East Hampton's Fairest, and Largest, Clams of Them All

Harry Lagarenne took honors in the East Hampton Town Trustees' Largest Clam Contest for Napeague Harbor with a 2-pound, .9-ounce monster, and also won for the largest clam over all. Durell Godfrey

The skies were gray, but spirits were high and the chowder steaming as the East Hampton Town Trustees held their 26th annual Largest Clam Contest on Sunday at the Donald Lamb Building in Amagansett.

The event, which serves to educate the public as to the trustees' role in town government and celebrate the bounty of the waterways under their jurisdiction, brought a few hundred visitors to the grounds of the Lamb Building, which houses the trustees' offices. East Hampton Town Councilman Fred Overton's Bonac chowder, a perennial favorite, was served to the eager gathering, and a long line snaked toward the raw bar throughout the afternoon.

Barley Dunne, director of the town's shellfish hatchery, explained the work he and his team do to seed town harbors with shellfish and keep the waters pristine, and members of the East End Classic Boat Society sold raffle tickets for the Pooduck skiff they built this year. The boat will be raffled in December. A band led by Job Potter performed music throughout the afternoon.

The late Stuart Vorpahl, a bayman and trustee, was recalled when Nicole Castillo of Citizens for Access Rights, a group that formed in response to lawsuits challenging the public's right to drive on two stretches of ocean beach on Napeague, presented a $5,000 donation to the trustees in his memory. The town and trustees are defendants in the lawsuits brought by private property owners.

"There was no greater advocate for public use, access, and ownership of East Hampton's beaches than Stuart Vorpahl," Ms. Castillo said, "and he was never afraid to share his opinion. With Stuart's passing, our town has lost not only a great man with a treasure trove of history, but the town's biggest supporter of the trustees and their continued relevance and importance."

Their appetites satiated, those in attendance gathered as Tyler Armstrong, a trustee, announced the adult and junior winners who had dug the largest clam from each of four harbors. Clams harvested from Lake Montauk, Three Mile Harbor, Accabonac Harbor, and Napeague Harbor were held at local seafood shops until the competition, after which they were returned to their aquatic home.

Curran O'Donnell, a winner last year, took junior honors for both Accabonac Harbor (1 pound, .9 ounces) and Lake Montauk (12.8 ounces). A 1 pound, 2.1-ounce specimen won his brother, Patrick, a prize for Three Mile Harbor, and James Bradley took both the largest from Napeague Harbor and largest over all in the junior division with a 1-pound, 5.4-ounce clam.

Among the adult competitors, Harry Lagarenne took honors for Napeague Harbor with a 2-pound, .9-ounce monster, also winning for the largest clam over all. Clint Bennett won in the adult competition for both Lake Montauk (1 pound, 7.2 ounces) and Three Mile Harbor (1 pound, 7.8 ounces), and Bill Solimeno's 1-pound, 13-ounce entry was tops from Accabonac Harbor.

The clam chowder contest, judged by this reporter and Burt Van Deusen, saw eight delectable entries. The judges were initially split, making for a difficult, even agonizing decision. In the end, Jim Lubetkin's "very traditional Bonac chowder" was deemed the day's finest. The recipe, said Mr. Lubetkin, who described himself as an amateur chef but recently won awards for his kitchen creations at the Long Island Fair in Old Bethpage, was passed down through generations of the Dominy family, to which his former wife belongs.

As the day concluded, Mr. Armstrong had a final message. "Keep clamming," he told the gathering, "and keep the harbors healthy."
 

Jim Lubetkin's traditional Bonac chowder was deemed the day's finest. Durell Godfrey
Judges of the Largest Clam Contest -- Bill Taylor and Francis Bock in back and Joe LaCarrubba and James DiSunno in front -- weighed one of the contestants.Durell Godfrey
Tim Bock and Brian Byrnes ladled out Fred Overton's famous Bonac chowder, served every year at the event to much praise.Durell Godfrey
Joan Brill enjoyed a bowl of Mr. Overton's famous chowder. Durell Godfrey
Clint Bennett, center, dug the largest clams from Lake Montauk (1 pound, 7.2 ounces) and Three Mile Harbor (1 pound, 7.8 ounces).Durell Godfrey
As a long line of people waited for free clams on the half shell, Harry Lagarenne, Jim Lagarenne, and Paul Roman shucked and shucked and shucked.Durell Godfrey