Big turnout for Eclipse oyster roast

Published 10:09 pm Tuesday, November 12, 2019

Hundreds gathered for good food and great company on Saturday, during a phenomenal turnout for the 16th annual Crittenden, Eclipse & Hobson Ruritan Club Oyster Roast.

The annual oyster roast was held for a jam-packed crowd of more than 700 people at the C.E.&H. Ruritan Hall on Eclipse Drive, according to Club President Mike Mullen. The agreeable weather helped draw an even larger crowd than the 500 to 550 people at last year’s oyster roast, Mullen said.

“We knew we were going to have a big crowd today, based on the brisk ticket sales, but this is over the top,” Mullen said. “It’s unbelievable.”

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Friends and family lined up at rows of tables on the grass while Johnny Bland and the Baddadz performed on stage. The music in the air was punctuated by sharp laughter and conversations from the bellowing crowds of patrons, as smoky smells rose from oysters cooking on the grills.

Patrons got their freshly roasted oysters delivered right to their tables by the wheelbarrow-load. Ruritans carted their wheelbarrows and piled them on tables with their shovels while the oysters were still hot and smoking.

The Ruritans used up exactly 80 bushels of oysters at this year’s roast, according to Mullen, to keep up with the “hungry crowd” on Saturday.

“The big thing is the hungry crowd,” said Ruritan Mike McManus, one of the shovel-wielding Ruritans at the roast. “They’ll tell you where they want it, and they’ll get the hell out of your way when they want more oysters. You gotta be quick, and you gotta keep moving.”

The oysters went with more than 100 gallons of delicious chowder and plenty of beer on tap to match. Katie and Zack Hess were both fans of the tasty chowder.

“It’s (got) a nice spice of a cold winter day,” Zack Hess said. “It’s warm and hearty.”

Angel Rhone, another roast patron, raved about the oysters.

“The oysters are nice and juicy, with just the right flavor,” Rhone said, having enjoyed 10 oysters and counting.

It was a busy affair manned by the Ruritans and other volunteers, including the students of the King’s Fork High School ecology club, who worked with the Nansemond River Preservation Alliance to collect the empty oyster shells.

“They give up their Saturdays to come volunteer and collect oysters, and to pick up trash,” Cindy Pinell, project manager of the ecology club, said about her students. “I think that’s awesome.”

According to Mullen, the event raised about $13,000 for the Ruritan Club and the Suffolk community. These fundraising dollars will go to help people in the Suffolk community, including food baskets for people in need during Thanksgiving and Christmas, along with other community organizations.

“All of this money gets pumped right back into the community,” Mullen said. “As good as it is for us, it’s good for everybody else.”

He thanked his fellow Ruritans and the Suffolk community for making Saturday’s roast a huge success.

“I thank them for helping us to help others,” Mullen said.  “Come again next year, please, and bring a friend.”