June 29, 2022

Essex Shad Bake to be Held June 4, Event Serves up CT History

Connecticut River shad baking in front of fire on oak planks.

ESSEX – Fifty-eight years ago, the Rotary Club of Essex introduced the quintessential New England shoreline tradition; a dining experience Yankee Magazine has called one of the “Top 20 Summer Events” – the Essex Annual Shad Bake.

The Shad Bake returns on Saturday, June 4, to the Connecticut River Museum (CRM), from 3 to 6:30 p.m. It is made possible by the support of lead sponsors The Gowrie Group, Guilford Savings Bank and AJ Shea Construction.

CRM’s executive director, Christopher Dobbs, said “We are once again pleased to partner with the Rotary Club of Essex on this iconic event that celebrates the river’s heritage and supports the many worthwhile projects of the Rotary.” This volunteer-run event has been organized by the Rotary Club of Essex and is now coordinated by Bake Master Joseph Shea. Shea said, “We offer a unique New England culinary tradition; at one of the most historic sites along the river. . . It is a winning combination!”  Visitors might find a local doctor or lawyer at the de-nailing table where they take the shad off the oak planks or a local banker shucking fresh clams.

For shad lovers, the lure is the secret ingredients and the authentic method of preparation and cooking handed down from Connecticut natives.  Done in front of the fire, the fish picks up the smoky flavor of the fire with the seasoned oak boards that it is cooked on.  Add homemade potato salad, tossed green salad and scrumptious pies from Lyman Orchards and you have yourself a gourmet meal!  Don’t care for shad?  The event offers BBQ chicken and hot dogs.

In addition to the food, participants will enjoy live music and touring the museum, which will be open until 6 p.m.  The atmosphere is vibrant with picnickers, music by the Corinthian Jazz Band and the delicious smell of shad roasting around the open fire.

This year marks an important milestone for Connecticut shad.  Back in 1866, the Connecticut State Legislature created the Fisheries Commission as a way to restore, manage and conserve the State’s natural resources.  One of the key concerns at the time was the shad fishery and the need to protect the species from unsustainable practices.  Since the Commission’s founding, it has developed into the DEEP Bureau of Outdoor Recreation.

To commemorate the 150th anniversary, the DEEP will be present with a display.  The Shad Museum in Haddam, the Connecticut River Museum and the Connecticut Watershed Council will also offer programs during the day on the history and traditions of the shad fishery.

Buy your tickets today to the Shad Bake.  The $30 adult and $10 child (10 and under) ticket includes the full meal and admission to the museum. A five dollar fee will be added to walk-ins.  Beverages (soda, water, beer and wine) will be available at an additional price.  No carry-in alcohol will be permitted.

To purchase tickets go to www.ctrivermuseum.org or buy them in person at the Centerbrook Package Store or the Connecticut River Museum.

Onsite and street parking at the Connecticut River Museum is limited.  On the day of the event, an Essex Meadows shuttle will be running between the museum and several key parking locations that include the Essex Town Hall parking lot and Pratt House field (29 West Ave.).  The free shuttle service will start at 3 p.m. and run until 7:30 p.m., with pick-ups and drop-offs every 15 minutes.

The Connecticut River Museum is located on the Essex waterfront at 67 Main Street. For more information about the Shad Bake and Rotary Club visit www.rotaryclubofessex.com.