30 January 2012
Time does fly when you are having fun! Because it’s certainly hard to believe that Mexico Beach will be staging its 13th annual Gumbo Cookoff this month. I remember the first one as if it were yesterday.
The sponsoring group back then was the Mexico Beach Chamber. And I was asked if I could offer some cookoff advice and be a judge since I was heavily involved in the highly successful gumbo cookoff at the Carrabelle Riverfront Festival. Never one to pass up a great bowl of gumbo, I readily agreed. The event was held at Canal Park at the far western end of the eastern Bay County gulf front community and the offerings were absolutely delightful. And all had a rip-roaring time.
As you will read in Ron Childs commentary on this page the cookoff has expanded considerably since that first day. With a restaurant division and a Brunswick Stew division.
Personally, when I think of gumbo I think of a Louisiana nurtured concoction with all kinds of seafood, sausage, chicken, okra and, of course, filet. But to some others it is simply a “stew”. Unfortunately, many of the first batches of “gumbo” conjured up by contestants for the Carrabelle event nearly two decades ago were of a “stew” nature and head judge and main sponsor Joe Butler of Gulf State Bank loved the stuff. I urged him to refine the rules so the bayous of “Loosiana” would come to mind when sampling the entries.
Fortunately he was a flexible man and a few years later regular Carrabelle contestant Jackie Gay also entered her gumbo in the Good Housekeeping Recipe Contest and she tied for first place in the nation. Paul Newman presented a check for $50,000 for her favorite charity – the Franklin County Public Library. And that’s why we now have a fabulous library facility in the Pearl of the Panhandle (Carrabelle).
Mexico Beach Chamber chores are now mostly handled by the nearby Gulf County Chamber. Back in the early 90’s MB had its own active Chamber and was it was a significant participant in our efforts to create a united coastal front that became known as “Florida’s Forgotten Coast.” In fact, the vote on the new unified name was taken at the MB Chamber office. And they chipped in $500 towards the grand total of $3,500 that Cindy Clark (Bay Media Services) and I used to start the first ever Forgotten Coast publicity/marketing campaign. And, by golly, I think it was a success.
Hope you enjoy the gumbo!