The aroma of fried oysters and the sound of oysters being shucked Sunday at Hagerstown Community College meant a lot of happy stomachs and money being raised for a variety of Washington County charities.
More than 700 people attended Hagerstown Rotary Club’s eighth annual Bull and Oyster Roast on Sunday afternoon at HCC’s Athletic, Recreation and Community Center, said Gaye McGovern, event chairwoman.
McGovern estimated more than $16,000 was raised Sunday, about the same amount that was raised at last year’s event.
The club’s nonprofit foundation gives $70,000 to $75,000 a year to local charities that have included Girls Inc., the Boys and Girls Club of Washington County, the W House, Children’s Village, the Parent-Child Center and Holly House, McGovern said. In March, grant applications will be posted on the club’s website at http://HagerstownRotary.org.
Tickets sold for $40 to $50, depending on when they were purchased, McGovern said. The event was open to those ages 21 and older.
Oysters and helping local charities attracted Kelli Whittington to the roast.
Whittington, 40, of Smithsburg, said she tried her first raw oyster at her first Rotary oyster roast about five years ago.
“If you look at them, I kind of thought they were just nasty,” Whittington said of oysters before that first taste.
“I couldn’t figure out why people flocked to them all the time. I figured I had to be missing something if so many people liked them,” she said.
On Sunday, she had a small plateful of raw oysters in each hand. She prefers them with fresh lemon and cocktail sauce.
Phil Longnecker, 80, of Chewsville, and his son, Phil Longnecker Jr., 61, of Falling Waters, W.Va., were enjoying several oysters.
“They are delicious. I love them,” said the elder Longnecker, a Herald-Mail Co. retiree.
Longnecker said he’s liked oysters since he was 6 years old when his grandfather, John Hartle, sold them by the gallon at his Chewsville grocery store during the Thanksgiving and Christmas holiday season.
A gallon of raw oysters back then, in the 1930s, cost $10, Longnecker said.
Thirteen members of the Downey family were enjoying the oysters and other offerings, such as crab soup, said Carolyn Downey, who lives south of Hagerstown. Her son, Kirk C. Downey, is a Rotary member.
Shoreline Seafood, of Gambrills, Md., brought 48 bushels of raw oysters and about 500 dozen fried oysters, General Manager Mike Storm said.
The oysters came from the Chesapeake Bay — the Maryland and Virginia sides — and the shells are heading back to the bay as Hagerstown Rotary continues its participation in an oyster recovery program.
This is the second year the club has asked attendees to recycle their oyster shells so they can be cleaned and used to help future oyster populations, said Mike Johnston, a Rotary member who serves as a liaison with the Oyster Recovery Partnership.
The cleaned shells are used as a setting for spat, or oyster larvae, raised to replenish the bay’s oyster population, according to the partnership’s website at www.oysterrecovery.org.
About 16,000 shells were recycled from last year’s bull and oyster roast, Johnston said.
In addition to recycling oyster shells, the Rotary club used biodegradable plates and bowls made of palm fiber and utensils made of plant fiber, as well as biodegradable trash bags, McGovern said.