All things clam-related — except clam “chowder” ice cream — will take center stage in Essex for the 30th year this weekend, where the annual Clamfest will be celebrated on Sunday instead of the traditional Saturday, thanks to a late scheduling change due to the weather forecasts.
This year’s festival, celebrated between 11 a.m. and 4 p.m. Sunday in Essex’ Shepard Memorial Park, will feature the annual chowder tasting between noon and 2 p.m. Five Essex restaurants — J.T. Farnham’s, Shea’s Riverside, Farm Bar and Grille, Windward Grille and Woodman’s — will whip up their best chowder for the occasion.
And a prestigious line up of nine judges — including Sen. Bruce Tarr, Rep. Ann-Margaret Ferrante, and Taste of the Times’ Heather Atwood — will cast their vote on which entry tickles their taste buds’ fancy, according to Tim Burton, project and events director at the Cape Ann Chamber of Commerce.
“They dole out a lot of chowder,” Burton said, estimating the event will draw about 2,000 people. “The lines are incredible and if it starts at noon, there’ll be people lining up at 11:30 to get a ticket.”
Tasters who do pay the $5 ticket fee for unlimited samples of the Essex restaurants’ chowders, as well as chowders from Ipswich Clambake and Gloucester’s Latitude 43 and Lobsta Land, will also cast their votes for a people’s choice award.
”The biggest thing we have is the chowder tasting contest,” Burton said. “It’s a huge event.
For those who still crave some fishy fun after the Clamfest, the opportunity to buy raffle tickets toward a catered clambake by Woodman’s may settle that urge. Raffle tickets go at 6 tickets for $5 or $1 per ticket. Half the raffle proceeds are donated to fifth grade class at Essex Elementary School.
Aside from the chowder and raffle, the festival features pony rides, a K9 police dog demonstration, music and more than 40 vendors selling crafts, entertainment, art and food.
But John Bartlett, owner of Captain Dusty’s, said his ice cream once again will not be part of the festivities; the shop was banned from participating again this year, even as a vendor.
After Bartlett was disqualified from the competition for entering an ice cream clam chowder in the past, he was banned from entering the competition again, he said. Bartlett said this year he apologized and asked to participate in Clamfest only as a vendor, intending to give all of the day’s proceeds from selling ice cream at the festival to the nonprofit Wellspring House of Gloucester. But Captain Dusty’s ice cream was not granted a vendor stand.
”I just find it kind of sad ... to just kind of toss us out,” Bartlett said. “Not only would we give the proceeds to charity as a means of saying sorry for our actions at the Clamfest, but it’s also a way of giving back.”
The scheduling shift from Saturday to Sunday won’t apply to all.
The town’s Board of Health, which usually tries to schedule a flu shot clinic alongside Clamfest, was unable to change their scheduled clinic when Clamfest switched its date Thursday. Instead, the board will still provide flu shots and flu nasal spray vaccines at the scheduled Saturday time at the police station’s meeting room between 11 a.m. and 2 p.m.
”It’s complicated to reschedule a flu clinic, and we might not have enough volunteers for Sunday,” Health board administrator Elaine Wozny said.
Wozny said anyone is welcome to stop by for a shot, including visitors from out of town.
”We’ve got a pretty good supply of shots,” Wozny said.
Wozny recommended those getting a shot wear clothing with loose sleeves for easier access to the arm, if possible. Though the shots are free of cost, the town can be reimbursed for some shots if recipients bring along their medical insurance and Medicare cards.
Marjorie Nesin can be reached at 978-283-7000, x3451, or at firstname.lastname@example.org.
Chowder time What: 30th annual Essex Clamfest When: Sunday, 11 a.m to 4 p.m. (changed from Saturday due to bad weather forecast.) Where: Shepard Memorial Park, Essex.