Charlestown RI seafood festival....anyone going
I never made it to this on saturday but some friends of mine did and they said it was awful(they used a different word) and couldn't figure out how it's been going on for 26 years! He had one dish that said it was made with crab and it turned out to be fake crab and the person working it that booth had a heavy southern accent and wasn't from Rhode Island.
I went on Sunday, the last day, and while I know that my impressions won't help anyone decide anything this year, maybe next year somebody will scan the archives.
I'm not sure I'd use the word awful, but I don't have any plans to go back next year. Think carnival, county fair, that sort of atmosphere, with trailers full of deep fryers parked in rows. For those who are unaware, it's at Ninigret Park, a former airfield, so a vast expanse of sun-baked asphalt with (surprisingly, given its proximity to the water) no breeze. It was very hot. You pay $8 just to enter the grounds, which is no bargain. One area is food stalls, a couple of other areas are the likes of replacement window and basement waterproofing hucksters, a few vendors of inexpensive jewelry and a number of what looked to be Mexican or Guatemalan vendors of cheap clothing and other shchlock. At one end were a bunch of carnival rides, and there was a fairly large stage for the various live music acts.
The food was mostly forgettable. As was pointed out, very few are local, and no local restaurants were represented. But it was possible, with some careful observation, to buy fresh local seafood simply prepared. For example, the RI Shellfishermen's Association was selling local clams and oysters, shucked/opened on the spot. Boiled lobsters were reasonably local, and one of the vendors of same was from Charlestown. Some of the clamcake and/or stuffie vendors were local, as presumably were their ingredients. One outfit was selling nothing but freshly deep-fried (and quite good) whole belly clams. Another had, among other things, four kinds of chowder, but when it's 90 degrees in the broiling sun I just don't think of hot soup. Prices were about what I expected for most things, although $20 for a boiled lobster, a few potatoes and an ear of corn seemed like a lot, given the current New England lobster market. A dozen oysters was $10, the whole bellies with a side of fries were $12, for a good-sized portion.
But still ... it's really hot, and you're sitting at a picnic table with no shade and no breeze eating food out of a cardboard tray using a plastic fork, and you paid $8 just to walk in. Next time I'll pass.
Maybe what irked me more, is that to a large degree it didn't seem to really be supporting the local economy that much. I'm more accustomed to food vendors at these sorts of things being local civic organizations and such, so that if the food is so-so, I at least know I'm supporting the local rescue service, town library association, FFA, whatever. The $8 admission here went to the Charlestown Chamber of Commerce, but as noted, most of the vendors were from out of town or out of state, there just for profit. I saw not one recognizable local civic or charitable organization.
Oh, and "eye candy"? Don't know what festival im hungry went to, but it wasn't the same one I went to.