Blue Skies and Hefty Clams at Contest

Joe LaCarrubba crowned a champion at the East Hampton Town Trustees’ 27th annual Largest Clam Contest on Sunday. Durell Godfrey

A brilliant blue sky and summer temperatures greeted those attending the East Hampton Town Trustees’ 27th annual Largest Clam Contest, held on Sunday on the grounds of the Donald Lamb Building in Amagansett. 

Live music filled the air as clams on the half shell and Councilman Fred Overton’s Bonac chowder were served to the gathering. Barley Dunne of the town’s shellfish hatchery and members of the East End Classic Boat Society were among the groups on hand. The former explained the work the hatchery does to seed town waterways with shellfish to promote a healthy harvest and clean water bodies, and the latter displayed one of the boats the group constructed and sold tickets for this year’s raffle boat, a sunshine tender, which was on display at the Greenport Maritime Festival. 

Clam contestants lay silently on a long table as Francis Bock and Brian Byrnes, members of the trustee board, and Joe LaCarrubba weighed entries by adults and youth harvested from Accabonac Harbor, Lake Montauk, Napeague Harbor, and Three Mile Harbor. 

“Thank you for coming out,” Mr. Byrnes said as the trustees prepared to announce winners, who would be rewarded with prizes donated by shops and restaurants in the town. “What a wonderful day, and we’re happy that everybody was able to make this 27th annual Largest Clam Contest.”

A number of contestants were multiple winners this year. Among adults, Clint Bennett dug the largest clam from both Lake Montauk and Accabonac Harbor, at 2 pounds, 5 ounces and 1 pound, 1.4 ounces, respectively. Mr. Bennett had also shucked clams distributed to those in attendance. 

Ellis Rattray outdid that feat, his 15.1-ounce entry winning for Three Mile Harbor and 14.2-ounce clam taking honors for Accabonac Harbor, both in the junior division. To complete the hat trick, his estimate of 1,869 juvenile clams in a jar at the hatchery’s display came astonishingly close to the actual count of 1,848. 

Kenneth Reney’s 1 pound, 7.6-ounce entry took the prize for Three Mile Harbor’s adult division, and Curran O’Donnell, a perennial winner, took top honors for Lake Montauk’s junior division at 9.8 ounces. 

Suspense was high as the judges held a lengthy conference before conceding that they had erred. Hailey Lagarenne’s 1 pound, 11-ounce offering was in fact the largest taken from Napeague Harbor in the youth division, surpassing the 1 pound, 7-ounce offering from Merritt Bistrian Emptage, who was declared runner-up. 

But Cathy Fromm’s 2 pound, 9.6-ounce behemoth bested them all, winning the Amagansett resident top honors for both Napeague Harbor’s adult division and the contest’s overall largest. 

Quality was consistently high among the 10 entrants in the clam chowder competition. The contest’s three judges agreed that, for the second consecutive year, Jim Lubetkin’s New England chowder was without peer. “It’s an old Bonac recipe passed down through I don’t know how many generations,” he said. 

Another repeat winner was Kenneth Dodge of East Hampton, who humbly referred to his winning red concoction as very basic. “The trouble with white, to me, is that it’s harder to make than red,” he said. “You can put a whole bunch of crap in a red chowder and it turns out pretty good. But a white chowder depends on the judge because there’s so many variations, from here to Maine.” 

Mr. Dodge summarized the afternoon as the gathering dispersed. “It worked out well,” he said, “and I’m very happy.”

Cathy Fromm won for the largest clam overall at 2 pounds, 9.6 ounces, and the largest taken from Napeague Harbor.Durell Godfrey
Ellis Rattray, whose clams from Three Mile and Accabonac Harbors won him top honors in the youth division. Durell Godfrey
Hailey Lagarenne won for the largest clam taken from Napeague Harbor in the youth division.Durell Godfrey
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