Clamshells and Community: Everyone Wins

Every community has its own July 4th tradition. On Peaks Island, ours is the annual Clamshell Race to benefit the Peaks Island Health Center. Without the Health Center, every trip to the doctor from Peaks Island would entail a ferry ride.

I can tell you from experience that when your child has a fever, the four or five hour round-trip excursion to visit a doctor in town is no fun.

Yea! for the Health Center.

Unfortunately the Health Center, which is only open a few days a week, isn’t financially sustainable. And that’s the purpose behind the Clamshell Race—to raise funds to ensure that the Health Center keeps going.

What makes the Clamshell Race special is that it is a relay—run in teams of two—so families get into it in a big way. It’s not unusual to see a pair of elementary school-aged siblings running as partners, a Dad running while pushing a stroller, a grandfather and grandson partnered-up.




Even the volunteers get into the spirit.


The team member running the first leg starts at Greenwood Gardens and sprints about a quarter mile to the Fifth Maine—where he picks up a clamshell. He then runs back to the starting line where he hands-off the clamshell to his teammate.


The handoff is highly important.


The teammate then runs down to City Point, dips her clamshell in the bay, and runs back to the finish line. This second leg is about a mile.


There is a prize for the fastest time. But more important, there are prizes for team with the Lowest Combined Age, team with the Largest Combined Age, and team with the Largest Age Differential.

I remember the first summer I lived here, my cousin, Carol paired then seven-year old Maxine with sixty-ish year old John. They, of course, won team with the Largest Age Differential.


Which brings me to another thing I like about the Clamshell Race: athleticism is entirely optional. There are a few people who come out in compression shorts and sprint to win—but there are more people who come just for fun wearing red and white umbrella hats.


Or they dress as The Flash. Gotta love the socks!


The point is that when it comes to the Clamshell race, there are infinite ways to win. I wish all of life were like that.


If anyone knows the joke behind “Clamerica,” please let me know. I suspect it is something very funny that I am missing out on.


Before the race, people purchase raffle tickets. There are lots of choices—gift certificates from Standard Bakery, swim lessons from Rhonda Berg, a couple of Peaks Island sweatshirts from our store. Sometimes it’s hard to choose.


It’s a particularly good day for the lemonade business.


I love watching people prepare for the race. Families talk strategy. It’s interesting to see who warms up and who psychs up.


At the finish, some people celebrate.


Others grimace.


If your brother hands you a cup full of water it is perfectly acceptable to pour it over your own head as you cross the finish line.


After the race, Chuck, a physician who lives on the island, acts as master of ceremonies.


Chuck lets the kids take turns helping him draw raffle winners.


The golf cart parade follows the race.

Honestly I’m a little mad at the golf cart people this year. They drove by so fast I couldn’t get many pictures.


The cart with a supersized Barbie strapped to its roof is always my favorite. I think that would be a great place to watch the festivities from. Perhaps I’ll be invited to ride along with her next year.

How was your July 4th?



  1. Jean Martens says:

    This was wonderful, Lisa! Thank you for the photos and story!

  2. Denis Berry says:

    Wow Lisa, great pictures! I was so sorry to miss the race and this makes me feel like I was there (almost). Thanks so much.

  3. chuck radis says:

    Hi Lisa,
    We’ve been rolling out the Clamshell relay for 20 years now and this was the best photo-essay ever!!!
    Thanks so much for taking the time to put it on-line.
    Is it okay if I make a copy of a couple of the photos?
    Chuck Radis.

  4. Jennifer says:

    Great photo essay! You really captured what makes Peaks so great. Thanks for sharing the photos.

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