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Food, Friends, Fun Draw Crowds to Oyster Festival

NORWALK, Conn. – For Despina Triantafilidis, the Norwalk Oyster Festival is all about food and friends, and always has been. "I've been coming since I was little," the Norwalk native said Saturday night as she and her friend, Scott Vadunis of West Haven, spiced up plates of the festival's namesake mollusk with hot sauce and horseradish.

"I usually start off with a gyro," said Triantafilidis, staying true to her gastronomic heritage. "This is my first time having oysters here," added Vadunis.

Indeed, many people at the Flotilla 72 tent might have been in the same gustatory boat as Vadunis. After the recent heavy rains, all of the local clam beds have been closed, wiping that item off the menu. Indeed, if a supplier in New Jersey hadn't been found at the 11th hour, this might have been the first Norwalk Oyster-less Festival in its 34-year history.

"We're making oyster lovers out of clam lovers," Todd Madaffari said as he shucked another dozen of the shellfish. "We've sold 60 bushels of oysters already, and we may sell the remaining eight before we're done tonight." At least a few dozen will be held in reserve for Sunday's oyster-slurping contest, which Madaffari's uncle won last year. "Uncle Joe is going to make it two in a row tomorrow," he predicted.

In addition to the 10 food booths run by local charities and nonprofits, there was much to attract crowds to Veterans Memorial Park. Carnival rides and arts and crafts booths, as well as live entertainment, headlined by Soul Asylum's performance before a packed house Saturday night, provided plenty of choices.

The festival continues today from 11 a.m. to 8 p.m. A special $11 pass allowing unlimited rides for the first three hours will be sold for the first time this year. In addition, one child age 5 to 12 will be admitted free with each adult admission. For further information go to the festival website .

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