Sun shines on Coupeville's MusselFest

Coupeville was jam-packed with people Saturday. Throngs of festival-goers descended upon the historic town to enjoy an unseasonably warm day and celebrate the town's famous shellfish.

The Penn Cove MusselFest took place last weekend throughout the town. The festival features the renowned Penn Cove mussel, complete with cooking demonstrations, a chowder contest and a mussel eating contest.

"It's an annual event and we wouldn't miss it," Coupeville resident Wendy Patton said while sampling the curry-based chowder entry of the Captain Whidbey Inn. "It's the best weather we've ever had."

The warm, sunny weather Saturday was a nice change from last year's festival. In 2009, a chilly festival weekend was marred by snow. The weather turned around this year.

"We are a packed house," Aqua owner and festival organizer Cindy Olson said Saturday afternoon. Early estimates show that approximately 8,000 people came to the 1,800-person town over the weekend. On Saturday, organizers sold out of tickets for the boat tours of the Penn Cove Shellfish farm and for the mussel chowder contest, which featured entries from a dozen restaurants.

The Mosquito Fleet Galley won the chowder contest in its first time competing. They won serving a chili-based chowder. There were two mussel-eating contests over the weekend. Saturday's winner was Jack Monserud and Sunday's winner was Nick Seitz.

Chefs from as far away as Seattle visited the festival over the weekend. They spent part of the day inside the Coupeville Recreation Hall demonstrating tasty ways to prepare shellfish.

The MusselFest is the first major festival of the year in Coupeville. It's a simple event where people simply show up and enjoy some good food. The next festival in Coupeville takes place in May with the Penn Cove Water Festival that features Native American canoe races.

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