support the oyster reef restoration projects and to celebrate the Indian River Lagoon.
This year's event promises to be bigger, better and have a much larger variety of oyster dishes. More than 10,000 oysters on the half shell were served last year. Oysters Provencal, Oysters Mexicali and oysters on the half shell will be served at two separate locations on the festival grounds. There will also be restaurants serving a variety of food, so there will be something for everybody.
The Manatee Observation & Education Center is a partner in the festival and will be hosting fun things to do for the kids. There will be face painting, mural painting, Life in the Lagoon stamping activity, appearances by Moe the Manatee and free admission to the Manatee Center from 10 a.m. to 4:30 p.m. the day of the festival.
The festival will also feature an "Indian River Lagoon Speaker Series" which will be 20 minutes presentations from area research scientists. This will also take place at the Fort Pierce Yacht Club. From the dock behind the Yacht Club, Capt. Chop Lege' will be giving tours of the Indian River Lagoon for $10 per person.
Performing on the main stage will be Frank the Acoustic Tank, Blue Cypress Bluegrass, The Sweet Chariots and the Cheyenne Band.
Visitors can park at the boat ramp on the north side of the bridge and enter the festival by walking on the sidewalk that goes under the bridge, which is a safe way to enter the event.
There is no charge to attend, but tickets for the food and drink will be available. Tickets are $1 each and have a $1 value. Oyster dishes range from 5-6 tickets for a half-dozen.
Volunteers are still needed, particularly the afternoon shift. Volunteers will get an event T-shirt and $10 worth of tickets for each shift they work.
This event is produced by Sea-Life Habitat Improvement Project, with the support of the City of Ft. Pierce, Fort Pierce City Marina, Fort Pierce Yacht Club, Fort Pierce Authentic Tours, Manatee Observation & Education Center, Sunrise Theatre and COSEE Florida.
For more information or to volunteer at the event, contact April Price (772) 285-1646 or visit www.FtPierceOysterFest.com.