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Shelter Island clambake: Bring your own paddle

One of the most exclusive social events on Shelter Island this year -- only 100 people can attend -- will certainly be one of its least formal.

You don't wear good clothes to get into a kayak and paddle out to a clambake.

The party will be on Taylor's Island, a 1-acre spit of land in Coecles Harbor on the eastern side of Shelter Island, Long Island's smallest town.

Taylor Island's size is the biggest reason the Taylor's Island Kettle Clambake is so small: There's not much room for people and tents.

The town owns the island. The nonprofit Taylor's Island Foundation maintains it and takes care of its only building, a one-room shack that was expanded into a small log cabin in the 1930s by S. Gregory Taylor, a wealthy hotel owner who bought the island back when it was called Cedar Island for the Eastern red cedars growing there.

The Aug. 10 clambake is a Shelter Island tradition, one that people plan for months ahead of time. "Some people talk to us about it in April," said Patricia Ann Thomas Hunt, co-chairwoman of the Taylor's Island Preservation and Management Committee.

The clambake -- complete with lobsters and chicken -- costs $100 a ticket, which can be purchased by calling the foundation at 631-749-1603.

There also will be a raffle. The top prize: the opportunity to spend a night at the house, which has no electricity or hot water but lots of peace and quiet and, on a clear night, a wonderful view of the sky.

So far, with the help of a $110,000 grant from the state Parks Department, the committee has been able to repair the effects of decades of weathering and neglect at the house, which the town once considered demolishing as a hazard.

"We're feeling pretty terrific about making it watertight and structurally sound," Hunt said. "A big plus is that people can go up in the tower, which they always asked to do. Now they can go up and see the view."

Visitors can enter the building only with an escort. Anyone can paddle over to Taylor's Island in a kayak -- the water is so shallow it is possible to walk across at low tide -- but the house normally is locked.

The committee held its first big party on the island in 2006, the year it was formed, and the party was free to all. People were taken across by boat, and the Greek food -- Taylor was born in Greece, baptized Soterios Gregorios Tavouiares, and proud of his heritage -- was brought in from Queens. It became a clambake fundraiser the next year, and a fancy lobster clambake the year after that.

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