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Schooners, Chowder And Family Fun At Maritime Heritage Festival

The Hartford Courant

Who has the top chowder in New London? On Sept. 13, 20 city restaurants vie for the title of "fan favorite" as they offer up their best recipes during the 2014 Connecticut Maritime Heritage Festival, which runs Sept. 11 to 13.

The event, in its second year, formerly known as the Connecticut Schooner Festival, is a celebration of the city's maritime history and culture.

"We're very excited," said Robin Goldschlager, comptroller of Operation Sail, Inc. (OpSail), the hosting nonprofit organization. "This year we're hoping it'll be even bigger."

During the chowder challenge, which runs from 11 a.m. to 3 p.m. Saturday, city restaurants will be serving 3-ounce samples of their soups. Each tasting costs one ticket, which are $1 each (or sold in a package of 12 for $10). There will be a "huge variety" of chowders, said Goldschlager; restaurants are welcome to present any recipe they choose, as long as it's scratch-made.

State Street Saloon took the 2013 title, and many of last year's competitors are back for a rematch. The chowder challenge boosted business in the region that day, Goldschlager said, with several attendees sticking around and ordering drinks and more food. "Restaurants got a lot of added value," she said.

The festival kicks off Thursday, as schooners begin arriving at City Pier. Friday brings a lighted boat parade on the Thames River, starting at 8 p.m. Saturday's events include live music, a maritime educational tent, a schooner race, a vendor tent displaying Connecticut-made products and a "monster mural," where kids are encouraged to add their own artistic flair.

"The whole idea is to get people to discover and experience the city of New London, the marittime history of [the city,]" said Goldschlager. "We try to get the whole city involved, to bring tourism to the southeastern corner of Connecticut."

For more information, visit schoonerfest.com.

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