New clam-eating champ is crowned at Peter’s Clam Bar in Island Park


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.”

Long after proceeds from the clam-eating contest had helped South Shore fire departments recover from Sandy, the feeding frenzy continued.“The first two years we did it for different firehouses, Island Park, Oceanside. Whatever money we raised, we split it amongst the fire departments as they were rebuilding during Sandy,” D’Esposito said. “Once everything was rebuilt and there was no need for the fire departments to get the money, we said we have to keep doing this, so we moved it to first responder charities.”
Among the organizations that have benefited from the contest are the Nassau County Firefighters-Operation Wounded Warriors and the Nassau County Firefighters Museum and Education Center in Uniondale. This year funds are going to the Nassau County Firefighters Pipes and Drums, a non-profit organization.
“Over 40,000 clams have been donated by Butch since the contest has been going. There’s a lot of generosity that comes from right here at Peter’s,” D’Esposito said. “Coney Island has hot dogs. We have clams.”