Milford Oyster Festival kicks off with Bon Jersey

The 45th annual Milford Oyster Festival will take place on Saturday, Aug. 17, but the good times will kick off a day earlier with Oyster Eve at Lisman Landing, that gets underway at 6 p.m.

For a $5 cover, Oyster Eve will offer craft beers, wine, oysters and plenty of other food choices, while the music of Bon Jersey, a Bon Jovi cover band, takes the stage. The band, which has been paying tribute to Jon Bon Jovi, Richie Sambora and company for more than a dozen years, will also be playing the day of the festival at the Lisman Landing Stage.

“The band is extremely excited to have been chosen to perform at the festival this year. It’s one of the more prestigious events in the country and we are looking forward to playing the best of Bon Jovi music not only on Oyster Day but also Oyster Eve,” said Rich Antonelli, the band’s lead guitarist. “If you’re a fan of fun rock ’n’ roll and well-known hit songs, we hope to see you there.”

And that’s just the beginning of the musical entertainment. Extreme, which gained acclaim in the late ’80s thanks to guitar virtuoso Nuno Bettencourt and Gary Cherone’s rich vocals on songs such as “More Than Words” and “Hole Hearted,” will be the featured performers at the event. Opening for the Grammy-winning band will be Badfish, a Sublime tribute act, and the Cringe, an indy band out of New York City.

But of course, it’s the oysters that attract most people to the festival and this year, Milford’s own Briarpatch Enterprises, Inc. will be supplying more than 30,000 oysters for the occasion.

“There will be amazing oysters and other food as always,” said Michele DiBella, publicity chair for the festival. “This year all the oysters are locally sourced, which is a little different. As we are a Milford festival, we wanted to keep it local, and they are wonderful.”

Milford has been sourcing oysters for close to 100 years though its oyster history dates back to 1792 and the Native American tribes who first settled Milford, and the festival wants to honor that legacy.

“This festival is about giving back to the community. We anticipate between 30,000 and 40,000 people coming out,” DiBella said.

Last year, seven participants took park in the annual Oyster Eating Competition — including Milford’s Mayor Benjamin Blake — with Peter Berube downing his dozen oysters in record time. Meanwhile, Honor Allen took home the win for the oyster shucking competition.

A highlight of every festival is the Classic Car Show, which features pre-’50s antique, ’50s customs and ’60s and ’70 muscle cars, club cars and classic motorcycles, which line up at the start of the festival on River Street in front of Milford Photo. An award ceremony is held honoring the best cars at the conclusion of the day.

“We have about 20-30 cars come down every year, and they are super cool and different,” DiBella said. “The car show is nice because it often attracts a different festival-goer.”

The Milford Oyster Festival will also include a craft beer area at Lisman Landing, which will feature beer and also wine.

Plus, there’s a children’s stage at Fowler Field, more than 200 arts and crafts vendors on the Green and amusement rides. The Milford Police Department will be offering K9 demonstrations at 12:30 and 2:30 p.m. across from the Milford Public Library.

“There will be lots of things for the kids and we encourage families to come out and enjoy the day. There is always something for everyone here,” DiBella said. “This is also a great way for local businesses to reach the public and talk about what they do and the services they offer.”

There are also activities at the harbor beginning at 8:30 a.m., with schooner cruises, plus canoe and kayak races.

“Those are always a lot of fun and everyone has a great time,” DiBella said. “This year we will have a sunset cruise on Friday at 6 p.m., three cruises on Saturday including another sunset one. People always tell us how much fun those are.”

The event takes place rain or shine. For more information, visit