Cold weather doesn’t faze mussel eaters

A chilly, windy weekend didn’t stop shellfish enthusiasts from coming to Coupeville and enjoying some fresh mussels.

Manny Rojas raises his hands in victory as he finishes first in the mussel eating contest March 7 during the Penn Cove Mussel Festival. This is the third year that Rojas has competed in this contest.

Manny Rojas raises his hands in victory as he finishes first in the mussel eating contest March 7 during the Penn Cove Mussel Festival. This is the third year that Rojas has competed in this contest.

A chilly, windy weekend didn’t stop shellfish enthusiasts from coming to Coupeville and enjoying some fresh mussels.

The annual Penn Cove Mussel Festival took place Friday, Saturday and Sunday despite the sub-40-degree temperatures and the high winds that canceled boat tours Saturday of the Jefferd family’s mussel farm in Penn Cove. The bad weather also canceled most of the sailings Saturday of the Keystone ferry.

“The weather kind of got to us,” organizer Cindy Olson said, but she remained upbeat. “Everybody had a great time.”

An estimated 2,500 people attended the festival and enjoyed watching mussel cooking demonstrations and partaking in mussels while listening to live music.”

“The beer is cold and the people are happy,” said Blair King, after picking up a bowl of mussels. He traveled from Lynwood to enjoy the weekend’s festivities.

The hotly-contested mussel chowder competition saw a new winner this year with The Oystercatcher taking first. Its chowder edged out Christopher’s on Whidbey, which wasn’t able to three-peat. Kim’s Cafe, which is located on the Coupeville Wharf, took third place.

Olson said there were still a lot of tasters despite the snowflakes and wind. She said the threat of snow in Seattle may have discouraged mainlanders from making the drive up to Whidbey Island.

Festival-goers also enjoyed participating in mussel-eating competitions on both Saturday and Sunday. On Saturday, Coupeville resident Manny Rojas consumed the most mussels; Lynnwood resident Nick Seitz won the contest Sunday.

The weather improved enough Sunday for the Mystic Sea to venture out onto Penn Cove and provide tours of the mussel farm.

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