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.