Beach Haven — Labor Day may signal the end of summer, but Chowderfest Weekend is a celebration to look forward to Oct. 5-6 at the Taylor Avenue ballfield in Beach Haven.
Sunday’s Chowderfest, the famous cook-off, is stirred further for ticketholders on Oct. 6 by live music and fall festival moments. Kicking it off on Saturday, Oct. 5 is Merchants Mart, the free event featuring dozens of merchants selling end-of-season bargains and services, plus food and entertainment.
“It’s the biggest party of the year,” said Lori Pepenella, chief executive officer of the Southern Ocean County Chamber of Commerce. “You don’t want to miss it; enjoying welcoming fall with a few thousand of your closest friends.”
This epic two-day festival under big top tents is held rain or shine, short of a full blowout, which has only happened once in the event’s 31 years. It has become a ritual to welcome fall.
“Started by Southern Ocean County Chamber of Commerce in 1989 to extend the season and to keep merchants and restaurants open past Labor Day, it is now synonymous with the island itself,” says the chamber.
“Each restaurant prepares over 200 gallons of their secret recipe to provide unlimited samples to earn their vote in the Red, White and Creative categories. Ticketholders get to experience the themed booths, enthusiastic servers and a number of surprises under the big tents as they decide their favorite.”
The list of competitors signed up so far includes:
White (New England-style) chowder – The Chicken or the Egg, Kubel’s Too, Hotel LBI, Ocean County College, Bread & Brine.
Red (Manhattan) chowder – Bistro 14, Black Whale Bar & Fish House, Cluck’n Crabs, Lefty’s Tavern, The Mainland.
Creative seafood chowder – Breakers Kitchen and Tap, Buckalew’s, Country Kettle Chowda, Cuisine on the Green, La Bamba, The Woo Hoo.
The Chowder Cook-Off heats up at 11 a.m., but VIP ticket-holders get the early advantage of tasting at 10 a.m. VIPs also receive an official Taster’s T-shirt, and access to the Bud Lite Big Screen Beer Garden.
Tickets can be purchased at chowderfest.com or the Southern Ocean County Chamber office at 265 West 9th St., Ship Bottom. General admission is $30 each, VIP tickets are $65 each, children up to age 12 are $10 each, and under age 3 get in free.
The live music lineup scheduled to perform on Sunday is Ted Hammock and Jason Booth, The Pickles and The Impulsives.
Winners of the Cook-Off Classic are announced during closing ceremonies at approximately 4 p.m., with Master of Ceremonies Glenn Kalina of Beasley Media Group.
Parking can be made easier on Sunday by taking the free Chowder Shuttle, which stops at parking lots located at 42nd Street, 68th Street and 95th Street (all in Long Beach Township.)
The day before, Saturday, Oct. 5, holds plenty of celebration as well, and this portion of the weekend is free.
Besides the merchants marketplace, Saturday in the park is filled with activities. The Chowdasaurus (also known as Crunchy the T-Rex) fascinatingly frightens all ages, but really he is friendly.
A food court has specialties for purchase, and beer, hard cider and wine are available. The line of exclusive Chowdawear is out, and there are activities and crafts for children. Live music is by Garage Kept, 40 North, and Jimmy Brogan Band.
For the adults both days, a select variety beers on tap and hard ciders can be purchased. They include Bud Light, Landshark Lager, Blue Point Toasted Lager, Spaten Oktoberfest, Goose Island IPA, Stella Cidre, Strongbow and McKenzie Black Cherry. Wine by the glass and spritzers will be provided by Barefoot Wines.
The chamber of commerce invites patrons to come by land or by sea. On Saturday and Sunday the Beach Haven/Tuckerton Seaport ferry, powered by the Southern Ocean Chamber, is running free of charge. The ferry’s “Chowderfest Express” will depart from the Tuckerton Seaport at 8 a.m., 11 a.m., 2 p.m. and 5 p.m. (last return trip to Beach Haven). The ferry leaves from the Beach Haven Municipal Dock, Ninth Street, at 9:30 a.m., 12:30 p.m., 3:30 p.m., 6:30 p.m. (last return trip to Tuckerton.) If riders choose to go on standby, there is no charge. If they want to be assured of reservations, they can do so at a charge of $5 per trip by signing up on the website lbiferry.com.
Sponsors of the weekend events are Sysco Foods, The SandPaper/Beachcomber, Bud Light, Ritchie & Paige Distributors, Barefoot Wines, Westminster Bakers Company, TD Bank, Ocean County Board of Chosen Freeholders, and NJ Division of Travel and Tourism. Special thank-yous go to Panzone’s Pizza & Pasta, Barlow Auto Group, Atlantic States Group, Fantasy Island Amusement Park, and G Anderson Agency.
— Maria Scandale