Hundreds turned out Saturday morning for the free oyster giveaway at the Agricultural Society fairgrounds, and for a few hours roads were jammed with cars backed up as far the eye could see. Cars even lined up on Old County Road when Scotchman’s Lane filled with cars.

A total of 16,000 fresh farmed Island oysters were given away in 36-count bags. Organizers estimated that some 450 cars passed through the fairgrounds. Agricultural Society president Brian Athearn said he had to orchestrate traffic in a similar pattern as the summer Ag Fair.

Some 16,000 fresh farmed Island oysters were given away in 36-count bags. — Albert O. Fischer 3rd

The free oyster giveaway was thanks to an anonymous benefactor who wanted to help Island oyster farmers who lost their market in the pandemic.

People who received oysters were grateful, excited and happy.

“There were a lot of happy people,” said Alex Friedman, who owns Snow’s Point oyster farm in Katama and helped organize the event. “It was a tremendous boon for the growers, great for the community and it was very well organized . . . It was a heartwarming reminder of what a special community this Island is.”

Organizers said eager oyster lovers started lining up along State Road as early as 9:15 a.m. Saturday. Originally scheduled to start at 11 a.m., gates opened an hour early to keep traffic from backing up.

“We were expecting a little bit of traffic, but nothing like what we saw,” sad Beau Begin, also an organizer. “It took a village, it really did. And we couldn’t have done it without all the help from everybody who wanted this thing to happen.”

West Tisbury health agent Omar Johnson was on site to ensure all safety protocols were followed.

Eleven oyster farms on the Island are involved in the program: Signature Oysters, Roysters, Little Minnow Oyster Co., Spearpoint Oysters, Blue Moon, Sweet Neck, Snows Point, Menemsha Creek Oysters, Green Door Oysters, Creekville Oysters and Chilmark Oyster Company.

“We hope this introduces people to ways of enjoying oysters at home, not just at a restaurant or a raw bar,” Mr. Friedman said. “It’s a sustainable Island product.”

More pictures.