OysterFest Gets A Reboot; Event To Be Free With Friendlier Fence

Video from press conference held this afternoon on Arcata Plaza. Debi Farber Bush explains the Plaza entry plan as  Mr. Fred Oyst'air stands by.

Kevin L. Hoover
Mad River Union

ARCATA – If this year’s Arcata Main Street’s 24th Annual Oyster Festival upsets people, it won’t be because they didn’t know about it in advance. If people can’t get to the Plaza, it won’t be because of any admission fee, because there won’t be one.

And if the Saturday, June 14 bivalve bonanza seems different than what you’re used to, that will be because it’s going to be more like the original event that started the tradition 23 years ago, only much more so.

As part if its mission to reassemble the smoldering ruins of Arcata Main Street, Greenway Partners project planners have rectifed the organization’s finances, reached out to long-neglected businesses and are now focusing on relaunching the OysterFest.

Last year’s event was plagued by miscommunication and rancor over the controversial Plaza-enclosing fence and admission fee. This year, the Plaza won’t be surrounded, although a six-foot fence will be in place between the curb and the street along Ninth Street.

The purpose of that fence is to somewhat isolate the festival from the bars and minimize interactions between bar patrons and festival attendees.

That fence will be chain-link – but with no barbed wire – and possibly decorated. Some segments will be plastic snow fencing for easy emergency exit. There will be two one-way exits with security personnel at Ninth and G streets and Ninth and H streets.OysterFest Plaza Plan 2014

All entry will be from from G and H streets at Eighth Street, with  festival flow thus channeled south to north. Those corners will feature token and beer bracelet booths staffed by volunteers.

The Farmers’ Market will be located along Eighth and I streets outside the Plaza festival area. Shuttle buses will ferry festgoers to and from a designated parking area on Samoa Boulevard.

Greenway Project Manager Debi Farber Bush and Project Coordinator Melanie Barnett have been forming up the plan in consultation with downtown businesses, the City and public safety officials. The resulting access and logistics plan was accepted by the City and Arcata Fire last week.

Having forged a circulation plan that satisfies, or at least doesn’t annoy, most of the stakeholders, the Greenway team is focusing on the Oyster Festival’s mission and features.

Planners are approaching the project with, if not military precison, a more systematic process than in previous years. They are meeting regularly and sharing status reports, and will even create an event manual for use in future years, or even by other organizations that might wish to hold similar events.

The overarching aim of the 2014 OysterFest is to enhance Arcata’s cultural identity and promote it as a destination. Specific components reflect renewed focus on local business, aquaculture, craft breweries, food and music. Bottom line, it’s got to benefit downtown businesses, per Main Street’s charter.

The festival may include exhibits by the Humbldt Bay Harbor District, HSU Marine Lab and Dept. of Fish & Wildlife. A Kids Zone, possibly in the rear Arcata Fire parking lot, will be managed by the Discovery and HSU Natural History museums.

All five local breweries will be represented – Mad River, Six Rivers, Lost Coast, Eel River and Redwood Curtain, as are both local beer distributors. Other partners include Blue Lake Casino and Arcata Playhouse. At least one radio station will broadcast from the event. Even the shuttle buses may feature on-board oystertainment. An art noveau-style poster is being dsigned by artist Bryan Buswell.

Contests will include Shuck and Swallow, Oyster Calling, Best Oyster, Best Oyster Festival Beer and Best Decorated Booth.

Music so far includes the Bayou Swamis, and a day-capping All-Star Rockestra featuring local celebrities.

A raffle will feature fancy prizes from Pacific Outfitters, Moore’s Sleep World and Far North Climbing Gym.

A press conference is planned, social media and press will be inundated with information, a downtown business meeting on the festival and Main Street takes place in late February and a vendor meeting is set for March.

“Collabration is what the Oyster Festival is supposed to be,” Farber Bush said. “If we communicate with the public now, I don’t think there’s going to be a firestorm.”




  1. Denise Fitzgerald said:

    I was there when Fred Oyst’aire was conceived low those many years ago!

  2. Debi Farber Bush said:

    Thanks Denise, we are really really excited to have Fred back this year to help the oysters transition from their cozy homes in the bay to being consumed on the historic plaza by over 12,000 people!

  3. alphapowderman said:

    a group of families and friends have been coming up to Arcata for several years from the Sacramento area. We have had a great time enjoying this area and the awesome people who live here while we relax at the oysterfest. This has been a truly unique event, making the 5 hr. one way drive just a slight, but well worth it hurdle. We as group feel that last years fencing experiment diminished the overall experience and have had several debates before deciding to give it one more try.
    Now I read that the only fence that will be erected will be in front of Hotel Arcata where we take several rooms for the whole weekend. I understand trying to control alcohol sales to make sure the paying venders make more sales than the Pubs. I don’t believe it is such a large sum that we need to design the entire festival around it.
    Well, we’ll see how this year goes, sadly I think this may be our last year. Our combined families do spend a decent amount of money while visiting and recreating in the area on hotels, dining, shopping and yes, the pubs.
    Just saying….