The Pismo Beach Clam Festival

By Effie McDermott

August 2010


The Clam Festival in Pismo Beach began on New Year’s Eve in 1946 as a celebration called the Winter Carnival.  Festivities involving clamming occurred early in Pismo, but we have documentation of an event called a clam festival coming together in 1946 during the upsurge in civic activities that followed WWII. 


The 1946 Winter Carnival was organized by the Convention Bureau Committee of the Pismo Beach Men’s Club.  They were assisted by the Beach Motor Court Owners’ Association, the Pismo Beach Women’s Civic Association, the Moose Lodge, and the Lion’s Club.  The festivities featured a banquet at Mattie’s Tavern, judging of the Queen Contest and a New Year’s Eve coronation ball at the Rose Garden Ballroom, a New Year’s Day morning dip in the surf followed by breakfast at the Moose Lodge, a clam shell hunt on the beach, and an amateur boxing match at the Rose Garden. The event was very successful and the town vowed to do it again the following year even better.


“Clam Festival” was the name of the 1947 Winter Carnival held Dec 31, 1947 through Jan 2, 1948.  This was the second of these festivals, but the first to use the name “Clam Festival”.  In 1947, the Pismo Beach Men’s Club initiated the formation of the Pismo Beach Chamber of Commerce.  The new Chamber of Commerce became the sponsor of the 2nd Winter Carnival and dubbed it the “Second Annual Mid-Winter Pismo Clam Festival.”  Clam Festivals were held in January and February before being moved to October.  The festival went dormant for a time and was revived by Mayor Nebb Eldwayen in about 1982.