By Arthur Gonick
SARATOGA SPRINGS – Now in it’s 17th year, Chowderfest is nothing less than a happening. Over time, it has ascended to a level where it rivals any event in this area. What makes Chowderfest distinctive is the time of year it occurs (this year’s event is on Saturday, Jan. 31 from 11 a.m. to 4 p.m.), it’s tasty, and every year it keeps growing, growing, growing!
Last year, The Saratoga Convention and Tourism Bureau, which coordinates the event, was pleased to hit a high-mark of 86 chowder outlets throughout downtown Saratoga Springs. In 2015, they have 92 at press time. Even so, don’t expect anyone to be standing around with a ladle, because year after year, chowder-loving consumers (with an emphasis on “consume”) descend upon downtown regardless of weather. Last year, just over 130,000 servings were enjoyed by an estimated 30,000 people.
All the restaurants and purveyors are competing for your vote in a variety of categories. A triumph in any of them assures the winner bragging rights for an entire year. In fact, let us salute the 2014 winners one more time:
2014 Chowderfest Winners:
People's Choice - Merry Monk
Most Chowder Served - Druthers
Best On Broadway - Stadium Cafe
Best Off Broadway - Olde Bryan Inn
Best Dessert - Bettie's Cakes
Best Newcomer - Thirsty Owl
Best Non Downtown - Fifty South
Best Chowder - Under 1,000 Served - Panza’s Restaurant
Dog Chow Down - Milton Manor Pet Spa
It’s a point of pride that spurs participants go all out to win your vote, and you get to enjoy the delicious consequences!
As in previous years, the voting procedure is relatively simple:
- Pick up your official ballot at a number of places downtown.
- Now the fun: sample to your heart’s content. Chowders cost $1 for a 3 oz. sample. Taste as many chowders at as many locations as you like and when you spot a favorite, pick up one of the participants’ stickers and place it on your ballot (don’t worry – they’ll have plenty.)
- Completed ballots will have five stickers from participating businesses and can be turned in at the Saratoga Springs Visitor Center or the Saratoga Springs City Center (11 a.m. - 4 p.m.) or the Saratoga Downtowner Motel (from 2 - 4 p.m.)
- For an additional $10, Chowderfest attendees with a completed ballot can take home an official long-sleeve Chowderfest T-shirt with this year’s logo (2XL shirts are $12.) These have become collector’s items – further evidence of Chowderfest’s popularity.
- The tabulations will be going on all afternoon and winners are to be announced inside the Saratoga Springs City Center at 6:30 p.m. that evening.
Other Highlights of Saturday’s Chowderfest:
- Free Shuttles
A great new addition to Chowderfest. You can avoid any parking inconveniences and get on a free shuttle from two locations. Buses will be running from the Wilton Mall at Saratoga (next to Dick’s Sporting Goods) to the Post Office, and from Saratoga Casino & Raceway (Jefferson Street Entrance) to Congress Park from 10-6. Just follow the parking signs at either location.
- Dog Chow Down
Also, coming back for the seventh year in a row will be the “Dog Chow Down,” with special chowders made for your canine friends. And at 1 p.m. the contestants making dog chowder will go head to head to win the coveted Best Dog Chowder trophy in the Saratoga Downtownerparking lot (413 Broadway.) The Chow Down will feature Mayor Joanne Yepsen and her dog; both will help to choose the trophy winner.
For more information, visit Discoversaratoga.org/Chowderfest or call (518) 584-1531.