Saratoga Convention & Tourism Bureau

The Saratoga Convention and Tourism Bureau, sits down with Saratoga.com for a 10 Questions interview. Learn interesting and fun facts about Chowderfest! You know, the event that happens annually during Winterfest!

Chowderfest

1. When did Chowderfest first start?

First launched in 1998, Saratoga Springs' Chowderfest has endured and grown throughout the years and will soon celebrate its 15th anniversary in 2013! Chowderfest was created as a small part of the original Winterfest when the president of the Saratoga Convention & Tourism Bureau at the time wanted to get the organization involved. It started in 1998.

2. How did the idea originate?

Chowderfest was created as a small part of the original Winterfest when the president of the Saratoga Convention & Tourism Bureau at the time wanted to get the organization involved.

I have records that go back to 2002 and in that year there were 18 participants. In 2012 we had over 75 participants!

3. How much has it grown over the years?

We have records that go back to 2002 and in that year there were 18 participants. In 2013 we had 71 participants who sold 115,000 samples of chowder in 5 hours! We have added music all around the town, closed streets, created new categories for winners and included many additional downtown businesses.

4. Tell us more about Winterfest.

Winterfest is a variety of events happening in Saratoga on a particular winter weekend, this year it will be February 1-3rd. There is a wine tasting, snowshoeing, and of course Chowderfest! More info on Winterfest events can be found at www.discoversaratoga.org. We are updating Winterfest information as event information comes in.

5. What do you think has made Chowderfest so popular?

One of the attractions of Chowderfest is that it is an affordable, fun thing to do on a chilly (sometimes cold and sometimes balmy...you never know with the weather in the great Northeast) February day with friends and family. It's usually right around this time of year that cabin fever starts to set in and people are looking for a fun, outdoor event. Saratoga's Chowderfest certainly does not disappoint with top-notch restaurants competing for the best chowder (in several categories); its kid and dog friendly environment and the energy from the throngs of Chowderheads (as they are affectionately known) bring the small city alive.

6. What is your favorite part of Chowderfest?

One of the best parts of Chowderfest is watching people have so much fun and hearing the laughter. It is crazy how so many people come out, all bundled up, and stand in lines to get the sample of warm chowder. Everyone seems to be having such a great time! The restaurants get so excited about the competition aspect of Chowderfest (not to mention the business it bring in on a cold February day). They display the winning framed certificates on their walls all year round.

7. Tell us about the “Doggie Chow-Down”?

Visitors can also bring their four-legged family members as there are participants serving dog chowder. In 2008, a couple of the participating retail stores came up with the idea of creating "doggie" chowder for the 4-legged visitors that are also welcome for this event. It was an instant hit and has become a staple. In order to crown a Best Doggie Chowder winner, the participating vendors gather in the Saratoga Downtowner Motel parking lot right on Broadway, where the current Mayor of Saratoga Springs brings his own canine to perform "Official Judge" duties. The furry celebrity judge lets his nose do the work and choses a winner each year. The winner is awarded a trophy to be displayed in their store until the following year's competition. From its inception, the number of dogs (and their owners) who come to watch has at least doubled!

8. What types of chowder can people expect to see?

People can find gluten-free chowder, vegetarian chowder, vegan chowder, seafood chowder, beer chowder, corn chowder, dog chowder, southwestern chowder, chicken chowder, and last year we created an award for the best chowder-themed dessert. We had cupcakes, ice cream, frozen yogurt, and pudding in the running. The award went to Bettie's Cakes who had a chowder-themed cupcake. Many of the restaurants let us know the name of their chowder so you can find out the types of chowder being served!

9. What happens when all the chowder is gone?

When Chowderfest officially ends at 4 p.m., people tend to linger and eat, drink and shop downtown. More people come from greater distances now, thanks in part to social media, staying overnight and enjoying Saratoga's vibrant nightlife. It is amazing to see how so many people come out, all bundled up, and stand in lines to get a sample of warm chowder. Everyone seems to be having such a great time! The restaurants get so excited about the competition aspect of Chowderfest. They display the winning framed certificates on their walls all year round if they are one of the lucky ones to earn such recognition.

10. Describe Chowderfest in one word:

FUN!!!

Learn more about Saratoga's Chowderfest and Winterfest right here!

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