SANTA CRUZ-As the annual Clam Chowder Cook-Off will begin for its 40th year, Santa Cruzans will be as pleased as a clam to see that the tradition continues on despite the pandemic. 

The Chowder Cook-Off this year is going to be a bit different like it was in the universe of COVID-19. The 40th celebration will be a take-out format for consumers to eat at home in an attempt to continue flattening the curve.

“The country’s largest and longest-running clam chowder competition has been reimagined for its 40th year with the health and safety of the community in mind,” read the statement from the Parks and Recreation Department of Santa Cruz. 

The department of Parks and Recreation is now trying to use the event to improve the local economy. In order to support local restaurants amid difficult economic times, the festival was rebranded as a restaurant week this year. 

The cook-off will only include this year’s Boston Clam Chowder. In the race, the novice and individual divisions will not be included. For local chowder lovers, there will also be the People’s Preference group.

A Clam Chowder Cook-Off Reimagined- Restaurant Week Passport can be bought by patrons for $10. A list of all restaurants competing in the cook-off will be included in the passport. It will also have a connection to the ballot for People Preference and a ticket for the cook-off raffle. 

On Feb. 1, passports go on sale, and from Feb. 15-21 is Restaurant Week.

In order to buy chowder from any of the participating restaurants, a passport is not required. 

Chowder lovers will even order a Santa Cruz Beach Boardwalk sampling flight for $12. In the interest of social distancing, by drive-thru, patrons can pick up their chowder flights. Six two-ounce taster cups of chowder from pre-selected Santa Cruz restaurants will be part of the flight.

On Feb. 20, the flights will be open and will also provide voting information. Before Feb. 20, however, clam chowder flights must be purchased. The Boardwalk plans to make flights available for purchase on Feb. 1, according to Karley Pope, director of sales and promotions at the Boardwalk, after all the restaurants are registered.

They can be reserved at until flights are available. 

For the 40th Annual Clam Chowder Cook-off, restaurants have until Jan. 31 to register. In mid-February, a list of the participating restaurants will be posted to the Santa Cruz Beach Boardwalk website. Restaurants at may register for $100.

Fans of Chowder will also be able to buy commemorative T-shirts on the same day at the River Parking lot on 3rd Street. 

A majority of the proceeds from the activities will go to the department of parks and recreation in the area.

In the past, Chowder Cook-Offs funds have gone to Parks and Recreation services such as the Junior Guards lifeguard scheme, separate summer camps, and the conversion into Spanish of activity guides. 

According to the Beach Boardwalk website, the Clam Chowder Cook-Off 2020 raised $81,000 for the Parks and Recreation agency.

However, much more has been posted by historical incidents. The Clam Chowder Cook-Off earned over $1.6 million in 1981. 

“This event is an important fundraiser for the Parks & Recreation Department of the City of Santa Cruz,” said Summer Lange, Recreation Supervisor, in a message. “This year, the funds raised will help us to continue to provide affordable access to these and other safe activity and recreation opportunities.”


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