Dedication, imagination made Arcata Main Street’s virtual 2020 Oyster Festival happen

SUSHI SPOT Representing Arcata Main Street, Shoshanna Rose presents Nyle Nyswonger, head chef at Sushi Spot, with the trophy and plaque for the Best Raw Oyster at this year’s virtual festival. Matt Filar | Union

Arcata Main Street

ARCATA – June 20 seems like such a long time ago!

I had been originally set to run the Flupsy (which is a bed of baby oysters) Kids Zone at the Arcata Bay Oyster Festival for 2020 as I had done in 2019. As the pandemic loomed we first did away with the idea of Bouncy Houses and were brainstorming. Then, it was thought the event might be postponed. Finally, a creative Virtual Oyster Festival scenario emerged, and I was asked to host the 30-minute Kid Zone timeslot for the event.

Although Zoom was new to me in March I quickly began using it for dance teaching, performances, and productions and I ended up taking a larger role in creating the Virtual Oyster Festival. I loved the way that the event, created in Zoom and live streamed on the Arcata Main Street website and on Facebook using Stream Guys offered some tastes of the festival many have attended over the years, while offering some special new things.

MAD RIVER BREWING Arcata Main Street’s Oyster Festival Best Cooked Oyster & Best Overall Experience – Mad River Brewing Co.. executive chef Trevor Eliason and Bar Lead Carly Paronelli from the Mad River Brewing Co. Matt Filar | Union

Beautiful interviews were recorded about Arcata Bay with Wiyot Tribe Chairman Ted Hernandez, with four local oyster farmers, and with local chefs vying for Best Oyster awards. These remain on the AMS YouTube channel for all to enjoy. We had special guests such as Paul Pitino, Talvi Fried, Christina Swingdler and Yavanna Reynolds. We had live music hosted by The Jam such as The Latin Peppers, Esch, Rowdzilla, City Hippies and James David Calderon (who managed the entertainment). There was a tribute to graduating seniors, the oyster calling contest, and even oysters!

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Tri Counties Bank gave space to produce the virtual event and loaned their parking lot for a clever three-day curbside pick-up of oysters, shuckers, local beer, wine and cider, and merchandise (shirts still available!) hosted by Arcata Sunrise Rotary and Hensel’s Ace Hardware. Restaurants offered sauce kits and oyster specials and several participated in the Best Oyster Contest.

Judges (Wendy Chan, Bob Doran, Meredith Klein, Jessica Silva and Mike Wilson) traveled by caravan to taste oysters at numerous restaurants. They picked the winners, which were announced live from The Jam. 

It was great! Not the same, but it was such a pleasure to be part of. It was fantastic working with event mastermind Ceva Courtemanche and we were all proud to have made something happen in 2020.

SUNSET RESTAURANT Most Creative Oyster –Sunset Restaurant. Ryan Clair, executive chef at Cher-Ae Heights Sunset Restaurant. Matt Filar | Union

Later, I embarked on an epic challenge to get plaques celebrating our Best Oyster winners. Not finding current local options for what I was seeking, my Bay Area dance connections led me to Jeffrey Nunes of AWXC who helped figure out the plaques. It took a bit of time, and they fell off a mail truck on the way to Arcata and had to be re-created, but finally they have all been presented to the winning chefs and it feels that the 2020 Arcata Bay Oyster Festival is complete. Congratulations to Mad River Brewing Company, Sunset Restaurant and Sushi Spot and to all who explored Virtual Oyster Festival. 

There are oysters available in the stores now – you can recreate the festival anytime by cooking up some local oysters, grabbing your favorite local beverage, and watching the live stream of the event on Facebook anytime. It’s like a time capsule back to June, when I got up early on a sunny morning to write a pandemic-inspired poem, drive to a bank in my ball gown, and help produce a very quiet Oyster Festival.  

Thanks for supporting our local community events, whatever form they might take this year.

Lots of love,



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