NORWALK, Conn. – Norwalk Oyster Festival organizers Wednesday refuted comments from Board of Education Chairman Jack Chiaramonte that this year's festival may be the last one.
Chiaramonte closed Tuesday night's meeting with an exhortation that people attend the Norwalk Seaport Association's 35th Annual Oyster Festival, which begins Friday.
"This weekend we're going to have a little tradition here in Norwalk, an oyster fest," he said. "I've been hearing rumblings from people: some of the key people that do this every year may not be doing it next year, so we don't know what will happen. Who knows? This might be our last one."
"Absolutely false," said Gerald "Jerry" Toni of the Norwalk Seaport Association, the Oyster Festival's director.
"That is absolutely not true," said Irene Dixon, president of the Seaport Association, which she said is "so in the black."
Both Toni and Dixon said it's a Norwalk tradition for people to say the oyster festival will be the last one. "It's really disheartening to hear comments like this when we have so many volunteers who are really so dedicated to making this happen," Dixon said.
"The last time I was asked that by a Norwalk Hour reporter I said, 'Don't ask me, ask the 20,000 people that are on the field.' That's my response," Toni said. "The festival will go on for as long as we can. ... God willing, we'd like to do it for another 35 [years]."
Toni doesn't consider himself indispensable. "Of course somebody would step in. I took over from a wonderful person that ran it for many years, Diane Mulvehill, who passed away this year."
The festival is a community event, Dixon said, through which 20 nonprofits raise funds by participating, from St. Ann Club raising money for college scholarships to the high school marching bands collecting the garbage. "We're just an avenue for all these community organizations," she said. "It's just phenomenal. I think it's the best example of buying local."