Sebastian’s Clambake helping more than charities this year

SEBASTIAN — For the last dozen years, the Sebastian Clambake Festival has served up countless iterations of clam dishes and fed an untold number of hungry patrons all while raising money for local charities and groups. This year, the event has expanded to be a donation site for food stuffs to help the Roseland Ecumenical Food Pantry.

“You don’t have to be homeless to be hungry,” Clambake Foundation President Anjani Cirillo said of the group’s expanded role this year, adding that there is a real hunger need in North County.

Jaya Canterbury-Counts, a council member of the Ecumenical Food Pantry, said that, while the group has taken cash donations during Clambake, this is the first time they’d be actively seeking and collecting non-perishable canned and boxed food items.

Most of those items will be used to supplement the 100 or so Thanksgiving or Christmas dinner boxes volunteers will pack up and give to local families, Canterbury-Counts said.

Monthly, it costs the food pantry approximately $4,000 to $5,000 to provide the food assistance the area needs, she said, adding that the need outpaces the supply, “even though the economy seems to be improving.”

During the three-day festival, visitors are encouraged to drop off canned and boxed goods at the Ecumenical Food Pantry’s booth along Sebastian Boulevard, opposite the CavCorp parking lot.

While the Clambake Foundation added the food collection to this year’s event, one activity has been dropped – the Clam Chowder Cook-Off.

Cirillo cited the declining number of entrants, the intense manpower needed, and the lack of a return on investment as reasons for canceling the cook-off this year.

She said she hopes to bring it back in a couple years – provided there’s enough interest from the public.

But despite the loss of the cook-off, Cirillo said she’s looking forward to a great festival full of tasty clammy treats.

“There is a great joy in feeding people,” she said. “It’s a spiritual experience. Besides, everyone has to eat!”

The Clambake Festival continues Friday until 9 p.m. and through the weekend – Saturday from 9:30 a.m. to 9 p.m. and Sunday from 9:30 a.m. to 5 p.m. Food is served throughout the day until it’s gone.

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