Large crowds jam-packed into small areas amid the continuing threat of COVID-19 has promoted Wellfleet Shellfish Promotion and Tasting (S.P.A.T.) and the Town of Wellfleet to postpone the annual Wellfleet OysterFest previously scheduled to take place Oct. 16 and 17.
“We know that this is an enormous disappointment to everyone who enjoy and benefit from the ‘Fest. Our loyal festival attendees, local food vendors, the fine art and craft exhibitors, community partners, local businesses and most importantly Wellfleet’s shellfishing community for whom the ‘Fest is intended to support,” said Michele Insley, executive director for Wellfleet S.P.A.T.
Wellfleet Shellfish Promotion and Tasting (S.P.A.T.) is a 501 (c) (3) non-profit organization and its mission is to preserve, protect and promote the shellfishing and aquaculture industries. S.P.A.T. achieves this through its college scholarship program, community grant awards and other industry related initiatives. To date more than $740,000 has been reinvested back into the community. OysterFest is S.P.A.T.’s largest fund-raiser.
“This is not a decision we have taken lightly. There are two overriding concerns that brought us to this decision,” explains Hillary Greenberg-Lemos, Wellfleet’s Health and Conservation Agent. “First, is the continued uncertainty of the virus and its potential variants as we move into fall. Second, and our primary concern, is to continue to focus on the safety and enjoyment of everyone who attend or participate in the ‘Fest. The limited footprint is possibly too small for the size of the crowd in recent years.”
Even before the 2020 pandemic forced shutdowns, Wellfleet Fire and Police departments had expressed a concern and need for an enhanced crowd control plan in the interest of public safety. In 2019 , the Wellfleet OysterFest attracted more than 23,000 people, two-thirds of which attend on Saturday.
“The S.P.A.T. board recognized this was potentially affecting the attendee experience, and committed itself to reimagining the ‘Fest in 2022 to better showcase the shellfishing community, enhance the attendee experience, increase safety and fulfill the organization’s mission to preserve, protect and promote Wellfleet’s historic shellfishing industry,” said Nancy O’Connell, S.P.A.T. board president. “We thank the community for its support and ask for patience as we navigate these challenging times.”
In the meantime, S.P.A.T. recommends other ways to support Wellfleet’s shellfishing community. This summer, S.P.A.T. will offer shellfish farm tours so participants can visit a working aquaculture site and learn more about the process of growing and harvesting oysters and clams. Freshly harvested Wellfleet shellfish can be ordered through the Wellfleet Shellfishermen’s Farmers Market or a variety of other fish mongers or seafood retailers on the Cape.
“There is no better way to support Wellfleet’s shellfishing families than purchasing and enjoying their fresh catch at home,” says Insley. “Shellfishing is a vital part of the local economy, a sustainable food source and a 400-year-old tradition in Wellfleet.”
To register for a tour or place a shellfish order, visit wellfleetspat.org.