First Annual Ocean State Oyster Festival
I sat down with Andy Cutler, one of the founding members of the first annual Ocean State Oyster Festival, and he explained their vision to me in one sentence: “What lobster is to Maine, we want oysters to be to Rhode Island.”
Cutler is a man of many hats: founder of “Smaller Cities Unite!,” named Ambassador for the City of Providence, and strategic communications consultant for students, start-ups, and entrepreneurs. But perhaps one of Cutler’s best talents is his ability to create civic pride. Along with the Oyster Festival’s co-founders, Don Nguyen and Frank Mullin, Cutler is cultivating partnerships among oyster farmers, non-profit organizations, and the people of Rhode Island to offer a new avenue of pride for those who live in this smallest-but-greatest state.
Whether Rhode Island natives or Ocean State transplants, all of the festival’s creators have a strong love of Rhode Island and want to see it recognized for the great things it has to offer. Cutler, Nguyen, and Mullin have very different backgrounds, but they are united by a common vision: they want to restore Rhode Island to its glory days of being an oyster-harvesting mecca and get the whole community involved and excited about this venture. For months they have been working behind the scenes to turn this vision into reality.
The first thing they did was contact the oyster farmers. “You can’t be involved with oysters and not have it be a conversation,” Cutler explained. Part of this conversation included going out with the farmers to learn the ropes and see the effort that goes into the final product. In addition, Cutler and crew partnered with Save The Bay, a local non-profit organization, to develop a new program called “Explore the Bay.” This program, specially designed for kids, will involve solar-powered oyster-farming. Cutler, Nguyen, and Mullin see the value of getting kids in boats at a young age, knowing that it only takes a spark of interest to create a lifelong passion.
The annual Ocean State Oyster Festival will hopefully lead to a transformation in Rhode Island tourism and in the community’s sense of civic pride. “It really has been a labor of love,” Cutler says. And we understand what he means, because all great masterpieces are.
The inaugural Ocean State Oyster Festival will be September 19th from 12-5pm at the Providence River Walk (where the “Providence Flea” is held). Entrance tickets include a half dozen oysters, a beer or glass of wine, live music, beautiful scenery, and entertainment (which includes an oyster shucking contest!) The event is limited to 2,000 people—don’t miss out! To purchase tickets, visit www.oysterfestri.com or like their Facebook page, www.facebook.com/OceanStateOysterFestival. 10% of ticket sales will go to Save the Bay.
by Jennifer Currier