NARRAGANSETT, R.I. — Over 3,500 people descended upon Veteran’s Park in Narragansett Saturday to sample some of the best of the state’s official appetizer, calamari.
The Narragansett Chamber of Commerce held their fifth annual Rhode Island Calamari Festival Saturday afternoon and though initially there were fears that Hurricane Dorian could put a damper on the festivities, Chamber Operations Manager Peg Fradette considered the festival a resounding success.
“This was the most organized and well attended event we’ve had thus far in our five years,” Fradette said.
Clouds broke just shortly after the festival kicked off with a ribbon cutting ceremony featuring dignitaries such as Cranston mayor Alan Fung and Mrs. Rhode Island 2019 Ewa Mann.
This year’s festival featured 10 restaurants from both the area and across the state, including the Coast Guard House of Narragansett, Dan’s Carriage Inn and Saloon of North Kingstown, George’s of Galilee, Mariner Grille of Narragansett, Chair 5 at The Break Hotel of Narragansett, Parma Ristorante of Smithfield, Skyline at Waterplace of Providence, The Haversham Tavern of Westerly and Mews Tavern of Wakefield.
Over 1,800 pounds of squid were donated by local squid fisheries in Galilee while propane was provided by Phil’s Propane of Tiverton. The festival also featured a variety of food trucks, vendors, a beer hall and live music.
Each participating restaurant took their own unique take on calamari, with options ranging from sweet chili and garlic and butter calamari from Chair 5 to calamari served with hot vinegar peppers on a bed of feta cheese by The Haversham Tavern to a Bloody Mary-inspired option with horseradish aioli from Mew’s Tavern and even a non-fried, ceviche-inspired option from Coast Guard House for the deep lines of patrons to sample.
“(The cooks) were flying,” Fradette said. “They were producing product so fast it was unreal, I was so impressed.”
George’s of Galilee took home two of the top attendee-voted awards for this year’s festival, receiving Best Overall for their sweet and tangy Mango Tango calamari as well as Most Spirited Team.
For George’s of Galilee’s Zack Guilmette, who handed out samples to people in line while dressed in a fish costume and chef’s hat, the reasons for their wins were simple.
“We’re all dressed up, we’ve got costumes, we’ve got Mango Tango calamari,” Guilmette said. “We’ve got it all.”
“George’s (was my favorite),” said festival-goer Chris Collardo, of Johnston. “I loved the peppers and the crispiness.” Dan’s Carriage House and Saloon took the award for Most Inventive with their calamari fritters, a squid-inspired take on clam fritters.
“I happened to have the calamari fritters and they were amazing,” Fradette said.
Helping out the chamber with running the event were volunteers from several different organizations including the South County YMCA, Narragansett Lions Club and the University of Rhode Island Women’s Crew team.
“We just really appreciate our great sponsors and volunteers,” Fradette said. “We just had great volunteers (and) great spirit.”
As for next year’s event, Fradette says the council is hoping to build on the success.
“We’re always looking to improve and we’re going to debrief and see what we can do better,” Fradette said.