Oysters by the bucketful

Published 7:48 pm Tuesday, March 30, 2010

There may be no better time than a spring afternoon with 1,000 of your closest friends, 200 bushels of oysters and 120 gallons of chowder that 34 years of practice have made perfect.

On April 14, the Chuckatuck Ruritans Club will hold its 34th annual Oyster Roast at Story Landing at the Kirk Farm in Everets.

“It’s a lot of fun, it’s a lot of work and it does a lot for the community — which is what we’re all about,” said Kirk Pretlow, a Chuckatuck Ruritan. “We see a lot of people come back every year because it’s so much fun.”

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The event is the club’s main fundraiser, during which it hopes to raise $20,000. The money helps them support groups such as the Chuckatuck Fire Department, Nansemond-Suffolk Rescue Squad, Meals on Wheels, Relay for Life, Girl Scouts, Boy Scouts and Cub Scouts.

For the Ruritans, the fun begins the night before at the fire department, where they peel potatoes and prepare for the next day, which they begin at 8 a.m., although the event isn’t until 4 p.m.

They set the site up and get all the ingredients ready for massive quantities of oysters and chowder.

The chowder is prepared by Jerry Saunders, who “has been doing it since I can remember,” said Pretlow, who has been a Ruritan for more than 30 years. “We call it Chuckatuck Clam Chowder. It’s just so good.”

The chowder is a task that calls for just two pots — one holds 80 gallons and the other 40 gallons — and a boiler that is certified by the state.

The oysters are roasted in a 40-foot pit before being deposited on the tables for all to enjoy.

“We have a joke that in order to be behind the pit you have to be over 70 years old,” he said.

Also provided are beverages, cocktail sauce and crackers. Oyster knives are available for a $5 deposit, which is returned when the knife is.

“Some people like to bring their own cocktail sauce or Texas Pete’s,” Pretlow said. “Some even bring their own oyster knives. And everyone should come in clothes for eating oysters and a pair of gloves. The oysters can be messy and the gloves give you a bit of protection from stabbing yourself with the knives.”

To purchase tickets, which must be done in advance, contact Kirk Pretlow at 539-3488.