Archived Story

Oyster roast attracts a crowd

Published 11:33pm Saturday, November 10, 2012

After some inclement weather and the cold creeping in, a sunny Saturday presented a crucial question: how best not to waste it?

An oyster roast was apparently a pretty good way.

Matthew A. Ward/Suffolk New-Herald A healthy crowd of folks gathered at the CE&H Ruritan hall in Eclipse Saturday for an oyster roast. On a beautiful sunny day, shells were pried by the wheelbarrow-full and cold beer washed it all down.

More than 400 people flocked to the village of Eclipse for the CE&H Ruritan Club’s annual affair, one of the major events on the club’s fundraising calendar.

About 55 bushels of roasted oysters were on the menu, with an industrious team of volunteers working relentlessly to keep up a steady stream to the hungry guests.

Cold beer and live music also added to the event’s success.

Ben Johnson, whose family’s Eclipse-based fishing operation usually supplies them, said the oysters this year came from Maryland due to the now-plugged leak that dumped an estimated 18.3 million gallons of sewage into Shingle Creek.

The leak has caused “catastrophic” bacteria levels, according to the Nansemond River Preservation Alliance.

Suffolk’s Pat Simons didn’t seem to mind the out-of-state mollusks. He said he attends the event every year “because of the friendship, the camaraderie, the oysters, and don’t forget the beer and the music.”

Volunteer oyster roaster Sal Simontti, who says he has 40 years’ experience in the art, said “the trick is to get 400 or 500 people in here and drink beer and eat oysters.”

Bettie Harsh was part of a contingent of oyster-eaters from the shipyard in Newport News. “We all work for Huntington Ingalls,” she said, adding, “It’s excellent — so much fun!”

Ruritan volunteer Dan Lovingood cited several reasons why he thinks the event is the “best oyster roast around.”

“It’s usually local oysters that we have, straight out of the Nansemond River,” he said. “The thing that’s unique is the guys who supply the oysters are members of the club.”

“This is an old working waterman village. You look over there” – pointing behind him – “that’s the dock” where the oysters are brought ashore. “There’s a lot of history in this village.”

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