Georgetown Fire Co. Oyster Eat a fundraising, social pearl

Elbow room and eating space are a premium at the Georgetown Fire Co.’s Oyster Eat. Delaware State News/Glenn Rolfe

GEORGETOWN — Unofficially, it’s a stag-only event that will steer hundreds of hungry patrons to Georgetown Fire Company Station 77 for an entertaining evening of good food and drink — most notably oysters.

Lots and lots of oysters.

Georgetown’s famous Oyster Eat, established in 1937 by the fire company as an annual fundraiser, will run from 8 p.m. to midnight Friday, Feb. 28 at the fire hall on South Bedford Street.

That night, on a floor bed of dried sawdust trucked in six days in advance, upward of 1,000 attendees — give or take — will pack Station 77 like sardines for the all-you-can-eat bonanza featuring raw and steamed oysters. The menu includes hot dogs, popcorn, hardboiled eggs and of course egg salad sandwiches, prepared by the Georgetown Fire Company Ladies Auxiliary.

Odds are patrons will eat, drink – Coors Light and Founders are on tap for those desiring to indulge – and be merry to a backdrop of bluegrass music performed by Dean Sapp & Harford Express from Elkton, Maryland.

At about the midpoint of the event, around 10 p.m. or so, Sen. Dave Wilson will don his auctioneer hat to auction off the Oyster Eat’s annual prized pearl: an oyster knife hand-crafted by a member or members of the Green family.

“Sen. Dave Wilson has done the auction for us, ever since I’ve been in fire company, and I’ve been in the fire company for 24 years,” said Mr. Briggs.

This year’s knife crafting is a solo act, by father Rocky Green, due to his son Neil’s commitments with the U.S. Army.

“It is actually a father and son,” said Mr. Briggs. “But this year the Army has got Neil tied up. So, it’s Rocky.”

Georgetown Fire Company President Michael Briggs, right, looks on as Sen. Ernie Lopez, left, and Sen. Dave Wilson orchestrate the auction for the oyster knife – the annual prized pearl at the fire company’s Oyster Eat.

The Green family has provided the knife for more than decade. Before that it was Vernon Ellingsworth, Mr. Briggs said.

Aside from the knife auction, there are several raffles, including one for a shotgun.

Oyster Eat tickets are $27 in advance and $30 at the door.

Commemorative 2020 Oyster Eat hats ($25 each) and T-shirts ($20) will be on sale.

Statistically speaking, Oyster Eat offers approximately:

• 130 bushels of shelled oysters and about 50 or 60 gallons of oysters;

• 1,800 hot dogs;

• 230 dozen of hardboiled eggs.

In addition, prior to the Oyster Eat, the GFC Ladies auxiliary holds a luncheon Friday, featuring chicken salad, cheeseburgers, soups and other items.

The Oyster Eat has stood the test of time. It has been held continuously since the late 1930s, except for a break during World War II. “They postponed it a couple years because of the war,” said Mr. Briggs.

It’s even recognized in the U.S. Library of Congress.

During Michael Castle’s tenure in Washington, D.C., as Delaware’s Congressional representative, the Oyster Eat was recognized by the United States Congress, saluting its historical and cultural significance.

“He was a faithful Oyster Eat goer,” said Mr. Briggs. “He came every single year.”

Doors open punctually at 8 p.m.

For many the event doubles as an annual reunion.

“Typically, that’s what it is,” said Mr. Briggs. “A lot of people come back every single year. They know it’s always the last Friday in February. That may be the only time you see his one friend or family member is when you get together at the Oyster Eat. A lot of college students, they come back to the Oyster Eat. It’s a lot of fathers and sons.

“We have people that come up from North Carolina. We have people from Maine. We’ve had people that flew in,” said Mr. Briggs, noting one time a patron flew in from Arizona to attend. “It’s a pretty big event where the fire company and also the community comes together.”

While here is no decline in interest, Mr. Briggs says there appears to be a decrease in the smoky haze.

“I’ll tell you the cigars are kind of dwindling away,” he said. “It used to be a haze. But now there’s not as much cigar smoke as it used to be.”

Over the years, a few ladies have ventured to the Oyster Eat. Simultaneously, on Feb. 28 the Lewes Fire Department will be staging its 30th Annual Ladies Shrimp Feast.

“We sometimes are asked, ‘Why aren’t ladies allowed, with what’s going on in the country today with the women’s rights and all of that?’” said Mr. Briggs with a chuckle. “We tell him, if you’re a man, then go ahead and try to get into the Shrimp Feast in Lewes and see how make out! If you want to bust on Georgetown, you might as well bust on Lewes also!”