Bustling crowds of people packed around nine rows of tables at Stoney Landing on the property own by Lynn and Charles Rose in the 6000 block of Everets Road. The turnout met the hopes the Chuckatuck Ruritan Club had for its 42nd annual oyster roast.
“It’s a great day for it, just glorious,” Kirk Pretlow, Chuckatuck Ruritan Club President and co-chairman of the oyster roast, said about the weather. “For the last week, you could tell that this was going to be a special day, and it absolutely was.”
“I’m loving it,” said Ginny Blair, a first-timer at the annual roast. “These are some fat oysters.”
Murray L. Nixon Fishery, of Edenton, N.C., brought between 130 to 150 bushels of oysters that were poured onto the grill by Ruritan members.
Fires burning more than 1,000 degrees steamed the oysters within minutes. The volunteers carried them directly to hungry patrons by wheelbarrow, about 10 bushels at a time.
“It takes a lot of bodies, and everybody has their particular role,” said club member Tom Barett.
Barett is part of the club committee that coordinates with Nansemond River High School’s Future Business Leaders of America club.
About a half-dozen students provided elbow grease at the roast, and the Ruritans in return share proceeds for FBLA activities, such as hotel costs for the FBLA State Leadership Conference in Reston this Friday and Saturday.
“They’re kind of working for their rooms, if you will,” Nansemond River business teacher and FBLA advisor Jason Bartholomew said with a laugh.
Emptied oyster shells were recycled by Chesapeake Bay Foundation volunteers to support the reefs in the Lafayette River in Norfolk in conjunction with the Elizabeth River Project, according to oyster restoration specialist Heather North.
“It’s a ton of oysters, which is perfect,” North said.
The oysters were flavorful, juicy and well-paired with all of the available condiments.
“They’re not too big and not too small,” said Douglas Chevalier of Chesapeake.
Chevalier stacked his oysters on crackers with black pepper sauce and a special blend of peppers, cottage bacon, garlic and salt. He said it’s all about the process.
“They say the best way to eat an oyster is the way you prefer it, just like drinking scotch,” he said between bites.
Patrons also managed to fill up on about 120 gallons of the club’s signature clam chowder, a staple concocted by Bill and the late Jerry Saunders.
“We just keep going and hope everybody enjoys it,” said Lt. Jay Saunders of the Chuckatuck Volunteer Fire Department and Jerry’s son. “We’re halfway through the day and the pots are about empty, so that’s a good sign.”
Friends and family came from Hampton Roads, Williamsburg and farther to enjoy another year of the camaraderie at the start of the spring — and to pop open freshly cooked oysters as fast as they could.
“When you come here for a bunch of years, you learn to open them fast,” said Dave Melton of Chesapeake.