ESSEX — As the tourism season winds down across much of Cape Ann, tomorrow Essex will offer residents and visitors alike a celebratory taste of the fall — ClamFest.
The annual event is sponsored by the Cape Ann Chamber of Commerce with the help of the Essex ClamFest Committee. And the event is bigger than ever this year, boasting around 60 vendors that will be planted in Memorial Field on Saturday from 11 a.m. to 4 p.m.
Susan Lufkin, chair of the committee for about 20 years, said she is excited for the annual event, which has drawn some 40 vendors in many years past.
“This is the last of the year’s worth of activities celebrating Essex,” she said.
Essex claims to be the home of the fried clam, and each year, an estimated 2,000 people show up to ClamFest.
The highlight of the event is the is annual clam chowder tasting competition, with eight restaurants poised to compete for this year’s title, four of them from Essex.
The contestants are Ipswich Clambake, Mile Marker One Restaurant, Woodman’s of Essex, Lobsta Land, J.T. Farnham’s, Windward Grille Restaurant, Shea’s Riverside Restaurant & Bar and Castle Kreek Cookhouse & Bar.
For $5, anyone can take up a spoon, bowl, and ballot to vote in the people’s choice tasting competition, which runs from noon to 2 p.m. at the tennis courts on Memorial Field; usually, up to 1,000 people cast their votes for their favorite chowder, Lufkin said.
A separate award is also issued by a panel of judges. This year, those judges include Senate Minority Leader Bruce Tarr, R-Gloucester, Democratic state Rep. Ann-Margaret Ferrante, Manchester Essex Regional School District Superintendent Pamela Beaudoin, officials from the First Bank of Ipswich and the Cape Ann Chamber of Commerce, and others, Lufkin said.
Beyond the clam chowder competition, clam lovers will also get the chance to check out some ice cream and other food, fish-related art prints, kitchen gadgets, jewelry, handcrafted goods, games, services offered by nonprofit benefits companies and even a state police K-9 unit demonstration.
“That’s always good, there will be more options for people to browse,” said Emily Harris, the Chamber of Commerce’s director of operations.
The Essex Fire Department will also be selling clam cakes and the local Lions Club, a stalwart festival vendor, will be returning as well, Lufkin said.
Also, the Manchester Essex Green Team will be at ClamFest with a bigger presence this year.
Green Team adviser Eric Mager said students will be on hand to talk with visitors about their programs and efforts.
The Green Team, true to its name, has also worked to make the chowder competition more environmentally friendly. The Chamber of Commerce has provided them with biodegradable bowls and utensils that will be collected by Gloucester- based Black Earth Compost, Magers said.
“I feel good we’re getting do to some stuff in Essex,” said Magers. “I hope we can do a lot more.”
James Niedzinski can be reached at 978-283-7000, x 3455 or at firstname.lastname@example.org.