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Kiwanis clambake closes out summer

  • Local clambake master Ray Zukowski of Northfield prepares a fire in Kiwanis Park on Saturday for the Kiwanis Club old-fashioned clambake. Seen in the foreground are buckets of fresh clams and piles of seaweed. Recorder/Micky Bedell

    Local clambake master Ray Zukowski of Northfield prepares a fire in Kiwanis Park on Saturday for the Kiwanis Club old-fashioned clambake. Seen in the foreground are buckets of fresh clams and piles of seaweed. Recorder/Micky Bedell Purchase photo reprints »

  • The Northfield Kiwanis Club celebrates the end of summerwith an old-fashioned New England clambake at Kiwanis Park on School Street Saturday, with piping hot lobsters, clams and a slew of sides. Recorder/Micky Bedell

    The Northfield Kiwanis Club celebrates the end of summerwith an old-fashioned New England clambake at Kiwanis Park on School Street Saturday, with piping hot lobsters, clams and a slew of sides. Recorder/Micky Bedell Purchase photo reprints »

  • Layla Hammond, 5, checks out a live lobster at the Northfield Kiwanis Club old-fashioned New England clambake Saturday at Kiwanis Park on School Street. Recorder/Micky Bedell

    Layla Hammond, 5, checks out a live lobster at the Northfield Kiwanis Club old-fashioned New England clambake Saturday at Kiwanis Park on School Street. Recorder/Micky Bedell Purchase photo reprints »

  • Clambake master and Northfield resident Ray Zukowski dumps bags of clams into smoking seaweed at the Kiwanis Park in Northfield on Saturday for the Kiwanis Club's old-fashioned clambake end-of-summer celebration and fundraiser. Recorder/Micky Bedell

    Clambake master and Northfield resident Ray Zukowski dumps bags of clams into smoking seaweed at the Kiwanis Park in Northfield on Saturday for the Kiwanis Club's old-fashioned clambake end-of-summer celebration and fundraiser. Recorder/Micky Bedell Purchase photo reprints »

  • Local clambake master Ray Zukowski of Northfield prepares a fire in Kiwanis Park on Saturday for the Kiwanis Club old-fashioned clambake. Seen in the foreground are buckets of fresh clams and piles of seaweed. Recorder/Micky Bedell
  • The Northfield Kiwanis Club celebrates the end of summerwith an old-fashioned New England clambake at Kiwanis Park on School Street Saturday, with piping hot lobsters, clams and a slew of sides. Recorder/Micky Bedell
  • Layla Hammond, 5, checks out a live lobster at the Northfield Kiwanis Club old-fashioned New England clambake Saturday at Kiwanis Park on School Street. Recorder/Micky Bedell
  • Clambake master and Northfield resident Ray Zukowski dumps bags of clams into smoking seaweed at the Kiwanis Park in Northfield on Saturday for the Kiwanis Club's old-fashioned clambake end-of-summer celebration and fundraiser. Recorder/Micky Bedell

NORTHFIELD — Good old-fashioned clambakes are a New England summertime tradition and Northfield resident Ray Zukowski knows all the tricks to do it right.

Zukowski, a former Montague Police chief who has taken part in hundreds of clambakes, put his seafood-steaming skills to good use Saturday as the Northfield Kiwanis Club’s master clam-baker at the club’s annual end-of-the-summer celebration, held at Kiwanis Park.

The celebration was held as a fundraiser, with the proceeds being put toward upgrades and repairs to some of the park’s structures, including its performance stage and storage shed, which need new roofs.

“The purpose is to continue improving the park so that we can make it a nice recreational area for the community,” said Steve Seredynski, the club’s former president. “We’re planning on doing some landscaping and waterscaping in the future, all for the benefit of the Northfield community.”

Although cooking the lobsters and clams only takes about a half-hour, Zukowski spent a good part of the morning stacking up and burning down an enormous pile of wood to heat the rocks which would become his stove. The night before, he said, a group of volunteers cleaned and bagged the clams to ensure proper taste.

“I don’t care how a clam tastes, if they’re gritty, they aren’t good,” said Zukowski, as he removed a smoldering log from the pile and carefully set it aside.

When the rocks became hot enough, Zukowski and a group of Kiwanis Club members pulled the pile down and threw armfuls of corn husks and seaweed over the top, which served as a buffer between shellfish and stone and generated the steam that would cook the crustaceans to perfection.

Thirty minutes later, the Kiwanis and their guests tucked in, snapping off claws, dunking meat in cups of butter and gnawing on cobs of corn.

As they ate, other club members floated between the tables, dropping off bowls of clam chowder and carrying plates of half-shell oysters slathered with cocktail sauce. Those side dishes, said Zukowski, are integral to the whole experience.

For a perfect clambake, he said, “You gotta have good chowder, a raw bar, corn and potatoes.”

The event even attracted Kiwanians from Bernardston and Greenfield.

“It’s my third year coming out, and I really enjoy it,” said Greenfield Kiwanis Club member Terrie Gagaris. “It’s such a good time and the atmosphere is so welcoming!”

Chucke Handren, who has been in the club for the past 40 years, said he hopes the improvements to the park will help it become a hot recreational spot and attract the next generation of Kiwanians.

The park is available for rent through October. Northfield residents can get the park for a day for $100 and it’s $150 for out-of-town groups. Rentals come with use of the kitchen, the pavilion with seating for 60, and plenty of space for field games and activities.

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