“The First Annual Central Coast Oyster Festival Benefiting OPTIONS Family of Services,” which splashes down in style Saturday, June 16, at picturesque Morro Bay Golf Course, promises to be one of the most unique and exciting events taking place in Morro Bay this year.
The Festival will offer no shortage of the spectacular and near-spectacular – dazzling oyster dishes, premier wines and brews, an ultimate cook-off for “Best Oyster of the Central Coast” Chef Award, a tense oyster-shucking contest, an “Aphrodisiac Lounge” of exotic local taste delights designed by LA-based organic structure innovators The Do LaB, and a performance by Canadian buzz band Walk Off the Earth, headlining a a strong lineup of up-and-coming bands and day-long music.
The Central Coast Oyster Festival is not only an early-summer celebration of local oysters; this new event benefits Morro Bay-based OPTIONS Family of Services, one of the largest a non-profit organizations in San Luis Obispo County dedicated to helping people with disabilities achieve their goals, dreams and rightful place as full citizens of their communities.
Mike Mamot, CEO of Options Family of Services, believes the Oyster Festival will provide a boost to the local economy. “First of all, it will increase tourism which is the number one industry in Morro Bay. The oyster beds have been in Morro Bay for many years and the community has been known for the excellent seafood ever since commercial fishing was established here. So, we hope to celebrate those qualities of our community, as well as supporting OPTIONS which has been headquartered in Morro Bay since 1986.“
Mr. Mamot expects tourists from across the County and from all over California to attend the Festival: “We hope to not only draw people from around the county, but also attract tourists from throughout California. … We are anticipating thousands of visitors for the first year of our event.”
The idea for the Festival sprang from Jacqueline Delaney, Marketing and Sales Director for OPTIONS Family of Services.
“We were looking to create two-three unique annual ongoing fundraisers to make up for the budget cuts our program could be facing,” Ms. Delaney says. “In researching successful events and ideas that would support our local community the beautiful Morro Bay Oyster Farm stood out to me as a perfect opportunity to highlight what is within our own backyard.
“We have not had any events that highlighted oysters, yet other cities such as Arcata, San Francisco and San Diego hold extremely successful Oyster Festivals, therefore this seemed to be a perfect fit for OPTIONS and the Central Coast Community.”
Ms. Delaney located the event at the Golf Course, and shuttles will help keep traffic flowing and spread festivities throughout the business community that weekend. The Golf Course offers a pristine stage by the bay.
“The Morro Bay Oyster Company Farm is located in the bay right across from the Morro Bay Golf Course,” she says. “The intention was to provide a beautiful setting along with a space that made sense for this type of festival. This was not only the closest space to the farm, but has unbelievable beauty any which direction you are looking. Also the intention was to not interfere with the local community businesses but to help increase business and exposure for the weekend. We have selected to shuttle the patrons in from various areas in Morro Bay in hopes they will support local restaurants and retailers before and after the event.”
Once the event is over, the Golf Course will be restored to tee-off conditions, says Ms. Delaney. “We have also partnered with Eco Rotary and Morro Bay Guerrilla Gardening Club to make this a zero waste event. We will recycle, compost and leave the grounds as we found them.”
Ms. Delaney says the accent of the Festival is heavily on the best of the Central Coast, and the plan to grow the Festival long-term. “All participants and suppliers will be from our local Central Coast Community. Local wineries and local brewery Tap It Brewing will provide us with an exclusive Oyster Brew available only at the Central Coast Oyster Festival.
“Our intention is to draw people from all over the country to showcase all the Central Coast has to offer, provide local businesses with an opportunity to participate and benefit from this exciting event and continue to build on this year after year… We also believe this event will put Morro Bay on the map for holding an event that stands out as unique, classic and beautiful with structures, ambiance and fun.”
With the cost of medical care rising sharply for both provider and client-patients, the dollars raised by this event will help bridge the widening financial gap and provide essential services so people can live more “inclusive” lives, according to Mr. Mamot.
“The past few years have been a struggle for all businesses,” he says. “In the case of OPTIONS, 90% of our funding comes from state or federal sources. Not only have we not had any increases in funding, our rates have actually been reduced by nearly 5%. With other costs rising, we need to turn to fundraising to offset these rising operational expenses and lowering of reimbursement. The Oyster Festival is a fun opportunity to raise such badly need funds. We would like to raise about $50,000. However such goals are hard to achieve, especially in the first year of such an event. Nonetheless, we are optimistic we will have an excellent turn out.
“The funds we raise will help us with expenses associated with the services we provide,” Mr. Mamot adds. “A lot of times we provide services that are above and beyond what we are funded for, such as transporting persons to medical appointments or to family members during holidays. At the Oyster Festival, we will have a wishing wall where people can make donations specific to things that each service area needs. This may include such things as new kitchen supplies at a site or a special outing to some place like Disneyland for one of the groups.”
Unless a family member is directly involved, most people don’t experience the impact of a developmental disability, how important self-sufficiency is for the disabled, and how expensive customized care can be on an individual’s day-to-day path toward independence.
“Generally speaking,” says Mr. Mamot, “somewhere between 8% to 10% of the population has a disability of one sort or another. At OPTIONS, we serve about 200 persons daily with developmental disabilities or a traumatic brain injury. Our mission statement is ‘full inclusion,’ meaning that our goal is for each person to be self-sufficient and fully included in the community of his/her choice.
“A few years ago a study was done on OPTIONS on the return of the investment on the services which we provide. It found that there was a 167% return to the community for every dollar spent on the services we provide. We are extremely cost effective for the services we provide. We are accredited by CARF and have had perfect surveys — without a single recommendation — five out of our last six surveys spanning the past 18 years.”
OPTIONS is dealing with difficult times: a shortfall of funds for general pay increases for staff; an era of persistent erosion of employee health benefits; and deferred site maintenance. Limited resources are focused on the vital programs and services OPTIONS provides. So the Festival will be a celebration with a definite purpose – to help ease the financial burden and maintain a high level of services.
“At OPTIONS, we seek to provide quality care for each and every person we serve. That has been extremely challenging these past few years,” Mr. Mamot says. “The Oyster Festival is an opportunity for us to raise badly needed funds, while at the same time bring an event to the Central Coast and Morro Bay that we can all be proud of. It is our hope that everyone will benefit from this event and I am sure it will be a lot of fun.”
The First Annual Central Coast Oyster Festival – An Epicurean Cultural Event
The world is your oyster — and you get to eat it any number of ways — at the “The First Annual Central Coast Oyster Festival Benefiting OPTIONS Family of Services” on June 16 in Morro Bay.
Attendees will find the great food, wine and entertainment they came for, and will take home a little something extra: they can say they were part of a coastal happening.
“There are so many great wine, food, and entertainment events on the Central Coast that we’ve really concentrated on creating an experience unlike any other,” says Jacqueline Delaney, Director of Marketing for OPTIONS Family of Services.
That one-of-a-kind experience begins with oysters, lots of them. Within view of the Morro Bay Oyster Farm and Morro Rock, the Festival will feature oysters from the Morro Bay Oyster Company, widely recognized as one of the greatest suppliers on the West Coast. Dozens of chefs from across the Central Coast will go head-to-head for the “Best Oyster of the Central Coast” Chef Award, and the audience will taste the results.
Oysters won’t be the only delectable to delve into at the event. For gourmet exotica, the “Aphrodisiac Lounge,” a stunning “modern-chic” pagoda designed by The Do LaB group based in LA, will house a raw oyster bar, sparkling and still wines, cocktails, cheeses and chocolates. Local craft brewery Tap It Brewing Company is releasing a Festival-exclusive micro “oyster brew” designed to complement the oysters in the Lounge and commemorate the event.
The Do LaB is world-renowned for its reality-bending interactive environments, event production and creative lighting design. Prominently showcased at such high-profile gatherings as the Coachella Valley Music and Arts Annual Festival and Burning Man, The Do LaB takes an organic approach to everything they design and create, using natural materials, found objects and sustainable resources. The “Aphrodisiac Lounge” is the special focus of their whimsical creative energies at the Festival.
Capping festivities will be the much-anticipated performance by dynamic Canadian indie band Walk Off the Earth, along with performances by TROPO and the Neon Russell Band, among others musical guests.
For an out-of-shell experience, the Festival also features a shucking competition, and local shuckers are invited to demonstrate their speed and skill to a live audience for prizes and the respect of the Central Coast community. Participants can sign up the day of the festival by 2 p.m. for the 4 p.m. contest.
In addition to the Morro Bay Oyster Company, the First Annual Central Coast Oyster Festival is sponsored by the Morro Bay Golf Course, the City of Morro Bay, Tap It Brewing, Element Solar, KRUSH Radio, New Times, the Cities of Los Osos/Baywood Park, Cayucos Abalone Farm, and ECO Rotary for a Zero Waste Event.
The First Annual Central Coast Oyster Festival is scheduled for June 16 from 12 to 8 p.m at the Morro Bay Golf Course. Tickets for this full-day event are $20 and are available at www.CentralCoastOysterFestival.org. For tickets or more information, visit www.CentralCoastOysterFestival.org. Contact: Jacqueline Delaney via email at: Jdelaney@OPTIONSfs.org or phone at (805) 459-0701.