It’s been 14 years since a fire in the historic district of Apalachicola completely burned down a vintage century-old home, a tragedy that spared anyone injury but one compounded by glaring deficiencies in the firefighting equipment the city’s volunteer fire department had to rely on.
This Saturday, at an event sure to attract a vintage off-season crowd to Apalachicola’s Riverfront Park, the annual fundraising event, the Apalachicola Oyster Cook-off that grew out of the tragedy will mark its 14th year.
The event has evolved since 2010; there is no longer a Friday night program and a COVID-19 year had to be skipped.
But the same core group of devoted volunteers who make up the fire department’s auxiliary that oversees the event are still at it – Marisa Getter, Carrie Jones, Shelley Shepard, Genee Meleski, Joe Taylor, as well as the newest additions, firefighter and first responder Bruce Hoffman and his wife Marti.
Shepard will once again handle the Half Shell Hustle 5K Run/Walk on Saturday morning at Riverfront Park, with registration beginning at 7 a.m., and the starter’s pistol going off at 8 a.m. A typical year has seen well over 100 runners taking part, with each getting a coveted t-shirt and the winners in the respective categories each a medal.
The event gets underway at noon, with the big fundraising affair, the serving of fried shrimp and oysters, and baked and raw oysters, all handled by volunteers under a giant tent.
They’ll be music from the John Sutton Band, and dancing by the firefighters themselves, and kids activities, and there will be of course the famed cookoff competition, with as many as a dozen contestants vying for the tastiest oyster dish. The Batty Sisters, Ted Okilichany and Bill and Anne Avery, who finished one, two, three last year may well be back to defend their rankings before the discerning taste buds of a three-judge panel.
The contestants will each be cooking with local oysters, from anywhere from Alligator Point to Cedar Key. But since Apalachicola Bay remains closed, the oysters served up to the hungry crowd will likely be from Louisiana, Texas, Virginia or Maryland.
The crowd will be able to bid on a wealth of items at the silent auction all day long. There’ll be donated items from shops and artists and craftsmen alike, as well as the artwork created last week at a well-attended paint party at the Apalachicola Center for History, Culture and the Arts.
All told, the event should raise at least $50,000 in much needed funds for the fire department, so come on out and help boost that total while having a fantastic time.
For more info on the cookoff, visit www.oystercookoff.com/