The 140th annual St. Ambrose Spring Fair will be held from noon to 4 p.m. Sunday, March 26, 2023 at St. Ambrose Catholic Church and grounds, 6070 Church Road, in Elkton, from State Road 207. This is St. Johns County’s oldest fair!
St. Ambrose Catholic Church will celebrate 150 years in 2024.
HISTORY: Catholic Mass was first celebrated with settlers in a barn on this site in the early 1800s. In 1875, St. Ambrose Parish was established when a small wood frame church was built by Father Stephen Langlade, a skilled carpenter from France. By 1907 he had also built a rectory, school, convent, and a larger church.
This annual event returned in 2022 after being on hiatus, due to the Covid-19 pandemic, since the 2019 event.
The organizers will be preparing extra food since they sold out last year to record crowds!
The most popular item at the fair is the Minorcan clam chowder, prepared by Mary Ellen Masters and her chowder crew, which features the famous Datil pepper and a recipe that has been passed down from generation to generation. More than 160 gallons are made for each fair in the spring and in the fall — and it all sells out every time!
The infamous Minorcan Clam Chowder at the St. Ambrose Fall Fair.
Other menu items include pulled pork dinners, French fries, hot dogs and hamburgers, cheeseburgers, boiled peanuts, homemade desserts, ice cream, soda, water, and beer. An ATM will be on site. Admission is FREE.
Live music by local band Chillula, hay rides, antique cars by the St. Augustine Cruisers, children’s games, tours of the historic church, a bake sale, a yard sale, a 50/50 drawing, and silent auction also are part of the event.
THE CHOWDER QUEEN – Mary Ellen Masters
RECIPE —Minorcan Clam Chowder
Mary Ellen Masters is known as the Queen of Minorcan Clam Chowder in St. Augustine and St. Johns County. Masters traces her roots back to the Minorcans who came to St. Augustine in 1777 after fleeing New Smyrna — and many believe the Minorcans brought the datil pepper with them, helping to creating a food culture that continues to appear in St. Augustine restaurant menus today.
Her Minorcan chowder is a delicious concoction of tomatoes, onions, potatoes, clams and other spices, seasoned heavily with the spicy datil pepper.
Most have sampled her chowder each year at the St. Ambrose Fair, normally held in March or April (spring fair) and October (fall fair), on the grounds on the historic St. Ambrose Church in Elkton, established in the early 1800s.
She creates 100 gallons for each event and her “chowder crew” can be seen stirring five giant vats of her chowder with wooden paddles.
Her recipe below was published many years ago in The St. Augustine Record.
Minorcan Clam Chowder by Mary Ellen Masters
1 lb. frozen chopped clams
1/2 lb. salt pork, diced
1/2 medium onion, diced
1 lb. potatoes, diced
2 stalks celery, diced
1/2 medium bell pepper, diced
1 15 oz. can crushed tomatoes
1 15 oz. can tomato puree
1 can clam juice
1 tsp. Italian seasoning
1 tsp. marjoram
2 bay leaves
3 datil peppers, diced
Fry down salt pork until browned. Add onions, celery and bell peppers and cook until tender. Add tomatoes and continue cooking. Boil potatoes in another pot until 3/4 done; drain. Mix cooked down tomato seasoning and dry seasoning with potatoes and clam juice. You may not need all the clam juice, depends on the consistency that you want. Add clams and diced datil peppers. Cook until clams are done.