Hundreds of spectators from aross Long Island gathered for the annual clam-eating comtest hosted by Peter’s Clam Bar in Island Park last Sunday. The friendly competition returned after it was on hold last year because of the coronavirus pandemic. This year the contest brought out some of the Island’s toughest stomachs.
Firefighters from Island Park, Glen Cove, Merrick and as far away as Southampton gathered to test their intestinal fortitude. First place went to Thomas DiBlasi, of the Merrick Fire Department, after he devoured 78 clams in the first round and 141 clams in total to win $2,500 for his firehouse. Alex Araya, of the Islip Fire Department, and Mike Leitke Sr., of the North Lindenhurst Fire Department tied for second, both polishing off 15 clams in the final round.
Peter’s owner Butch Yamali started hosting the contest after the Island Park Fire Department was decimated by Superstorm Sandy.
“It was a dark time after Sandy,” said Town Councilman Anthony D’Esposito, a former Island Park fire chief. “There was a lot of damage here, a lot of abandoned houses, unfortunately. The fire departments, whether it was Island Park, whether it was Long Beach, whether it was Oceanside, our fire departments became everything — community centers, emergency operation centers — because our [village] halls were completely flooded.”
Yalami and D’Esposito were speaking in August 2013, almost a year after Sandy hit. They had both grown up in Island Park. “Butch wanted to give back to the local firehouses,” D’Esposito said. “We happened to be watching the hot dog-eating contest [at Coney Island]. Butch said, ‘Why don’t we do it with clams?’ and here we are.”