The town of Essex has long claimed to be the birthplace of the fried clam.
And Saturday, an estimated crowd of up to 2,000 turned out to celebrate the town’s — and many seafood lovers’ — favorite shellfish.
The occasion was the town’s 31st annual ClamFest, and the day drew 988 tasters who sampled and voted on eight local restaurants’ samplings of clam chowder, plus hundreds of other visitors who didn’t join in the People’s Choice vote but took in other aspects of the event.
“It was a very, very successful day for everybody — I was thrilled,” said Susan Lufkin of the Essex branch of the Cape Ann Chamber of Commerce, which hosted the event at Memorial Park. “We almost froze in the morning, but it was warming up nice by midmorning, and just a great day.
“It seemed as if a lot of people were walking around Essex afterward, too, so that was a good sign, as well,” she added. “It was just a great day for everyone.”
Woodman’s of Essex and the Ipswich Clambake had the most to celebrate.
Woodman’s captured the judges’ top prize in the clam chowder taste-off competition, which once again highlighted the event, while Kastle Kreek, also of Essex, took second, and Mile Marker One of Gloucester placed third.
In the People’s Choice balloting, Ipswich Clambake captured first place for the second straight year, with Windward Grille of Essex taking second and Woodman’s third.
The ClamFest also included samplings of other clam dishes, a variety of other events, including health and public safety exhibits, and music.