The first year Arcata Main Street hired Ms. Stephenson as a contractor; starting the second year they asked her to take over in her present position. Ms. Stephenson decided to focus it "more on local talents and a healthier community." She also wanted to festival to showcase more than just food.
"The Oyster festival shows why our bay is such an extraordinary environment, how much goodness and quality comes out of our community." said Ms. Stephenson. "
From Arcata Main Street website:
"Arcata Main Street's Arcata Bay Oyster Festival tradition continues for the 27th year on June 17, 2017. We focus on our local bounty, environmental health, and the diversity of our community. It’s a celebration of North Coast culture where chefs, merchants, volunteers, and guests revel in award-winning oysters and other tasty non-oyster delicacies, local beverages, live local music, and art.
More than 13,000 people gather for this, the largest one-day event in Humboldt County – the Oyster Capital of California. Let your sense of adventure guide you as you explore historic Downtown Arcata. We've added new features like the environmentally-focused Green Street, a second stage, and all your favorite Oyster Fest features will welcome you back."
(Sebastian Elrite, Aqua Rodeo Farms, photo credit: Insider Magazine; permission for full use obtained by Nancy Stephenson)
"This is a measurable industry that can be boosted by community awareness," said Sebastian Elrite, owner of Aqua Rodeo Farms. I have interviewed Mr. Elrite before. For this article, he wanted me to focus on the Oyster festival, Ms. Stephenson and other local businesses, because he feels passionately about aquaculture, about local businesses and farmers. Mr. Elrite supplies the oysters featured at Humboldt Bay Provisions.
"We were involved in the Oyster Festival pretty much from the beginning," said North Bay Shellfish owners, Grace and Scott Sterner. "Some of the Main Street merchants loved oysters and thought it would be a good idea to have a local event focused on oysters. Back then, we had a booth at the festival. Our goal was to get local people to like oysters and show them how to prepare and cook them."
While it is a lot of work, the Sterners feel having such a well-established event, "is a great opportunity to educate people about how oysters are grown, the benefits they bring to the bay and the community. It's a great opportunity for the restaurants and local organizations to showcase their recipes."
Aside from a business perspective, on a personal level, "The oyster festival is part of our family, " said the Sterners."Our children, nieces, nephews, parents, sisters, brothers and friends all have worked in our booth over the years at the festival. The festival has really brought people together over the years and people come from all over to attend, which helps boost the local economy. Although we have retired from having a booth at the festival, we still attend and help out friends in their booths. Funny story - One couple met in line at one of the booths and we know people who even got engaged and married at the festival. You know what they say about oysters..."
Commenting on the changes they have seen over the years, the Sterners said, "The early days were really fun. The festival was smaller and we had an educational display which showed small oysters and a few other animals in tanks. One of the festival directors, Michael Behney,really did an incredible job promoting the festival and bringing people in from out of town and marketing the festival. Nancy Stephenson has also been doing an outstanding job. It's been a joy working with her. Of course, we (Grace) likes the shirt logo with the guy in the boat bringing in the bag of oysters since it is taken from a photo of Scott. Yes, he was the poster child of the oyster festival for several years. The one thing that didn't work was the year they built a wall, I mean a fence. "