Fundraising Events

Throughout the year, we have many events.  Some are one-time; others are weekly or monthly.  First and foremost, events allow us to meet the public and better perform our mission of telling the story of of the Watermen of the Chesapeake Bay.  Second, some of these events allow us to raise funds for the Museum operations, ensuring we can continue to perform our mission well into the future.  We conduct three major fundraising activities throughout the year.

Crowded Oyster Table

Crowded Oyster Table

Annual Oyster Roast Fundraiser Event

Our annual all-you-can-eat Oyster Roast is a tradition that has been going on at the Museum for almost two decades.  Over the years, we have moved the date of this event around a bit.  We used to conduct the event on the first weekend in December, on the day of Yorktown’s Lighted Boat Parade.  But, we finally realized that although Oyster Shucking is often a cool weather activity…it can get brutally cold in December.  So, we have moved the event to September each year, making our festival one of the first in the area to offer the wonderful oysters of the Chesapeake Bay..

We obtain our fresh oysters from multiple local oyster houses.  By getting these oysters from varying local sources, we ensure you can sample a wide range of oyster flavors based upon the local area the oysters were harvested from.  You’ll be amazed at how differently oysters from the Mobjack Bay, Poquoson, or York, Rappahannock, Nansemond or James River can taste even though they are only a few miles apart. In addition to roasted oysters we strive to also provide raw oyster tastings and other seafood options for our pescetarian friends such as  homemade gluten-free clam chowder. For you non-seafood eaters, we will offer hot dogs and plentiful side dishes and desserts.  Of course, you must share the sides and desserts with all of our other guests.

You can get your discounted tickets in advance (through our gift shop or our local partners) or full-price tickets at the gate on the day of the event.

Annual Folk Music Event

This is a fundraiser like you have never seen.  There are no up-front costs for tickets This festival is also held in  September.


Our annual Folk Music Festival event was started in 2014 and has continued to grow each year, thanks entirely to the generosity of guests, sponsors and the regional bands that offer their services to help us raise money for our education programs and museum exhibits.  This event capitalizes on our four acres of the only private waterfront within the village of Yorktown’s Historic District to provide a unique musical experience that spans over 400 years of American music.  Our 2017 event, the fourth annual event, featured 27 blocks of musicians performing on four different performance areas providing a continuous presentation of American music ranging from maritime shanties, to pirate selections, colonial and post-colonial tunes, on through orchestral music to modern jazz, swing, bluegrass, country, and rock.  This event is still a free event with our fundraising efforts resulting from sponsors (such as Riverwalk Merchants, WestRock Company, Dominion Energy) and from our musical friends donating back a portion of the tips you provide them.

In 2022, the Folk Festival expanded to include a large part of the County’s Riverwalk area, marking this Festival as another one of Yorktown’s great Waterfront-wide Festivals.

Chili Cook-Off Winners

Chili Cook-Off Winners

There is no need to purchase tickets during the day.  But, please try to tip each band very well since they are working very hard to provide a donation to the Museum which supports our exhibits, upkeep, and educational program costs.

Annual Chili Cook-Off Fundraiser Event

Our Annual Chili Cook-Off is  now held in April, typically  on the second or third Saturday.  Each year, competitive teams seek come together on-site to prepare and serve some of the best chili in the nation.  These teams compete for “Best Chili” bragging rights throughout their organization, their community, and across the entire Old Dominion.  Teams compete in Professional, Independent, and Military categories for their own top award.  And, they compete for People’s Choice, Judges Choice, and Best Themed awards.  So, if you and your workmates, family, or just a bunch of friends get together and form a freelance team, you could win it all in the Independent category.  If you work in a restaurant or are a professional chef, your team could win as the Best Professional Team Chili. If you are in military organization, get two or three comrades in arms and form a team.  If your chili is good enough, you could win the title of Best Military Team Chili.  And regardless of whether you win in your category, your team could also win People’s Choice, Judges Choice, or Best Themed award, too.

You can get your discounted tickets in advance (through our gift shop or our local partners) or full-price tickets at the gate on the day of the event.  Here’s how the event works if you customer for the event:

  • We’ll begin serving the chili around noon.
  • Each Cook-Off Patron (folks who buy tickets to the event) will receive a spoon and a scorecard.
  • When you arrive at a competitor’s tent, The team will serve you a small sampling cup of their chili.  As you move from team to team, the process is repeated.
  • While all of this tasting and socializing is happening, our sequestered judges will be tasting and conferring, and tasting and conferring, until they decide which teams best represent each of the award categories.
  • Next, you decide who you want to vote for in the category of Peoples Choice Award, mark your scorecard accordingly, and drop the scorecard into the ballot box for our judges to tally at the end of the event.
  • As we approach 3 o’clock, our judges will begin the announcement of awards.  At the ceremony, the winning team will be provided an award that proclaims to the world that their Team has achieve Champion status.

Here’s a short video of one of our Chili Cook-Off Events (Courtesy WBMG Radio).

Watermens Aerial Trolley

Aerial View of the Museum

Annual Donation Appeal Letter

Our annual appeal letter is sent out to members and previous donors in December of each year.  We rely on the generosity of individuals and businesses to meet our mission and provide services in our community. Without the assistance of community-minded individuals just like you, we wouldn’t be able to serve the thousands of school children and other visitors we support each year.  This annual letter asks donors to make a commitment to support us by making a cash donation. Of course, if you would like to make a donation now, like the donations we receive during our annual drive, your generosity will make a difference in our community by allowing us to continue in our work.


Annual Yuletide Event

 Hosted by our Viking and Victorian friends, Re-enactors present Scandinavian and other European traditions and perspectives to provide visitors with insights into how cherished Yuletide traditions have evolved.  Typically held on the first full weekend in December, We invite local vendors to attend our event to give you the opportunity to pick up gifts for those special people in your life.  You can even visit with Santa and Odin.