Charity Chowder Cook-Off raises record $21K for PNC

Charity Chowder Cook-Off raises record $21K for PNC

The Westerly Sun

MYSTIC — This year’s annual Cabin Fever Festival and Charity Chowder Cook-Off lived up to its name as people came by the thousands, excited to get out on a beautiful sunny Saturday.

And when it was all over, the festival, in which all proceeds benefit the Pawcatuck Neighborhood Center, raised a staggering $21,000, smashing last year’s then-record total of $13,183. “We’re still shocked,” said Mary-Jane Cassidy, a representative for Olde Mistick Village, the host site for the festival.

Vicki Anderson, executive director of the Pawcatuck Neighborhood Center, was overwhelmed. “We had a true New England winter so today’s crowd was a case of cabin fever,” she said Saturday.

With the donations from the festival the center plans to expand its Weekender Backpack Food Program for Children, which is available to those families in the federal free or reduced lunch program. For children that qualify, it supplies the six meals children might miss over the weekend.

The center presently runs the program in Stonington and North Stonington.

“We want to expand the program in Westerly,” she said.

The event is a February tradition at Olde Mistick Village and Saturday marked its 11th year. This year saw 24 entrants in the chowder competition but make no mistake, it’s a full-scale family-oriented festival.

Some lines for chowder were more than 100 feet long and the village was full of people. Parking was more than the village and the Mystic Aquarium could handle. Some patrons headed across the street to nearby hotels or stores.

“It’s been very busy today, much busier than last year,” said Sharon Clements of Semolina Pasta Shop. “It’s snowed all winter so it’s definitely cabin fever, and the weather is beautiful.”

Two hours into the competition she was almost out of chowder.

A team of media celebrities, Rick Koster, David Tranchida and Elissa Bass, judged three additional categories: Most Creative Chowder; Heartiest Chowder; and Best Use of Regional Ingredients.

• This year’s overall winner chosen by the voters was again Mystic Aquarium’s Ocean Blue Catering. Second place went to Highland Grille, run by the Westerly High School Culinary students, and third place to Octagon Steakhouse.

• Best Use of Regional Ingredients went to the Highland Grille, the Heartiest to Semolina Pasta Shop and the Most Creative to Soundings Lounge at the Mystic Hilton.

The Most Creative Chowder defending champion won last year with a chocolate chicken chowder. This year she prepared something entirely different; drunken fish chowder.

“It’s haddock marinated in champagne for five days. It also includes bacon, corn and potatoes,” she said.

Along with husband Stephen, the two are also opening a new restaurant, Frizzante Wine Bar & Speakeasy in North Stonington. “It’s been a very busy month but the festival is always enjoyable. It gives us the opportunity to be creative and use flavors that are different and yet complement each other,” she said.

At a different store, Chef Chris Pressler of Mystic Aquarium’s Ocean Blue Catering worked feverishly to serve the endless line of patrons in an attempt to keep it moving. Last year’s overall winner, this year he again prepared “fruits de mer” chowder. French for “fruit of the sea,” the chowder contained monkfish, clams, crab meat, scallops and lobster.

In a little over two minutes he had served more than 20 gallons.

“We’ve been cranking it out all day,” he said.

It was a busy day for the stores as well.

“It’s been a very good day,” said Barbara Sinclair, owner of The Toy Soldier.

Throughout the village there was a lot to do. The Denison Pequotsepos Nature Center made two presentations and the Stonington Singers from Mystic Middle School played at the Meeting House for an hour. There was even a pirate on stilts.

The money raised came from the sale of $1 tickets, each good for a 3-ounce cup of chowder from one of the 27 restaurants and caterers participating in the festival. Each participant was paired with a village store, from which it served its chowder and competed for the people’s choice award for best chowder.

Man in alleged theft of computer held without bail on violation

WAKEFIELD — A 19-year-old Bradford man was held without bail last week after being deemed a violator on terms of his bail after being arrested by Hopkinton police.

Connor M. Panciera, of 111 Panciera Lane, did not enter a plea on a felony charge of larceny over $1,500 when he appeared in 4th Division District Court. It was his second recent arrest.

Panciera was charged by Westerly police in January with fraudulent use of a credit card. He pleaded not guilty to the credit card charge, a misdemeanor. Last June, he was arrested by Westerly police on a charge of possession of heroin, to which he entered no plea. That case is being heard in Washington County Superior Court.

His latest arrest, which sent him to the Adult Correctional Institutions, involved the alleged theft of a computer estimated to be worth $2,500. The laptop, according to a police report, was later found at a pawn shop in North Stonington where Panciera had been identified as the person who brought it in. Police report Panciera received $200 for the laptop, which was recovered by police. The victim did not wish to pursue charges, but Panciera was arrested.

Panciera has been scheduled a Superior Court screening date of April 8 on that charge.

— A.J. Algier

Cyberstalking charge against 
Ashaway man dropped

WAKEFIELD — A charge of cyberstalking against a 37-year-old Ashaway man was dismissed Tuesday in 4th Division District Court.

Hopkinton police charged Justin M. Lowenstrom, of 12 Crandall Lane, on Jan. 15 after they said he had been previously warned not to text the alleged victim.

Police noted a no-contact order was in effect at the time of the arrest. He was issued a summons to appear in court on that charge. On Jan 20, the alleged victim reported Lowenstrom on her property and he was charged with violation of a no-contact order and arrested. He was then charged as a violator on the terms of bail on the original charge.

Both charges were dismissed. Lowenstrom had no prior arrest record in Rhode Island.

Meanwhile, Hopkinton police charges of domestic disorderly conduct and domestic simple assault against Elizabeth Lowenstrom, of 12 Crandall Lane, were also dismissed.

No-contact orders were terminated.

— A.J. Algier

DEA makes anonymous 
texting tip line available

The Drug Enforcement Administration’s New England field division has made an anonymous texting tip line available to the public.

Tip411, powered by Citizen Observer, allows anyone with a cellphone to quickly and easily report drug trafficking, money laundering or related suspicious activity directly to a DEA agent.

To use the service, 847411 (Tip411) is entered in the “To” field and the keyword “DEADRUGS” in the text field on a cellphone followed by the tip. All information provided is anonymous, say DEA officials. Citizen Observer’s technology removes the identifying information of the sender before the tip is forwarded to DEA. The service allows the agent to follow up with the sender in a response text, but the citizen remains anonymous throughout the conversation.

“This program enables citizens, who otherwise might be reluctant to provide information, to communicate directly and anonymously with a DEA agent via text message. Through the Tip411 service we are strengthening our partnership with the community, whose members want to rid their neighborhoods of drug traffickers,” said DEA Special Agent in Charge John J. Arvanitis, in charge of the New England division.

The system currently is used by other law enforcement agencies across the country, including several in Massachusetts.

— A.J. Algier

4 injured in wrong-way 
crash on I-95 in R.I.

PAWTUCKET (AP) — Rhode Island authorities say a car driving the wrong way on Interstate 95 in Pawtucket crashed head-on into a minivan, leaving two people with life-threatening injuries and two others hurt.

Police say the accident happened at about 3 a.m. today in the southbound lanes near exit 26.

Officials say a woman in her 20s was driving the car the wrong way on the highway, and she was one of the two people who suffered life-threatening injuries. The other two people are expected to survive. State police are investigating the cause of the crash. The southbound lanes were shut down for a short time and reopened by 5 a.m.

R.I. ex-mayor before judge 
in bid to exit prison

PROVIDENCE (AP) — A corrupt former mayor was set to go before a federal judge in Rhode Island in an attempt to get out of prison after serving just half his two-year sentence.

Charles Moreau, former mayor of the financially troubled city of Central Falls, was scheduled to appear in federal court this morning. Moreau was convicted of corruptly accepting a gratuity from a city contractor. But that conviction was thrown into question after an appeals court struck down the charge in an unrelated case.

Moreau moved to have his conviction vacated, and this week struck a deal with federal and state prosecutors in which he would plead guilty to accepting a bribe. Prosecutors would recommend he be released with time served.

If U.S. District Judge John McConnell agrees, Moreau could be released immediately.


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