‘Here for the feast’: Oyster Roast raises funds for 60th year of Waterworks

Published 12:05 am Sunday, January 27, 2019

By Liz Moomey

SALISBURY — Music filled Trolley Barn Saturday night as attendees feasted on dozens of oysters for the annual Waterworks Oyster Roast fundraiser at F&M Trolley Barn in downtown Salisbury.

Oyster knives working fast, Bob Hoben and Greg Moore filled their stomachs with oysters, saying they generally eat about 100 each and purposefully didn’t eat lunch that day. Both said they had attended the roast for many years.

A table over, John and Cliff Sorel have made the Oyster Roast a tradition. John, who lives in Savannah, travels annually to Salisbury to attend the feast.

For its 14th year of the Oyster Roast, Waterworks has something special to celebrate this year — its 60th anniversary.

Anne Scott Clement, the executive director of Waterworks, said there was more excitement in the air this year.

Fourteen years ago, the oyster roast was just a crazy idea, Clement said. She went to her husband wanting to do an oyster roast fundraiser, and he wasn’t too sure it would be successful. Years later it is a sold-out event.

Waterworks sold more than 400 tickets at $80-85 for Saturday’s event, raising about $29,000 to keep the visual arts center open six days a week for no cost and to offer educational and outreach programs.

The Oyster Roast is Waterworks’ biggest fundraiser of the year, the other being the Chili Cook-off in November. Clement said they begin planning nine months in advance.

“We’ve gotten pretty good at it,” she said. “We try to make it fresh every year.”

All 14 years Big Daddy’s of Lake Norman has catered the event, steaming oysters on Council Street and providing 100 bushels of oysters.

Freddie Lancaster, the owner of Big Daddy’s, said 14 years ago Waterworks asked him to cater the event and saw it as a great way to give back to the arts. He also said it allows him to be in the backyard for his Salisbury customers and see everyone at one event.

Getting the community together is what makes the annual event special for Clement.

“It’s the first party of the year,” she said, adding, “It’s like family coming together.”

Clement said every year she sees more younger attendees and more people she doesn’t know, which means the community is becoming more aware about the Oyster Roast. She said the event gives Waterworks an introduction to some who are unfamiliar with the visual arts center.

After feasting on seafood, pork sliders from College Barbecue and sides, attendees put a bid in for a treasure chest auction that offered different packages from local small businesses, fitting for the theme “Experience Local.” Clement said the auction was an added perk that she started several years ago and showcases the community partners.

Once the feast was cleared, attendees danced the night away with music provided by Errin Brown of Virtual Sounds.

Looking ahead, Clements said Waterworks has a special event planned for its 60th anniversary on April 1 and will offer a family fun day in June.