Mussel Madness: Coupeville festival draws thousands

By Megan Hansen

The streets of Coupeville were flooded this weekend with mussel enthusiasts.

Visitors came from near and far to taste the tiny town that was teeming with big mussel flavor.

People wandered the town going from business to business, tasting 16 different chowders made by local participants.

Vickie Chambers, executive director of the Coupeville Historic Waterfront Association, said an estimated 6,000 people came through town.

Chowder ticket sales surpassed last year’s 1,900 sold with more than 2,600 tasting passes purchased.

“It was what we had hoped for,” Chambers said. Tickets sold out at 1 p.m. Saturday and there were still some left on Sunday.

After all the chowders were tasted, people voted on their favorite entry.

In the end, Captain Whidbey Inn won with its mussel chowder featuring mussels in the whole shell.

Chambers said second and third place winners were close behind.

People packed the Recreation Hall both days to witness the fun and fast-paced mussel-eating contest.

The first day’s winner was Chelsy Certain, a mussel festival newby who is also a third baseman on the Skagit Valley College fastpitch team.

“I was really nervous just like before a big game,” she said. “I sat down and there were two burly guys next to me. One of the guys mentioned to me, ‘Don’t look up. Just keep eating.’”

“I just went for it.”

Event organizers said they were prepared for and happy about the large turnout.

More than 250 children participated in activities on Front Street, including “fishing” for a prize off the pier.

The Boys and Girls Club parked 400 cars near the library and 278 passports were turned in.

For every $5 spent in town at participating businesses, visitors got a stamp. Once a card had $50 in stamps, they were able to turn them in.

The waterfront association will draw $600 in prizes from those submissions.

Businesses were happy with the traffic they got this weekend, Chambers said. Some even said sales were up from previous mussel festival years.

Overall, Chambers said she was happy with the event.

“It was well balanced,” she said. “There was something for everyone.”

For Chambers, she said her favorite part were cooking demonstrations.

“It’s so cool when these professional chefs come from off island and do cooking demos,” she said. “And I can’t help but love the mussel-eating contest.”


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