The line Saturday afternoon at the annual Ocracoke Oyster Roast. Photo: C. Leinbach

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By Connie Leinbach

The line for the 13th annual Oyster Roast Saturday afternoon stretched past the Jolly Roger as locals and visitors waited to nosh on coastal treats.

After it was all done at dark, all had been served steamed and raw oysters, fried drum and sheepshead, hush puppies and 250 pounds of steamed shrimp outside the Ocracoke Seafood Company, aka “the Fish House.”

“There are very few oysters left,” said Theresa Ray, a commercial fisherman, as she and several other fishermen who put on the roast each year cleaned up later that evening.

The Ocracoke Working Watermen Association puts on the roast each year as a fundraiser and give-back to the community.

“It was successful,” said Hardy Plyler, fish house manager, as he continued to clean up on Monday. “Everyone was happy. The fried fish was a big hit.”

That was black drum and sheepshead, fried by Vince O’Neal, owner of the Pony Island Restaurant, who also fried the hush puppies. In years past, fish stew was a menu item, but the fried fish replaced that this year.

Under warm, sunny skies, sandwiched between two days of rain, Bill Evans oversaw the steaming of 35 bushels of Chesapeake Bay oysters that helpers continuously heaped onto makeshift tables outside the building on Irvin Garrish Highway.

Steamed oysters ready for the tables. Photo: C. Leinbach

“I never met an oyster I didn’t like,” said islander Betty Lease as she polished off both steamed and raw oysters, the latter supplied by Woccocon Oyster Company.

That sentiment was echoed numerous times by both oyster roast veterans and newbies.

“The fish was incredible this year,” said Haley Blecher, after she and her husband, Matt, both of Washington, D.C., had eaten their fill. “Michelin stars for this roast.”

Julianne Stoneman and her husband, Edward, of Richmond chatted with Stevie Wilson as he and his crew shucked 1,000 raw Woccocon Oysters, grown in the Pamlico Sound in the Devil Shoals.

“They’re gorgeous,” Julianne said. “They’re the best and I’ve had them from Massachusetts to Seattle.”

Woccocon oysters have been available only on the island all year.

“Our biggest problem is growing enough,” Wilson said. “We have not been doing off-island shipping temporarily until we catch up.”

Shawn and Kerry Prillaman of Somerfield, Guilford County, attended for the first time.

Stevie Wilson shucks his Ocracoke-grown Woccocon oysters. Photo: C. Leinbach

“It’s not going to be our last,” Kerry said.

Another first-timer, Maya Altug, a fifth-grader from Richmond, Va., shucked her first oyster ever.

“It was so fun,” she said as she and her mother Marlene Paul picked up one of several raffle prizes—the ship in a bottle by master ship-in-a-bottle-maker Jim Goodwin. This year’s ship recreated the Black Squall, which wrecked off Ocracoke in April of 1861 and washed ashore the remnants of a circus troupe returning to the United States from an engagement in Havana, Cuba.

“I’ve always had my eye on a ship-in-a-bottle,” Maya said.

Desserts and hot apple cider followed in the OWWA exhibit in Community Square.

Before: empty tables await oysters. Photo: C. Leinbach
Tables after–with oysters and eaters. Photo: C. Leinbach
Shawn Prillaman gets a nascent pearl from a Woccocon oyster. Photo: C. Leinbach
Maya Altug with her raffle prize, the Black Squall ship in a bottle. Photo: C. Leinbach
The Ocracoke Seafood Company on Irvin Garrish Highway. Photo: C. Leinbach
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  1. I’ve attended twelve of the thirteen of the oyster roast, would have made them all but didn’t know about the first one. What a great time to catch up with old friends and make new ones. God Bless Ocracoke!!!

  2. So enjoyed my second oyster roast. It is not just about the food for me,but the community, camaraderie and exhilaration that surrounds the event, this year being my second to attend. Happy to confess being a heavy hitter and happy to pay the price.

    Janice Brown, Small dairy farmer from Allegany County, NY.

  3. Wonderful event. Enjoyed our first oyster roast on the island last Christmas. The food and fellowship brings together the Islanders, friends of Ocracoke, and some of the best seafood on the planet. 5 stars for all the folks that make this possible, and all the folks that come out and enjoy it.

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