For some, it’s been described as a “life-or-death” contest, according Peter’s Clam Bar owner Butch Yamali, but for most it’s just good, clam-eating fun.
Now in it’s sixth year, Peter’s Clam Eating Contest draws hundreds of local firefighters and competitors from all over — including some from out of state — to the small seafood eatery overlooking the bay, where contestants unbuckle their belts and ready to slurp thousands of clams — all for a good cause. Last year, the contest netted roughly $10,000 for the Wounded Warrior Project and this year, on Aug. 19, all proceeds will go to the Nassau County Firefighters Museum.
“It started because we wanted to show we’re still alive and kicking,” Yamali said, noting how badly damaged the area was in Hurricane Sandy. In the years since then, the event has become a community celebration, drawing firefighters from neighboring communities as well as celebrity competitive eaters such as Ed “Cookie” Jarvis and Takeru Kobayashi.
Contest co-organizer Anthony D’Esposito, a former chief in the Island Park Fire Department and an Island Park native, said he was pleased to see the contest becoming a tradition.
“It’s been spreading that’s for sure,” he said of interest in the event. “It’s definitely taken on some legs.”
The contest is divided into two rounds and multiple heats, with 12 contestants per heat. The first round consists of first responders, and is a more casual affair. “They’re just having fun competing against their local firehouses,” Yamali said.
But in the second round, where the competitors could be anyone, the intensity is ratcheted up a notch, or 10. “It’s like life or death,” Yamali said as the contestants try to slurp their way to a cash prize.
While the competition is stiff, in a way, everyone’s a winner at clam-eating contest, which is rapidly becoming regional event approaching Nathan’s Famous hotdog-eating contest in Coney Island. “Everybody eats themselves into a coma,” Yamali remarked. “It’s a good thing.”