Saturday was a great night for shellfish lovers. Chowder flowed and oysters and quahogs were shucked endlessly at the Shellfish Group’s fifth annual Shellfish Extravaganza at the Chilmark Community Center. Hundreds gathered for the event, which included a silent auction, as well as entertainment from Johnny Hoy and the Bluefish, because no event at the Chilmark Community Center would be complete without dancing.
Local businesses donated products, excursions, tours, and more on bidding tables woven around the whole building. Attendees had a chance to snag items from sunglasses to a quahog safari led by Pete Jackson Jr., who works the oyster propagation program at the Edgartown Great Pond for the Shellfish Group.
In past years, the extravaganza has hosted a chowder contest, but this year’s chowder was donated by Josh Aronie from the Food Truck/Home Port. The buck-a-shuck raw bars were a hot spot throughout the evening. Oysters from Katama were provided by Scott Castro, Roy Scheffer, and Jeremy Scheffer. Tim Broderick and Matt Mayhew sourced oysters from Menemsha for the night. And the town of Edgartown also donated oysters, grown by the Edgartown shellfish department in Sengekontacket.
Also available for consumption was the Martha’s Vineyard Shellfish Group’s newest crop — sugar kelp. The crunchy seaweed was grown off Menemsha Pond and Eastville Beach, and was ready for harvest on Friday in time for the event.
“People were really excited about the concept, but we need to learn how to cook it,” said Amandine Hall, executive co-director for the Shellfish Group. “Some people like it fried, some people want to use it as a flavoring. I’m not a chef, so my little salad got mixed reviews. But it’s very healthy, and something you can use every day.” The Shellfish Group is looking to expand its newest aquaculture project in the seasons to come.
Near the end of the evening, the Shellfish Group announced it would be dedicating the new solar shellfish hatchery in honor of former executive director Rick Karney, who stepped down in January.
Proceeds from the event and auction will help fund the Martha’s Vineyard Shellfish Group, which supports the local shellfish industry and works to improve water quality on Martha’s Vineyard.