Eclipse community gathers for oysters

Published 8:16 pm Saturday, November 11, 2017

The skies were clear over a cold Saturday afternoon in Suffolk with hundreds of friends and family gathered at makeshift tables outside of the Crittenden, Eclipse and Hobson Ruritan Hall in Eclipse.

The club’s 14th annual oyster roast drew more than 600 people for another year of fresh oysters, delicious chowder and good company, said Michael Mullen, C.E.&H. Ruritan Club president. Mullen said another year of fortunate weather helped draw the crowds.

“People really wait to see what the weather does, and then boom, it just explodes,” he said.

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The Baddadz band filled the lawn with lively tracks as the audience enjoyed cold beer and warmed up with roasted oysters topped with cocktail sauce and butter.

Johnson & Sons Seafood of Suffolk provided 90 bushels of oysters for the roast, Mullen said. Dozens of Ruritans in the 42-person club prepared the oysters on cookers blazing in excess of 900 degrees.

“You need a strong community to get this done,” said member Brian Lovingood. “It’s all local guys putting in their own time.”

Visitors and locals alike enjoyed the friendly atmosphere despite the chill.

“It’s just a great time to hang out with everyone you know in the neighborhood,” said Eclipse resident Merry Bowles.

The crowds received the oysters by the shovel-full and quickly popped them open with their oyster knives to get the succulent, tasty morsels.

“This is the very best oyster roast,” said Franklin resident Debbie Jackson. “They’re cooked to perfection, and they’re really good.”

Club members also worked since Friday evening cutting potatoes, vegetables and the other fresh ingredients for the club’s signature clam chowder, Mullen said, a recipe by member Jimmy Smith that dates back to the 1950s.

Mullen said more than 45 gallons of the chowder was ready for the Saturday crowds, but that the “hot commodity” wasn’t expected to last very long.

“It’s very rich and very tasty,” said Suffolk resident Marjie Fleetwood.

Mullen estimated that the roast would raise between $10,000 to $15,000, which will support the club’s Fourth of July fireworks, efforts to feed needy families around Thanksgiving and Christmas and other community efforts.

“All we do is turn around and spend every bit of it for different things in the community,” Mullen said.

The club also worked with Mended Little Hearts of Coastal Virginia to raise money for the nonprofit organization, which provides services to families of children with congenital heart disease.

Proceeds from ticket sales, auction and raffle items and other sources would go to the nonprofit, and volunteers collected donations and sold oyster knives and gloves at a tent on-site.

According to Mended Little Hearts Volunteer Amber Richley, they collected more than $300 just from Saturday sales and donations.

“It’s been absolutely wonderful,” Richley said. “We can’t thank the Ruritan Club enough.”