The 16th annual OysterFest was held this weekend in Wellfleet, Massachusetts, but the main attraction was missing.
Less than two days before the start of the event, Mass Fisheries ordered all shellfish beds closed because of a suspected norovirus outbreak.
“We are really missing out on them this year,” Laureen Kartsounis, of Wellfleet, said at the festival on Saturday.
The department of health said at least 75 people have reported getting sick.
“We came with two other people and one especially was very excited about oysters so when we did find out there weren't any there was some disappointment but it's fun and it's gorgeous weather,” said Reesa Guarino, of Albany, New York.
The event organizers, a group called SPAT, short for “shellfish promotion and tasting” debated cancelling the festival but ultimately decided that that the event had to go on to support the fishermen who could lose a month of their harvest.
“We needed people to come to the festival, I can't tell you how many upset emails we got people saying we just come for the oysters and yes, I love the oysters too and we are all devastated but you need to still come because it's a fundraiser,” said Michele Insley Executive Director, Welfleet Spat.
Part of the fundraiser was an oyster shucking contest and because there was no way to hold it without oysters, organizers borrowed some from neighboring communities.
“Some people really depend on this to pay their mortgages and truck payments,” said Keith Rose, of Rose Oysters in Wellfleet.
“We've been coming here for 40 years and this is the first time a good friend of mine had delivered oysters up to Canada and they sent them all back,” said John Kartsounis, of Wellfleet.
The lack of oysters didn't mean no seafood. Organizers were still allowed to cook food including other shellfish — as long as it is from outside of Wellfleet.
The OysterFest continues until Sunday.
Mass Fisheries said the oyster beds will be closed at least 21 days as a precaution.