It’s an awful lot of work, but certainly worth it, especially when you are cooking with friends. The 46th Annual Clambake, hosted by the Benjamin D. Cushing Veterans of Foreign Wars Post 2425, was held on Sunday and fed hundreds of people who sat at picnic tables in the sunshine on a perfect summer day. The menu included clams, sausage, fish, brown bread, regular potatoes, sweet potatoes, onions, corn on the cob and watermelon. Turkey was available for those who couldn’t eat shellfish.
The VFW team has perfected the details of the clambake over the years, and everything went smoothly and efficiently. The VFW team built the steaming structure in the days prior to the picnic. At the bottom of the pit were rocks. On top was layered wood and more rocks. Seaweed from Sippican Harbor was placed on top, and wet, white canvas sheets were placed on top. The fire was lit and the steam got started. The sheets of fabric were removed once everything got going.
Once the steam really got going, clams and other items were placed on top in wooden boxes and steamed. The entire setup was impressively large, about the size of four picnic tables back-to-back. A pitchfork lay in a giant pile of seaweed which would occasionally be used to feed the steaming piles of rocks and wood. The seaweed gives the food a salty flavor, which is the goal of a true New England clambake.
“It’s quite a procedure, which has been perfected over the years,” said Michael Lopes, a retired Department of Public Works employee for the town. While guests ate and enjoyed each other’s company, music played from a sound system with oldies and classics like “Midnight Train to Georgia” by Gladys Knight and the Pips.
All funds raised through the event support the programs run by the VFW and fund the ongoing maintenance of their facility.
“Our project this year is to repave our driveway,” said Rodney Hunt, Co-Chairman of the clambake. K.C. Barrows and Hunt organized the event with the help of many volunteers who boiled water for the corn and handled the clam steaming station. It was clear that the VFW excelled at organization and timing for all of the food to be ready at the same time.
The Ladies Auxiliary booth, controlled by Joyce McWilliams, a past state president, offered a 50/50 raffle and 10 gift baskets that were raffled off. McWilliams noted that she cut out and framed the recent Wanderer article naming Rodney Hunt as the winner of the Keel Award for Marion.
“It’s inside the VFW on the bulletin board so everyone can see it,” McWilliams said. “Rodney is our mainstay.”
In talking about the VFW Ladies Auxiliary, McWilliams said, “We help them, and they help us.” Last year, the Ladies Auxiliary donated 266 small American flags to schoolchildren in the community, donated to local hospitals and offered a Voice of Democracy scholarship to local students.
Bob Demeo, a three-time past Commander of the VFW Post, worked the bar. When asked who he was by this reporter, Demeo quickly replied, “Navy Veteran, Korean War, three years.” Demeo enjoyed his duty serving up beverages for the crowd.
With plenty of help, the event was a huge success.
By Joan Hartnett-Barry