June 16, 2019

Essex Rotary Hosts 61st Annual Shad Bake This Afternoon

Planking the shad to cook in front of the fire in the same manner in which it has been done for hundreds of years.

ESSEX — One of our State’s great culinary customs returns to the Connecticut River Museum tomorrow from 3 to 6 p.m. with the 2019 Essex Annual Shad Bake.  For 61 years, the Rotary Club of Essex has been proudly holding this annual rite of spring, nailing delicious American shad onto oak planks and roasting them around a large bonfire.  Share this wonderful Connecticut tradition with your family and friends.

This year’s Bake is made possible through the generous support of AJ Shea Construction, Guilford Savings Bank, and The JECM Foundation. Additional support comes from Clark Group/Middle Cove Marina, Essex Savings Bank/Essex Financial Services, Tower Laboratories, and many other sponsors.

Bill Hoffstetler demonstrates the fine art of removing bones from shad; a fish referred to by local Native Americans as the “inside out porcupine.”

The Museum’s interim executive director, Thomas Wilcox said “We are pleased to host and partner with the Rotary Club of Essex on this iconic event that celebrates part of the Connecticut River’s heritage and supports the many worthwhile projects of Rotary and Museum.” This volunteer-run event has been organized by the Rotary Club of Essex and is coordinated by Bake Master Joseph Shea. Shea stated that “We offer one of the most unique culinary traditions in New England at one of the most majestic and historic locations. It is a winning combination!” 

In addition to the delicious food, a variety of activities take place throughout the afternoon. For shad lovers, the lure is the secret ingredients and the authentic method of preparing and baking the fish which has been handed down through generations of Connecticut natives.  Nailed onto oak planks with salt pork and placed in front of the bonfire, the fish picks up the smoky flavor of the fire and the seasoned oak boards on which it is baked. Add to this delicacy homemade potato salad, tossed green salad, and pie from Lyman Orchards and your shad experience is complete.

Baking the shad.

Don’t care for shad?  Grilled chicken is also available!  In addition to the food, participants will be able to enjoy live music and touring the Museum, which will be open until 6 pm.  The vibrant atmosphere is enhanced with picnickers and the delicious smell of shad baking around the open fire.  

The $35 adult (Shad or Chicken dinner option) and $10 child (10 and under) ticket includes the full meal including one water or soda (child ticket includes a hot dog and salads) and admission to the Museum.  Tickets, if available, will be $40 on the day of the event. Beer, wine and soda will be available for purchase with a valid ID.  Freshly shucked clams and oysters will also be available at an additional price beginning at 3:00 pm. No carry-in alcohol will be permitted.

Bill Hoffstetler demonstrates the fine art of removing bones
from shad; a fish referred to by local Native Americans as the “inside out porcupine”.

To purchase tickets, visit shop.ctrivermuseum.org or buy them in person at the Centerbrook Package Store, Essex Hardware, or the Connecticut River Museum.  There will be no parking on the Museum grounds and on-street parking is very limited.  On the day of the event, a free shuttle will be running between the Museum and the Essex Town Hall parking lot. 

The Connecticut River Museum is located on the Essex waterfront at 67 Main Street and is open 10 a.m. to 5 p.m., closed Mondays until after Memorial Day. The Museum, located in the historic Steamboat Dock building, offers exhibits and programs about the history and environment of the Connecticut River. For a full listing of Museum programs and events, visit www.ctrivermuseum.org or call 860-767-8269.

The Rotary Club of Essex is the local chapter of Rotary International whose membership is made up of service minded professionals.  The club and its members are committed to improving the community, connecting with other professionals, sharing their time and experience with the young, supporting global causes, and using their skills to help others.  For more information about the Shad Bake and Rotary Club visit http://www.rotaryclubofessex.com.

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