We came, we saw, we gumbo’d

Published: Thursday, February 20, 2014 at 10:53 AM.

In the shadow of the El Governor Motel in Mexico Beach, something was stirring on Saturday.

As it turned out, that stirring was the stomachs of hungry residents, visitors and tourists waiting to dig in at the 16th annual Gumbo Cook-off.

It was my first year attending the event and I arrived early to Sunset Park. To my surprise, the line to get tickets rivaled some of Hollywood’s hottest nightclubs. Luckily for those who were queued, drinks were already being served and “the waiting game” quickly turned into the “how’s it going” game as people jovially made new friends in line or reconnected with old ones.

The normal aroma at Sunset Park of salt air wafting off the Gulf gave way to the smell of simmering sausage, chicken and seafood. I have to assume, and hope, that Heaven smells the same way.

When the ticket window opened a flood of hungry people began to purchase tickets by the fistful, grabbing and stuffing them into their pockets. I haven’t seen such fervor for something since Hostess announced that they were discontinuing production of the Twinkie in 2012.

As the ticket line dwindled down, patrons re-queued inside tents where 30 teams had set up Mardi Gras-themed stations. Chefs welcomed the crowd and swiftly served up various size cups ranging from a small taste to healthy, lunch-size portions.

While waiting for the event to begin, there was much speculation as to who would take home first place in the competition. According to one rumor that circulated the crowd, someone’s brother’s sister’s uncle who was first cousins with one of the judges said that the Thirsty Goat’s gumbo was a major contender.



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