Businesses gearing up for Musselfest this weekend

David Day from bayleaf puts on a show each year, cooking mussels in a giant paella pan. - 2013 file photo
David Day from bayleaf puts on a show each year, cooking mussels in a giant paella pan.
— image credit: 2013 file photo

Businesses in Coupeville are gearing up as mussel enthusiasts flood the town, in search of this year’s best chowder.

The Penn Cove Mussel Festival is March 7-9.

The Mussel Mingle kicks off the weekend 5:30-8:30 p.m. Friday at Coupeville Recreation Hall.

Tickets are $20 and are pre-sold sold at Aqua Gifts, bayleaf and Coupeville Chamber.

A ticket to Friday’s event gets you two drinks, mussels, a hotdog and an evening of live music.

“I love going and seeing people I haven’t seen in months,” said Vickie Chambers, executive director of the Coupeville Historic Waterfront Association, or CHWA.

Every true restaurant in town, 15 in all, is participating in the chowder tasting contest, she said.

Three different chowder tasting tickets are being sold, with five tastings per ticket both Saturday and Sunday.

A total of 1,500 tickets will be sold each day.

Tickets sell out fast on Saturdays.

Each business plans to give out 500 samples of chowder each day.

“It’s a huge time and financial commitment (for our businesses),” Chambers said.

Olson and Chambers both advise coming early either day to ensure getting a ticket.

Chowder tasting is 11 a.m. to 3:30 p.m. both days. Tickets will be sold as early as 10 a.m.

All the mussels for the chowder are provided by Penn Cove Shellfish. Each participating restaurant uses 40 pounds of mussels. The cost of those mussels is being split between CHWA and the shellfish company.

This is the first time Penn Cove Shellfish has donated mussels for the chowder contest, Olson said.

A new activity this year is an open-air beer and wine garden, sponsored by CHWA.

Olson said they were always getting requests from people for another space for people to sit and relax.

The area will be set up in the Rec Hall parking lot, where people can dine on mussels from the Coupeville Booster Club, enjoy some beer and wine and also listen to some music.

There will still be the beer and wine tent located across the street from the Rec Hall.

Other businesses will be offering dining options, such as Coupeville’s newly acquired restaurant Oystercatcher. The fine dining restaurant will not only be participating in the chowder contest, but will be hosting a sandwich booth outside the business.

Event organizers are also working to create more sitting spaces around town.

“This year we’re encouraging restaurants to put spots outside,” Chambers said.

Activities throughout the day include mussel bed tours at Penn Cove Shellfish. Tours will leave from Coupeville Wharf throughout the day. The cost is $10.

“It’s a highlight if you haven’t done it,” Chambers said. “It’s something for everyone to see.”

Children’s activities will be offered 11 a.m. to 3:30 p.m. at the Masonic Lodge on North Main Street. Various activities will be offered all afternoon and the lodge offers a dry, warm space for families.

Toy “fishing” will be offered 12-2 p.m. again this year on the Windjammer deck. Each day a child will have the chance at fishing the “golden mussel” for a big prize.

Each day in the Rec Hall, six professional chefs will offer demos.

Also, the ever popular mussel eating contest is 3 p.m. both Saturday and Sunday in the Rec Hall. Get there early to sign up.

Entry is $5 and the winners get bragging rights.

Art cars from Seattle have also been invited, but as is a challenge with mussel fest, everything is weather permitting.


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