Cheers to 30 Years! Chowderfest Weekend Is Sept. 29-30

Guide to Navigating the Festivities
Sep 26, 2018
Photo by: Ryan Morrill

Chowderfest Weekend, as it has evolved over three decades, is now said to set Long Beach Island as the “Chowder Capital” of New Jersey, says the presenting Southern Ocean County Chamber of Commerce.

Favorite restaurants face off for the tastiest chowder – and you’re the judge. That’s the essence of the anticipated Chowderfest on Sunday, Sept. 30, but  a whole weekend surrounds the 30th year of the iconic celebration. Merchants Mart Marketplace brings blowout bargains to the tables at the same Taylor Avenue ballfield in Beach Haven amid festivities on Saturday.

As many as 15,000 ticket-holders chowder down at Sunday’s Cook-Off Classic to the tastes of 19 entries in the red, white and creative chowder categories. Restaurants signed up early this year – energy is high.

After unlimited tasting from 11 a.m. (10 a.m. for VIP ticket-holders) to 4 p.m. Sunday, votes are counted to declare the determined winners, who hoist their trophies at the closing ceremony.

Competitors are: (White/New England) Country Kettle Chowda; Chicken or the Egg; Howard’s Restaurant; Tucker’s Tavern, Wally’s; and Polly’s Dock.

(Red/Manhattan) Lefty’s Tavern; Buckalew’s; Stefano’s; Ocean County College Hospitality Program; Bistro 14; Black Whale Bar & Fish House.

(Creative) Delaware Ave. Oyster House; La Bamba; SunnyRae’s Kitchen; The Woo Hoo; Blue Water Café; Cuisine on the Green; and the first international competitor, Nancy’s Barn of Ballyliffen, Ireland.

That’s the “when” and “who” of the weekend; here’s the “where” and “how.” A note on how to get to the Chowderfest grounds, located behind Bay Village at Taylor Avenue and Ninth Street: Some may want to use the festival’s complimentary shuttle, running from 10 a.m. to 6 p.m. at three locations along Long Beach Boulevard – 42nd Street in Brant Beach; 68th Street at the township Municipal Building, also in Brant Beach; and 95th Street by the Acme Market in Beach Haven Park. Free parking is available as well, on nearby lots and streets.

Now for the “how much.”

The Merchants Mart on Saturday is free.

The Chowder Cook-Off on Sunday requires tickets. It heats up for the general public at 11 a.m.; however, those who buy VIP tickets get early access, at 10 a.m.

Toddlers younger than 3 get free admission. Ticket costs for the Cook-Off are: Children ages 4 to 12 – $10; General admission – $30; VIP – $65.

VIPs also receive an official Taster’s T-shirt, and entry to the Bud Lite Big Screen Bar with dedicated food and beverage service. The 2018 VIP advantage is brought to you by Southern Ocean Medical Center.

Tickets can be purchased at the gate, but there are several ways to get them early. Go on the website or call the Southern Ocean County Chamber at 609-494-7211; stop into its Visitor Center at 265 West Ninth St. in Ship Bottom; or email to

Clams by the thousands aren’t the only thing on the menu. There’s a food court selling hot dogs; sausage with peppers and onions; grilled chicken with roasted peppers; baked goods, including “elephant ears”; ice cream; bottled water; soda; and coffee.

Chowder goes down well with beer, wine and hard cider on tap.

A crowd-pleasing live music lineup features Ted Hammock and Jason Booth, The Pickles and The Impulsives.

Children’s activities are scheduled, including face painting from Sprinkles the Clown and Sarah Cannovo. Drip Paint Coaster Art by the Lotus Project will also be available throughout out the day. Watch for Crunchy the T-Rex Dinosaur sightings from noon to 1 p.m. and 2 to 3 p.m.

Merchants Mart Marketplace

A Free Attraction Saturday

From 10 a.m. to 5 p.m. Saturday, Merchants Mart Marketplace officially kicks off Chowderfest Weekend.

It’s a free-admission experience of shopping under the big tents for local bargains and specialty items, along with gourmet food, live music, children’s activities and good times on tap.

Dozens of chamber members will be offering end-of-season bargains, and it’s also a nice place to meet community organizations face to face.

Exhibitors signed up as of a week before the event are: Advantage Screen Printing; Albrecht Island Air; Armiano & Son Construction, LLC; Avalon Flooring; Bahama Llama; Bath Fitter; Better Quality Linens; Book Depot; Bywatyr Shop; Carl’s Fencing Decking & Home Improvements; Chick’s LBI Shop; Cutco Cutlery; FACES 4 Autism; Feeling Swell; Garabedian Realty Group; German Shorthaired Pointer Rescue of NJ; Hackensack Meridian Health Services Southern Ocean Medical Center; Holiday Snack Bar; Holy Trinity Lutheran Church; Island Teak & Firefly Gallery; Jack Rak; JDM Andrews Construction Inc.; Jersey Shore Air Adventures; Jetty; Jetty Rock Foundation; John Payesko Photography; JS PRO Construction; Karing with Kindness; Keller Williams Preferred Properties; Kitchen Magic; LBI Recreation; LBI Surf Fishing Classic; Le Ente Cosmetics Boutique; Long Beach Island Historical Society; Long Beach Township; LuLaRoe/Lindsey Finn; Making Waves; Maximilian Foundation; The Mod Hatter; Naturally Home Consulting, LLC; New York Life Insurance Co.; NJR Home Services; Northpoint Solutions, LLC; Pacesetter Realty; Ralph’s Flags/Just Desserts; ReClam the Bay; Re/Max at Barnegat Bay/Ken Nilson; Renewal By Andersen; Sara Jane/Stillwell Farms; Shades of Beach Haven; Shore Brake Cyclery; Shore Builders Group; Smart Homz; Smiles by Dr. Santos; Soroptimist International of LBI; South-End Surf ’N Paddle; Southern Rams Football; Spray Beach Yacht Club; Sunsations; Sunspace of the Jersey Shore; Supreme Security Systems; SwellColors Glass Studio; The Mod Hatter; Two Giants Photography; VRLBI Rentals; Walters Homes; Weichert, Realtors LBI; Woodhaven Lumber & Millwork; World Famous Hot Sauce.

Free children’s entertainment will include hands-on crafts from The Learning Experience. Home Depot is bringing a free workshop for kids. The face can match the fun of the place with face painting by Sprinkles the Clown and Sarah Cannovo, Drip Paint Coaster Art will be presented by the Lotus Project, and Crunchy the T-Rex Dinosaur will stomp on scene from noon to 1 p.m. and 2 to 3 p.m.

The chamber has added an anniversary play area for older teens and adults this year; show off your skills at Cornhole and Jenga.

For the adults, beers on tap and hard ciders will 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, another festival first.

The musical lineup for Saturday begins with Garage Kept, continues with 40 North and closes with the Jimmy Brogan Band.

Chamber Notes Other

Weekend Events

Proceeds earned from Chowderfest Weekend have gone to providing decades of financial support to hundreds of local charities and events, as well as scholarships to Pinelands Regional, Southern Regional and Barnegat high schools. In honor of the 30th, last year’s restaurants voted for a qualifying nonprofit to be the Chowder for A Cause Charity to benefit from net proceeds of the 2018 event. David’s Dream & Believe Cancer Foundation was selected.

The chamber wants visitors and residents to know they can make the most of the weekend by attending other regional events.

Saturday night, Sept. 29, there is a 5 p.m. performance of Surflight Theatre’s presentation, The Best of Abba Tribute Band “Dancing Dream.” Tickets can be purchased online at

Across the bay in Tuckerton on both Saturday and Sunday, it’s time for the 36th annual Ocean County Decoy & Gunning Show, highlighting the culture of the Barnegat Bay region. Take the Chowderfest Express Water Ferry, as it is set to debut Sept. 29. It is expected to sail across the bay between the dock at Taylor Avenue and the Tuckerton Seaport.

For those over 21, find out more about the Surf and Sip Brew Trail at, and for families looking to explore LBI, go to the website Lodging and other information are on the chamber website at

For any Chowderfest Weekend updates, as well as real-time info, the event has its Official LBI Chowderfest Facebook page. The Southern Ocean County Chamber of Commerce office is located at 265 West Ninth St., Ship Bottom, phone 609-494 7211.

Both days of Chowderfest Weekend are held rain or shine. In 30 years, the skies have sent forth all varieties of rain, shine and in between, but except for one year, it’s always been chowder weather.

— Maria Scandale

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