Competition was fierce. Some competitors’ offerings were spicy, while some opted for rice and some for potato salad to accompany their entries. It was all in fun as chefs from two casinos and a Latimer group took home top prizes Sunday in the Sun Herald Gumbo Championship at the Biloxi Seafood Festival.
Chefs from the Scarlet Pearl Casino of D’Iberville won the Best of Show for a second year in a row. They also won the Professional Championship award.
Beau Rivage chefs took home the People’s Choice Award.
And Grumpy’s Gumbo, a group from Latimer that tops its gumbo with potato salad, won the Amateur Championship.
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An estimated 25,000 people attended the two-day festival that offered something for everyone on Biloxi’s Town Green, said Adele Lyons of the Biloxi Chamber of Commerce.
“It was slam-packed and we were glad to see so many come out to enjoy themselves,” she said.
The teams were in it to win it.
“But it’s all about the camaraderie, everybody getting together and having a good time,” said Kristian Wade, Beau Rivage executive chef.
On Sunday, gumbo tasters paid $5 to sample all the contestants’ gumbo and to vote on the People’s Choice. A panel of judges picked the other winners.
Five teams participated in each of the two divisions.
One of the teams had The Rev. Jason Garnett speaking on a microphone, urging gumbo tasters to vote for the the delicacy served up by the Lutheran Church of the Good Shepherd.
“It’s blessed by God. Made with love,” Garnett said as a line of people giggled at his approach. The church’s recipe, he said, is “South Mississippi gumbo.”
Jenny Downs of Gautier brought her sister-in-law, Irma Furlan, of Theodore, Alabama. They tasted all the gumbo offerings and cast their votes.
“We’re really enjoying ourselves,” Downs said.
But it wasn’t all about the gumbo.
The 36th annual festival offered plenty to enjoy: seafood of all types, beverages, vendor’s wares, kids activities and live music by the Black Water Brass.
Food vendors sold everything from boiled shrimp and crabs to grilled lobster tails and shark on a stick, as well as fried okra, another Southern staple.
There also were cake walks.
Children bounced and slid on inflatable attractions. They got their faces painted. Some even tried their skills at bungee jumping.
Matt and Megan Chiniche of Ocean Springs and daughter Sophie watched as their younger daughter, Blaire, tried out bungee jumping.
The couple said it was a beautiful day for a family outing at the festival.