Riverfront Park in downtown Apalachicola will be a busy place Saturday as the annual Oyster Cook-Off gets down to business in its mission to raise money for the volunteer fire department.
More than 40 paintings were created at the annual pre-cookoff paint party last week at the Apalachicola Center for History, Culture and the Arts. They’ll be auctioned off as part of the cookoff events at the HCA, where a three judge panel, including City Commissioner Anita Grove, Oyster Radio’s Michael Allen and Justin Timineri, executive chef at the Florida Department of Agriculture and Consumer Services, will decide who makes the best oyster dish from a dozen or so local entrants.
Apalachicola Bay Charter School arts teacher Merrill Livingston worked to organize the paint party, and Marisa Getter, chairman of the board of the all-volunteer fire department auxiliary, loves how it went.
“It was great, we had a turnout of 35 to 40 people,” she said. “Last year it was the tail end of COVID.”
The oyster-themed art is part of the silent auction that also includes merchant donations and which is available throughout the day Saturday. There is also a buy-it now option, so be sure to arrive early to snag the best of the best.
The 5K Half-Shell Hustle, overseen by the auxiliary’s treasurer Shelley Shepard, should have plenty of runners, with more welcome beginning at 7 a.m. at Riverfront Park.
For the $20 registration, everyone gets a t-shirt and a chance to medal in their age division when the pistol goes off at 8 a.m.
Volunteers for it, and the entire day, will have an appreciation party Wednesday night at 5 p.m. at High Five Dive Bar, where each of the more than 100 volunteers will get their official shirt.
On Saturday, there will be no outside vendors, just a giant event food tent, with all kinds of shrimp and oyster foods, peel and eat, fried, raw, served how you like it, as well as the firefighters offering hot dogs and hamburgers.
The Odyssey of the Mind team, sponsored by Dawn Pharr and Candace Sheridan, will have an obstacle course booth for the kids, bringing awareness of matters pertaining to fire safety.
Getter said money raised from the event, which has run into several thousands of dollars after a robust event, mainly goes to p[ay off the department third, and newest truck. It has in the past been used to pay for firefighters’ suits, or to fund further training.
“They’re gearing up for a new radio system,” she said. “We’ve made progress.”
With Kari Jones as secretary, the auxiliary has been helped by the work of Joe Taylor, Bruce and Marti Hoffman, Genee Meleski, Palmer Philyaw and others.
The John Sutton Band will be back, and so will the firemen dancers, a 1 p.m. highlight created by the late Pam Nobles and continuing to choreograph her legacy.
For the 13th year in a row, it will be back for fun and festivities the4 way it has been, all for the good work of fighting fires.
“It works,” said Getter. “Why try to change it?”