Get your bibs ready. Penn Cove Mussel Festival starts Friday.
The three-day event stays true to its roots with nearly every Coupeville restaurant offering chowder samplings.
Vickie Chambers, executive director for the Coupeville Historic Waterfront Association, said the event started 27 years ago as a small food festival.
Over those years it has grown, with an anticipated 4,000 people attending this year.
This year event planners even increased the number of chowder tasting tickets, but Chambers still warns attendees to come early.
An estimated 32,000 ounces of chowder will be given out by 16 of the 17 Coupeville restaurants.
“It’s all about showing off Coupeville, showing off what Coupeville has to offer,” said Cindy Olson, event coordinator.
Coupeville is becoming the foodie center of the island, she said.
While the event has grown, it’s still all about the chowder.
“It’s an enormous amount of work for them (the restaurants),” Chambers said.
All the chowder tasters get to vote on the best chowder and at the end of the weekend a winner gets a plaque and picture in the paper.
Most of the cost of producing the chowder also falls on participants.
Chambers said each participant is provided potatoes, onions and a gallon of cream. The rest is up to them.
Tastings are Saturday and Sunday.
The festival also offers activities, mussel related of course.
There will be tours of Penn Cove Mussels leaving every hour from Coupeville Wharf, a mussel-eating contest, children’s activities, live music, a beer garden and more.
Olson said this year event organizers are really trying to target families, so kids activities will be added.
Activities will be offered in Mariner’s Court across from The Honey Bear.
“Throughout all of this we’re trying to cater to young families and the foodies,” Olson said. “We work hard to invite people who live on the island who haven’t been.”
Free shuttles will be offered around town to help people get around.
MusselFest is a uniquely Coupeville event, with organizers trying to keep everything local — from printing, organizing and gathering volunteers.
“We never have enough volunteers,” Chambers said.
The event is also about showcasing all the businesses in town.
Most will stay open late.
To encourage sales, attendees will receive a “passbook,” where for every $5 spent, they receive a stamp.
Once a person has spent $50 they can enter the passbook to win some of the $600 in local gift certificates to be raffled off.
There is no limit on how many passbooks may be entered.
Some of the events and activities cost money to attend.
Tickets will be sold at the Rec Hall on Alexander Street.
For a full schedule of events, see the Whidbey Flavor special section inside this edition starting on page 7.