By Maddy Vitale
Jason Plum knows his sweets. As one of the owners of Custard Hut in Somers Point, he considers himself a connoisseur in confections.
But when it came to clam chowder, Plum had a tough time.
He tried one bowl, then another, then another, and before too long, he was on his sixth and last bowl, courtesy of Steve Tiniakos, owner of The Windjammer Restaurant, in Somers Point.
“You have to dip the bread. That is the secret,” Tiniakos advised Plum.
“I’ve now tried them all,” Plum said. “They are all fantastic. I think this one is wonderful. I just can’t say which is the best.”
He wasn’t judging a clam chowder contest, in the first “Clamboree” held Saturday from 10 a.m. to 2 p.m. at Kennedy Park, 24 Broadway in Somers Point.
But Mayor Jack Glasser was a judge.
“It was really tough to choose with all of the great restaurants in Somers Point,” Glasser said of the morning chowder contest, which included competition among local eateries.
The “Clamboree” was hosted by the City of Somers Point and the Patcong Creek Foundation, a local environmental group. The new outdoor community event, celebrating the clamming traditions of South Jersey, brought families together for samples of chowder, a clam shucking contest, a clam shell pitching tournament, a super seashell hunt, clamming demonstrations, exhibitors and a chance to win prizes.
Glasser said the plan is to make it an annual tradition.
“This is fabulous,” he said as he looked out at the crowds of people enjoying the sun, the bay views, great food and live music.
Karen Blizzard, of Seaville, brought her 3-year-old son, Hunter, for some food and activities.
Their first stop was to the clam chowder tables.
“It is delicious,” Blizzard said of one bowl.
Hunter reached up and took two packets of crackers offered to him by a restaurateur.
In a cute gesture, the little boy handed one of the crackers to his mother.
Across the park, Jennifer and Danny Freeman, of Pleasantville, and their daughter, Oona, 13, got down to a serious, clam shell pitching tournament. They seemed to master tossing the large shells into a hole in the sand after a few tries.
“We always support Patcong Creek Foundation fundraisers,” Jennifer Freeman said. “Our kids go to school here and Somers Point and the foundation really do so much for the community.”
Ron Meischker, a city councilman, the harbor master and founder of the Patcong Creek Foundation, said they achieved their goal with the first “Clamboree.”
“I think this is another down-to-earth, family-friendly festival to attract families to Somers Point,” Meischker said.
He also said the attractions really delighted the children.
Meischker said the festival’s seashell hunt proved to be a big hit throughout the day for the kids.
Proceeds benefit the Patcong Creek Foundation, a nonprofit organization that looks to help the local environment through education and environmental initiatives.
Information about the Patcong Creek Foundation can be found at www.patcongcreekfoundation.org.