The day could not have been more picture-perfect as the aroma of chowder – commonly referred to as “chowdah” around these parts – wafted across the fields outside the Knights of Columbus hall in Mattapoisett on September 8. By 1:00 pm, the parking lot was nearly filled to capacity as families and supporters came in droves to sample chowders and vote on which ones were their favorites at the 5th Annual Mattapoisett Firefighters Association Chowder Competition.
Adding to the backdrop of the event, fire trucks of all shapes and sizes were on display. A ladder truck from the Rochester Fire Department held an enormous American flag high above the parking lot situated along Route 6. It was impressive to see fire apparatuses from Rochester and Mattapoisett lined up, giving the community a real sense of the size of the equipment needed to protect life and property and the men and women who must operate that equipment with precision and safety. No small task.
Under the big tent were the competitors with their implements of mass feeding – over-sized industrial strength crock-pots. This year’s competitors from the municipal public safety competition were the Rochester Firefighters Association, Fairhaven Fire Department, Mattapoisett Police Department, and Town of Rochester Facility Department, in addition to several other area restaurants entered in the professional establishment competition.
Over at the Rochester Firefighters Association table, Deputy Chief Albert Weigel was keeping a crock-pot lid on his special ingredients. But The Wandererdid overhear that it was the fresh clams, potatoes, and bacon, with “new tweaks” every year that made the difference.
Speaking of clams, not all these chowders were clam-based. There were also some special appearances made by scallops and crabs, too.
In the business competition, some of the chowders featured scallops and, yes, bacon, which was a
serious staple of some of the recipes, even crumbled on top. Others mixed things up a bit, with one competitor, for example, offering up a special Cajun crab and corn chowder (Bacon was not mentioned, in case you were wondering).
Mattapoisett Patrol Officer Paul Andrews was stirring the pot at the Mattapoisett PD table as he has been doing for the last five years. He said in the past his chowder won the coveted People’s Choice Award.
And, again, turning our attention to that favorite salty, savory delight – bacon, it clearly was a not-so-secret ingredient, as most of the chefs confirmed it was indeed in the pot. But Andrew Daniel of the Rochester Facilities Department said of his chowder, “It’s all seafood. We’ve got everything in here.” And, of course, he didn’t hold bacon.
Outside the tent, however, was where the real action took place. Kids, kids, and more kids enjoyed climbing on the fire trucks, ringing the bell, running, spraying water, and generally having a ball. It is, after all, an event that brings out young families, sprinkled with a few very supportive older folks. It is an event for not only Mattapoisett, but also surrounding communities to come together, eat, have some fun, and enjoy being together.
But, what about the competition? Taking the People’s Choice award in the category of Public Safety was the Rochester Facilities Department. The Rochester FD also took first place overall in this category. Taking second place was the Mattapoisett Police Department, and third place went to the Rochester Firefighters Association.
People’s Choice award for Professional Establishments once again went to The Inn at Shipyard Park. The inn was also voted first place winner overall in this category. Taking second place in Professional Establishments was 143 Market.
Mattapoisett Fire Chief Andrew Murray said, “One-hundred percent of the money raised at this event goes back into the community… It goes towards scholarships, safety equipment, and programs that benefit the people.”
One program heavily featured this year was the MMR Hose Company Explorers. Young people between the ages of 14 – 18 living in Marion, Mattapoisett, and Rochester can enroll and learn about the opportunities and responsibilities in first responder careers such as fire, police, EMS, and the military. This is the third year for the program. Instructor Tracy Eldridge said they are currently recruiting for this year’s program. Interested high school students may contact Mattapoisett Fire Department Lt. Justin Dubois at email@example.com or call 508-758-4150.
By Marilou Newell