Saratoga Springs businesses cook up chowder for Winterfest

Chowder lovers, take heart.

Chowder lovers, take heart.

Winterfest, which revolves around the popular Chowderfest, kicks off this coming weekend.

The downtown’s midwinter festival features plenty of chowder, night skiing, a wine tasting and free ice skating and runs Friday through Sunday with events all around town. It draws thousands of attendees every year from the Capital Region and beyond.

The highlight is Chowderfest, where restaurants and other businesses will serve up $1 cups of tasty chowders from 11 a.m. to 4 p.m. Saturday. Visit for a complete list.

Go to for complete details and list of participating restaurants.

More businesses than ever are participating in Chowderfest this year.

“We just got our 57th entrant,” said Kathy Denkenberger, interim president of the Saratoga Convention and Tourism Bureau, which runs the event.

Last year, 46 businesses took part, and the year before, 37.

“It’s a popular thing here,” Denkenberger said. “It’s become pretty darn competitive.”

Venues compete for awards in seven categories: on-Broadway, off-Broadway, non-Downtown, newcomers, canine, people’s choice and most cups served. Last year, respective winners were Stadium Cafe, Hattie’s Restaurant, Longfellows Restaurant, The Local Pub and Teahouse, Sloppy Kisses, The Parting Glass and Cantina.

Businesses are proud of their awards and display them for years, Denkenberger said.

Diners vote for their favorite chowders using special stickers provided by the businesses and a ballot that can be picked up at any participating establishment or the Arts Center or Saratoga Springs Visitor Center. People who complete their ballots also can buy a Chowderfest long-sleeved T-shirt for $7 at the arts center or visitor center.

Many restaurants serve up a creative chowder, a new recipe that isn’t on their menu.

Circus Cafe goes with what’s tried and true.

The Broadway eatery sells 3-ounce cups of its signature New England clambake chowder that in addition to clams also contains pieces crab and chicken.

“It’s not as eye-catching maybe as some really cool, zany one,” said co-owner Christel MacLean.

But serving the chowder to almost 2,000 people, some of whom have never been to the restaurant, brings in new customers later in the year.

“They’re like, ‘Oh, I love that chowder. I’m going to go there,’ ” MacLean said.

The restaurant is now busy ordering cups and spoons to prepare for the 12th annual event.

Although restaurants probably don’t make a ton of money on the $1 cups of soup, some strollers stop for a drink or a sandwich during the day, MacLean said.

“You do significant volume,” she said.

Last year 44,000 cups of soup were sold, according to the Convention and Tourism Bureau.

“We look forward to it so much,” MacLean said. Circus Cafe participated in Chowderfest since 2005, and the MacLeans also took part in the event when they owned Hattie’s.

“We just think it’s a really good, feel-good event that breaks up the winter, gets people out and about,” she said.

Once again, dogs can have their own bowls of chowder at Dawgdom, Impressions of Saratoga and Sloppy Kisses of Saratoga.

A St. Bernard that was adopted by a Saratoga County Animal Shelter employee from the shelter will judge the three dog chowder entries in a popular part of the event at 1 p.m. Saturday at the Saratoga Downtowner Motel.

Trolley rides are free around the city from Beekman Street, The Holiday Inn and along Broadway. Flag down the trolley to hop on, or wait at its starting point at Lillian’s Restaurant.

Professional photographers will snap pictures throughout the day on Saturday and free photocards can be picked up at Green Conscience, 33 Church St., from 1 to 6 p.m. Saturday.

Other Winterfest activities include the following:

u Free Winterfest Candlelight Ski and Snowshoe at the warming hut in Saratoga Spa State Park, Friday from 6 to 8:30 p.m.

u Winterfest Wine Tasting at the Saratoga Springs Holiday Inn, 232 Broadway, on Friday from 6 to 8 p.m..

u Saratoga Springs History Museum outside the Canfield Casino in Congress Park. Re-enactors of the French and Indian War will talk about winter warfare in the 18th century on Saturday from 10 a.m. to 2 p.m..

u Renny the Clown will be in Ben & Jerry’s parking lot Saturday from noon to 2:30 p.m., twisting balloons into fun shapes.

u Bartender’s Ball at the Saratoga Springs City Center, 480 Broadway, Saturday from 6:30 p.m. to midnight.

u Prestwick Chase Winterfest at Prestwick Chase of Saratoga, 100 Saratoga Blvd., Saturday from noon to 3 p.m. .

u Free ice skating at the Saratoga Springs Ice Rink, Sunday from 1 to 3 p.m. Limited skate rentals are available for $4.

Categories: Schenectady County

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