Chowder, steamed clams first stop for many at Sebastian Clambake

SEBASTIAN — Thousands of locals and out-of-towners mixed and mingled at the annual Sebastian Clambake Festival, taking in the sights, sounds, smells and, of course, flavors of the event.

“It’s the best – hands down,” said Sherry Alvarez as she savored a bowl of clam chowder. “I waited 20 minutes in line and it was worth it.” “I’m a picky, picky eater,” she added, explaining that the chowder had the right amount of clams, right-sized potatoes, and real cream. “You can tell” it’s real cream.

Her husband, Joe, didn’t say much as his chowder held his attention.

For BJ Engleka and her family, food was the first stop once they arrived to the festival.

“Any chance I can get seafood,” she said, “I do.”

A snowbird from Pennsylvania, Engleka winters in Mt. Dora and made the drive to Sebastian to see her brother, John Hirsch, and sister-in-law, Carol Hirsch, who live in the area.

The Hirsches recently moved to the Sebastian area from South Dakota and took this as an opportunity to have fresh clams.

John Hirsch said that they don’t get fresh clams in South Dakota.

“They taste like rubber bands,” he said.

“These taste great,” Carol Hirsch said of the ones they were currently eating.

She added that she considered standing in line for the clam chowder but ultimately decided to get something else.

“I was hungry,” Hirsch said. “The line was too long.”

At points during the day, lines formed in front of the various food booths 50 people deep or deeper – waiting on chowder, fried clam strips, clam linguine and steamed clams, along with fried fish, pizza, hot dogs and sausages.

After chowing down on clams, festival goers meandered through rows of vendor booths, perusing the wares that ranged from jewelry and kids’ toys to fine art and woodwork.

The 3-day Sebastian Clambake and Lagoon Festival continues Saturday until 9 p.m. and Sunday from 10 a.m. to 5 p.m. at Riverview Park.

Parking and admission are free.

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