Pete Adams, a 33-year veteran firefighter of the Island Park...

Pete Adams, a 33-year veteran firefighter of the Island Park Fire Department, ate 129 clams. Credit: Nicole Fuller

The top neck clams were shucked, plated and accompanied by lemon wedges. The firefighters' bellies, were, in the words of one Island Park rescuer, ready to be "gluttonous."

In all, some 50 bushels of raw clams were consumed -- swallowed, really -- during Sunday's Long Island Clam Eating Contest, held at Peter's Clam Bar in Island Park to benefit the South Shore fire departments that were destroyed by superstorm Sandy.

"We were pretty much completely devastated from Sandy," said Jim Sarro, first assistant chief of the Island Park Fire Department, which saw its pumper truck, an ambulance, two Army trucks, a boat and other gear and equipment destroyed during the 2012 storm.

While most of the millions of dollars in equipment that many Long Island fire departments like Long Beach, Point Lookout and East Rockaway lost to flooding has been replaced -- through insurance payments and government grant funding -- many departments are still working to rebound.

The event -- in its second year -- raised $4,000 for the winning departments through entry fees and donations and was the brainchild of Butch Yamali, owner of Peter's, and Anthony D'Esposito, an Island Park assistant chief.

"We don't make a penny; It's all for the community," said Yamali, who said he gave away about 20,000 clams for the event, which also included a separate contest for customers.

Legis. Dennis Dunne (R-Levittown), chairman of the Nassau County Legislature's Public Safety Committee, said the funding received is "still not enough to take care of all of the stuff they lost. The county's been like, I guess, a mover and shaker. We do pass through monies through the federal government, the state government. We don't have those kinds of funds."

Asked if he planned to partake in the clam-eating, Dunne said, "No, no, no, no."

Dunne then quipped, patting his midsection: "But I didn't get this big not eating."

The firefighters, however, were ready to chow down. Early on, Carlos Zapelli Jr., with the Island Park department, looked a promising victor. In the first round, he downed 130 clams -- no sauce or lemon. And he ditched the provided fork, preferring to dig in with his bare hands (no gloves).

But he failed to advance to the third round -- his belly too full. Despite eating a record 166 clams in total, he didn't even place. Did he feel cheated?

"No, I should have paced myself more," Zapelli said.

The winner was Pete Adams, a 33-year veteran of the Island Park department, who downed 129 clams -- easily besting last year's winner, Long Beach firefighter Richie Santoro, who clocked in 122 in six minutes.

Adams used his fork, sipped from a cup of Pepsi between bites and managed to drench his gray polo shirt in cocktail sauce by the end of the contest. "I never ate that much before," Adams said.

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