The weather and the food may be responsible for the 2013 Oyster Roast by the Ocracoke Working Watermen Association being the best ever in its eight-year history.
“It’s probably one of the better ones,” said Bill Evans as he dumped pile after pile of steaming oysters on make-shift plywood tables where patrons dug in. “The good weather helps,” he said about the sunny, wind-free day on Saturday, Dec. 28.
“Everything was from here,” said Vince O’Neal, owner of the Pony Island Restaurant, who, along with Rudy Austin and Dan Garrish, concocted the 10 gallons of fish stew. “The oysters were from the Pamlico Sound.”
Also included in the stew were wahoo, drum, and sheepshead, said David Hilton, an island fisherman — and 50 pounds of potatoes and 20 pounds of onions, said Tom Payne.
Forty bushels of oysters lasted the crowd of about 400 from 2 until 5 p.m. outside Ocracoke Seafood, also known as the Fish House. Dessert and coffee was offered in the OWWA exhibition site in Community Square.
“We do this in appreciation of everyone who supports the Fish House all year,” O’Neal said as he watched patrons nosh away.
“This is to get everyone to know how important the seafood industry is to North Carolina,” O’Neal continued. “What would we do without this Fish House? Visitors come to Ocracoke to enjoy the seafood and all of the bounty of the sea and nature.”
A group from Buxton was appreciative of these observations.
“This is like a backyard oyster roast,” said Terry Tucker, who, along with his wife Becky and Veronica Shifflett and her husband, were attending the Ocracoke event for the first time. Hailing from Chesapeake, Va., the group had traveled from Buxton for the day, but they are veterans of other, bigger oyster roasts.
“This one is intimate,” Becky said. “And it’s a bit crazier.”
Terry noted that the oysters tasted better than other roasts he’s been to. “At other ones, the oysters aren’t salty. These are.”
Patty Plyler, Fish House manager, was pleased with the turnout and the weather, although she was a bit concerned that the 235 pounds of shrimp ran out too early, around 3:30. While the event is not technically a fundraiser, she estimated that OWWA made about $1,000.