Hundreds crowd in for annual Fire District 2 clambake
Over 200 people were packed into the District No. 2 Fire Station on Sunday afternoon for the Russells Mills Engine Company’s annual clambake — but tickets to the event were hard to come by.
This year they sold out a year in advance.
“We sell out every year,” said District Fire Chief Tim Andre. “People come from all over. I’ve had people who live in Florida call me to make sure they schedule their vacations around this event.”
Andre said that they used to serve over 400 people, but they cut it back in recent years to around 200.
“It was just too much,” he said.
Along with addressing the heaping plates of clams, corn, sweet potatoes, fish, sausage, and linguica, people chatted over beer and sodas and bought raffle tickets to bid on items like a bird house made with a license plate, plants, art, wine, and coolers full of beer and lobsters.
Proceeds from the event go towards several good causes: Scholarships, supporting needy families, the Shriners burn centers, and an organization that provides refreshments to those fighting fires.
Andre said that he also used to do the cooking for the event.
But eventually, he said, it became hard on his nerves. “I always get stressed out because I want it to go good,” he noted with a smile.
Several years ago, Andre and current bake master Kenny Gidley made wooden “coffins” out of plywood to cook the clams.
“We used to do the traditional bake, build up a pile of wood, rocks on top, fire it up...It’s a lot of work,” he said. “Now we eliminated the rocks and the firewood, and I’ve got my burners...It’s a lot simpler.”
Whatever tricks they used seemed to be working.
“This is really good,” said New Bedford resident Mary Bettencourt, who said it was her first time at the District 2 clambake. “The stuffing is good, the clams are really good, they’re nice and clean. It’s delicious.”
“I’m not gonna share with you, either,” she added with a grin.
“I love how they added the sweet potato,” said her friend Donna Brown. “It makes a big difference...It’s nice and sweet. You don’t even need the butter.”
“[The food]’s fantastic. It’s always good,” said Stacy Martin, who was eating with her family.
The Martins have been coming to the clambake for years, as Stacy’s husband Andy is a firefighter with Fire District 3.
“They’ve mastered this through the years,” Andy said. “They’ve really done a great job as far as making it so that every year it’s the same. You’re gonna get a good meal every year.”