Most of the time, you wouldn’t even know oysters were there, silently clustered beneath the surface of the water, acting as host and steward for our marine environment.

That is, unless you are among the unlucky who blindly jump off of a dock  into shallow water — then you know all too well what it's like to have your feet shredded with razor-like precision.

While having such an unfortunate brush with an oyster — which could leave more than a few scars — these salt-water bi-valves, ensure that many systems, large and small, maintain a fine balance.

When it comes to oysters, “they are a very important part of our environment,” says Michael Flynn of the North Carolina Coastal Federation.

While these filter feeders pump water through their gills, they not only take in food particles like phytoplankton, which is essential to their survival, they also improve water quality by filtering any bacteria, viruses or pollutants that may be present in the water.

It’s within these stable environments that other species of fish and shellfish are able thrive — and we all that, on the Outer Banks, many residents have for generations owed their livelihoods to the often unsung efforts of oysters.

As a means to not only pay homage to a way of life, but to also raise awareness and provide support for local efforts, the Hatteras Island Oyster Roast was brought to life.

“It was actually the creation of Lynn Foster,” Flynn says. “A silent partner of the Albatross Fleet in Hatteras, she started the event for the community during a time when the fishing is usually slow.”

Held each year at Oden’s Dock, a business hosting many commercial and recreational fishermen for generations, the setting couldn’t be any more appropriate.

Nestled perfectly against the water in Hatteras Village, visitors get a taste of fresh NC oysters and a vibrant, yet laid-back lifestyle.

“This year will mark the 6th annual, and every year we see more and more folks who are not only local but out-of-towners who make this event a tradition,” Flynn says.

Walking along the docks, the crisp, salty air carriers with it the savory aromas of a good time. “All of the folks who attend will have the opportunity to learn more about the Coastal Federation’s work and research, while at the same time enjoying live music, food, and festivities.”

The event celebrates the community with not only the main event — an oyster roast — but also with seafood chowder, a bake sale, a live band, and a roaring bonfire.

“The event is really something special. It’s a fun way to give back to the community with all of the proceeds going towards education, outreach and restoration.”

Some of these efforts include the construction of living shorelines — a natural means of protecting marsh areas against erosion) and protection of wetlands.

With the support of sponsors like the Outer Banks Visitors Bureau, who make the event possible, the festivities will go on, rain or shine — and let’s be honest: Some of the best memories are the ones made with good friends, good food and that sweet, salt air. Rain or shine.

Fran Marler has lived on the Outer Banks for nearly a dozen years. She estimates 60 percent of her life on the Banks is spent fishing, boating, surfing, swimming and enjoying the bountiful beauty of the Outer Banks.

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