The Destin History & Fishing Museum's annual gumbo contest drew an especially large and hungry crowd this weekend, according to museum director Jean Melvin.
About noon — only an hour into the Cajun-themed cook-off — Melvin told The Log that all 260 chairs available were occupied, estimating they had at least 300 people inside the Destin Community Center at that time.
Fifteen local restaurants registered their signature seafood stews in the cook-off hoping to win. Local favorites such as AJ's Seafood & Oyster Bar, Pompano Joe's, Fisherman’s Wharf, Harry T's, Marina Café and others were among those lined up around the gym, forming the gumbo bar. Eighteen individuals entered the contest as well; the individuals who cooked the gumbo did not serve their own recipe, staying anonymous until judging.
Providing entertainment for the afternoon was local band Flash Flood, giving gumbo-samplers "dinner and a show."
The event was held from 11 a.m. until 2 p.m. As the guests sampled the various gumbos, they were also able to bid on 81 different silent auction packages.
Silent auction items included everything from gift baskets and beauty products to artwork and vacations.
"We don't want to carry any of this stuff back across the street to the museum, so bid on it, no matter how crazy you think it might be," said a joking Dave Steele, president of the museum board.
In addition to Flash Flood providing the background music, Saturday's other source of entertainment was interactive. Museum volunteers Mike Long and Erin Shoults ran a wine/vine toss game.
For a $5 donation to the museum, guests were given six rings — six chances, to catch a bottle of wine. If they caught one, it was theirs to keep.
Michigan native Gunny Olson was one of the many who tried their hand at the wine toss game. Olson, a Panama City Beach snowbird and first-time gumbo contest attendee unfortunately didn't win, but she didn’t whine over the loss of wine.
"I almost got one, but almost only counts in horseshoes and hand grenades," said Olson. "But I’ve had a great time, and the gumbo is delicious."
Mike Lewis from Fisherman's Wharf told The Log that he heard positive feedback all afternoon about his restaurant’s gumbo.
Sharing an insider secret, Lewis said that the key to good gumbo is the roux.
"If it's not right, then your gumbo won't be right either," he said,
The winners were announced at the end of the event. First place went to Harry T's and second place went to Pompano Joe's. Proving to be a crowd favorite, Pompano Joe's also took home the People's Choice Award.
First place in the individual category went to Tom Ogle, second Place went to Mike and Richard Fitzgerald. People's Choice went to Alvin Claybrone.