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Greenport's ‘Shellabration’ is Born from One Man’s Winter Clamming Fun

John Kramer explains how the big shellfish festival planned for Greenport this weekend came to fruition.

For years, Southold resident John Kramer would throw a party every January at his house overlooking Jockey Creek at the beautiful Harpers Point, calling the bash “Clamabration” to celebrate how much fun he had clamming just outside his doorstep during the winter.

Looking back, Kramer sees the summer closure to shellfishing on Jockey Creek mandated by the Department of Environmental Conservation as a blessing in disguise.

“We had just moved into this beautiful place and the DEC came down with the closure,” he said. “But to be honest, I love winter clamming so much better than summer clamming. It’s brisk and refreshing and the clams are just better.”

Kramer’s inspired house parties, which grew so big he eventually had to move them to the Wharf House at Founders Landing, were the inspiration for a new Greenport restaurant walk/fundraiser Kramer organized to take place both this Saturday and Sunday from noon to 5 p.m. 

A $10 wristband (click here to purchase online) will give you the chance to walk from restaurant to restaurant to sample shellfish culinary creations from the village’s top chefs for $5 per plate and samples of local wines for $3 per flight. The stroll starts at where wristbands can be purchased and a first sample of locally brewed beer and shellfish can be had. Participating restaurants and wineries include: Biere, Bruce’s Café, Cuvee Wine Bar, First & South, the Frisky Oyster, Front Street Station, Noah’s, North Fork Oyster Company, Scrimshaw, Castello di Borghese, Lieb Cellars, Macari Vineyards, One Woman Winery, Osprey’s Dominion, Raphael, Shinn Estate, and Sparkling Pointe.

Proceeds from the event will go to the Greenport American Legion Skating Rink and the Southold Project in Aquaculture Training (SPAT).

Kramer said that an oyster farm that he cultivated under the water along his property beginning in the early 1990s was the spark that started the SPAT program. He said he met SPAT founder Kim Tetrault when he brought his house, and Tetrault told him he could see 300,000 oysters being able to grow under his docks.

“When I thought about the money I could make, I told him I was in,” Kramer said.

After about five years, Kramer had enough of the hard work it really takes to farm oysters — “It’s just like being a real farmer,” he said — though he took such good care of them that he was one of the few to be able to sell directly to restaurants, where his oysters could be used right on the half-shell.

Kramer, 68, also retired from the insurance business — his main gig — in 2005, but he’s never been one to retire from staying involved in the community he’s lived in all of his life. In 2005 he formed SoutholdVoice, an organization to put environmental and property rights issues out there to be analyzed and debated. He also helped get the Barge Bash waterside concerts going a few years ago in Southold, though the money it took and the legal issues involved were too much and the party lasted only two summers.

And “Shellabration” has been floating around in Kramer’s head for a while — a way to project something he used to do at home out into the community and for the greater good. He said that so far, he’s sold about 200 wristbands online, and wristbands will also be available at Greenport Harbor Brewing Company the days of the event.

The only downside to his first major fundraiser event has been Hurricane Sandy, he said.

“I think we lost a lot of our audience to Sandy,” he said. “A lot of people from the Rockaways and other communities are really into this sort of thing, but they have other things on their mind now.”

Click here for more information on “Shellabration” and more December events taking place in the Village of Greenport.

Did you know that for the first time, in-shell scallops are now available for sampling? Click here to read the full story.

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Ellen Wexler December 06, 2012 at 02:32 PM
Hats off to John- for your can-do high energy magnificent celebrations of the North Fork.
Sean Magnuson December 08, 2012 at 09:39 PM
Overall, we very much enjoyed Shellabration 2012. Shellabration is a wonderful idea, providing great support of local business during the off-season. We were particularly impressed by the food, service and atmosphere at North Fork Oyster Company, Greenport Harbor Brewing Company, First & South, Noah’s, and Front Street Station; however, we have a few poignant suggestions to offer: 1. Every restaurant was unprepared for the amount of traffic (under-staffed). We waited at least 30 minutes at each stop for simple pre-fixe offerings, making the rounds much longer than they needed to be, ultimately limiting our time to visit additional restaurants. 2. Shellabration should have volunteer floaters/moderators to anticipate/track the flow of participants in Greenport, offering help, suggestions; communicating with restaurants as needed. 3. We were particularly disappointed by two restaurants: Scrimshaw and Biere, both of which limited Shellabration participants to specific seating. Despite having multiple open tables, we were denied access and treated rudely. For a pre-arranged event like Shellabration, this is completely unacceptable. At Biere, no fewer than 15 people left, in utter disgust, when the proprietor refused to seat people in the booths directly opposite the bar area. Personally, my wife and I were very much insulted, as I'm sure the rest of the waiting patrons were, not to mention that we will not be giving them business this weekend or any other time.

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