Chowdafest

Westport, CT 06880

203-216-8452

I took my family up to Maine during the winter holidays in 2004.  We loved the decorations, festiveness of the various towns and of course, Santa coming to town on a tug boat through light flurries.   Strolling the streets, we stumbled across an amateur chowder contest held at the bottom of a local library.  Being a self proclaimed 'Chowder Head', I had to see what it was all about.  We made a donation at the door and was given a spoon along with a stern warning not to lose my spoon as it was the only one you would get.  Off we went to sample some great home cooking and place our voting tickets into buckets in front of each competitor.  Never found out who won but tucked the idea of a chowder contest away in my head as something maybe we should do in CT.

Having worked in restaurants during high school and college, I had more than a few friends in the business.

In 2008 when the economy was really tanking and restaurants were having a hard time making a go of it, I thought of Chowdafest as a way to help promote them through the tough times.  Of course, they weren't the only ones going through difficult times so I made the event a fundraiser for the food bank too.

We started with just a dozen chefs & restaurants and held the first event in 2008 at the Unitarian Church in Westport.  We quickly outgrew the facility as more restaurants and more people discovered the event.  Two years later we moved into Bedford Middle School in Westport and after two years there, the parking lots of both the middle school and high school could not accommodate the crowds!  We held our competitions during the winter of course because that's the best time for soup and deliberately scheduled our event on the SOUPer Bowl each year.  It was a great day as most people are killing time until the big game kicks off later that night and restaurants are generally slow that day.  People came out in droves for our pre-Super Bowl event, wore their favorite team jersey and treated us as a king size tailgate party.  

I was telling a friend who worked at the Webster Bank Arena in Bridgeport that we should move the event to the arena as we had become that big.  I was kidding of course but he wasn't when he said "I think you're right".  Soon we were filling the floor of the same arena Sir Elton John and the UConn Huskies do.  The arena has been a great home for us these past two years but we reached capacity in just 30 minutes of opening our doors last year and needed to find more room.

We decided to move our event outdoors and pleased to announce our new home will be Calf Pasture Beach in Norwalk this October.  With six of our past twelve award winners coming from the city and now that we are holding the event there, Norwalk is officially the Chowder Capital of CT.  Our new seaside location is perfect for our event and Norwalk has a tremendous seafaring history.  October is a perfect month as it there's a chill in the air reminding all that colder weather is on it's way and it's time for a bowl of chowder or soup again.  It's also football season so we can keep our "soup"er bowl theme and tailgate feel.  The autumn colors are the perfect back drop to this quintessential New England festival.  Hope to see you at this years event.  Don't worry, you'll get your spoon and stern warning not to lose it.  We actually compost the spoons after you're done with it as we're a zero waste event too.

Many thanks go out to family, friends and volunteers who come together each year to help orchestrate this wonderful event.  Special acknowledgement to my "A-Team" staff, daughter Casey, Dave Linde, SHU student volunteers along with great sponsors who have become friends who shared the vision and get more involved each year.

Images provided by AmericanTowns.com, Ticketmaster
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