Apalachicola Bay Charter School fifth grader Cornelia Jansen picked out her colors carefully from the large selection of paints arrayed on a table on the second floor of the Apalachicola Center for History, Culture and the Arts.
“I’m doing a sunset,” she said. “I’m just taking yellow, orange, red, with a little beige and blue.”
Working alongside her mom, Kathleen Jansen, who envisioned oyster shells, Cornelia liked how her work turned out, adding the finishing touches with her fingers. “It came out really well,” she said.
“She’s a better artist than I am, that’s for sure,” said her mom.
Alicia Bruno worked off a photo of an oyster boat while her cousin Joy Floyd made an image of a plate of oysters with lemon, and nephew Keith Floyd, Jr. created his own masterpiece. “I have green and blue on the bottom, with a shark popping up out of the water,” said Floyd, Jr.
The five works will be among about two dozen pieces featured at the silent auction Saturday at the HCA, a highlight of this upcoming weekend’s annual Oyster Cook-Off, a major fundraiser for the Apalachicola Volunteer Fire Department.
Marisa Getter, a key organizer of the cookoff, said she and a crew of dedicated volunteers are excited to be bringing back the cookoff, which had to be cancelled in 2021 due to COVID-19. Getter serves as president of the non-profit fire department auxiliary, which receives all the monies and is in the process of paying off the newest fire truck.
“We’re looking forward to seeing everyone at Riverfront Park but in an effort to eliminate tight gatherings we will not be hosting the Friday night auction at the HCA,” she said. “We will still have our auction items on Saturday so please come check those out.”
The art created at the Jan. 6 paint party will be among the many auction items, which include a variety of donated art and gift pieces from area merchants.
The first floor of the HCA is also where a panel of three judges will decide who wears the crown for the best oyster dish. The cookoff provides oysters to entrants, and those who come by all day Saturday for the event can watch them being cooked, enjoy their delicious samples and await the selection of the top culinary creations.
John Solomon, who’s been busy working on the next weekend’s Jan. 22 Butts and Clucks event at Battery Park, said he and co-captain Donna Duncan once again will likely be part of the Apalachicola Bay Chamber of Commerce team that will compete. Competitors take note - Solomon is a four-time oyster cookoff champ looking for a five-peat. Judging begins at 2 p.m. with winners announced at 3 p.m.
The event gets underway Saturday morning at 8 a.m. at Riverfront Park, with the Half-Shell Hustle 5K Run, under the direction of Shelly Shepard, who is auxiliary treasurer. Carrie Jones serves as secretary and Joe Taylor is vice-president. .
The cook-off, which has no gate entrance free, runs from noon to 5 p.m., with food and refreshments available for purchase. They’ll be oysters galore, shrimp, smoked mullet, hot dogs and hamburgers, local beer, live music beginning at 2 p.m. kids’ activities all afternoon long, and dancing performances, beginning at 1 p.m. Well-mannered pets are welcomed on a leash.
“We respectfully ask that everyone practice social distancing,” said Getter. “We understand there are concerns about COVID-19 and we hope people will attend based on their comfort level, and stay for however long that they wish.”
Last week’s paint party was put together by ABC School art teacher Merrill Livingston, who had helped create it when she was the director of the HCA. She also took part as one of three generations of her family to paint, including mom Carol Weyrich and daughter Keagan Siprell.
Cathy Ray did an abstract piece, and added texture to the paint by mixing it with sand. She topped it off by glueing on an oyster shell in the middle.
Sheriff A.J. Smith created one that featured the 2-Mile sign. “I’m not planning to quit my day job,” he joked. “I may have to pay somebody to take mine.”
Josh Hall did one of the sunrise he had seen that morning. “I’ll put in the sun last, right where it came up, right when it peaked,” he said.
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