Even the clams were cold Saturday.
“It’s almost a relief for them to go in the ice chest and back up to 32 degrees,” said shellfish grower Tom Knackstedt as he looked over his littleneck clams at the Proctor Farmers Market.
Knackstedt was selling his Totten Inlet clams and oysters at the weekly Tacoma market. He didn’t need to keep them cold in the 25 degree weather.
“I don’t feel like pouring ice on them,” he said. “That would be silly.”
Across from his booth, Melanie Allen was purveying teas from Gig Harbor.
“I’m trying to be upbeat, but I’m cold,” Allen said. The native Nova Scotian said she can’t handle temperatures below freezing.
“I am an embarrassment to Canada,” she lamented.
Before she left home, she raided her children’s long underwear, and stuffed chemical warmers in her boots and gloves.
“I don’t even know how many layers I have on,” she said.
Albert McMurry was also foggy about the number of layers he was wearing. But after some thought, the owner of Bona Fide Potents figured he had on three pairs of long johns.
They weren’t enough.
“As I started to slow down, I started shivering,” McMurry said.
Like Allen, he had stuffed chemical warmers in his boots and gloves.
Instead of sampling his homemade bitters, elixirs and tinctures with ice, McMurry was mixing them with hot water to an appreciative audience.
Nearby, Forest Beutel was entertaining the crowd with his banjo and harmonica.
Beutel normally performs indoors. He had to choose songs with a slower beat Saturday.
“My fingers, they stop moving,” he said.
He has tried fingerless gloves, but they don’t work.
“It’s better to just keep playing,” Beutel said.
His harmonica presented a special challenge.
“I was worried that my lips were going to get stuck on it,” he said, conjuring the flagpole scene from “A Christmas Story.”
In between customers Saturday, Matt Crimi was keeping his gloved hands on the metal covers of his rice and beans warmers at his El Chito Tamales stand.
Nearby was a steaming container of hot tamales.
“It’s worse when it’s windy and rainy,” he said.
Neighbor Leonard Johnson agreed.
“I’m Norwegian, so I don’t get cold easy,” Johnson of Marrowstone Island said. He was surrounded by several gas burners keeping pots of chowder hot.
Maryclair Rigby wasn’t lucky enough to be selling anything hot at her Rising River Farm booth. So she was straddling a propane heater as customers looked over her cabbages, potatoes and parsnips.
She called the heater a lifesaver.
“I would be sad without it,” she said.
At her feet was a raw porterhouse steak.
“We actually have it in front of the heater otherwise we might not be able to eat it for dinner,” Rigby said.
Customer Susan Cutshall of Tacoma didn’t mind the cold.
“I love coming here,” Cutshall said. “No matter how cold or wet or windy. And it’s been all of those things.”
There was at least one other person at the market who didn’t mind the cold.
Santa Claus was seated front and center, taking all comers on his lap for souvenir photos — even a chilled newspaper reporter.
Santa, who sometimes uses the name Tom Bryant, said all of the lap-sitters were keeping him warm. He shrugged off any suggestions of cold-weather gear. “I don’t need extra padding,” Santa said. “I have plenty of that.”