SANDESTIN — It's all about the roux at the 24th annual Sandestin Gumbo Festival, Feb. 16 at The Village of Baytowne Wharf.
"The Gumbo Festival is one of our longest running and most enjoyable food events," said Lanier Motes, special events manager for The Village of Baytowne Wharf. "Many Gulf Coast restaurants serve up their best gumbo, hoping to take home the 'Area's Best' and 'People's Choice' awards.' "
For more than two decades, the Gumbo Festival has been tantalizing the taste buds of attendees. This year's festival kicks off with a good ole fashioned seafood boil at the Marina Bar and Grill Friday, Feb. 15 at 2 p.m.
Situated at the Baytowne Marina, hungry seafood lovers can chow down on the culinary creations of the Marina Bar and Grill's chefs, which includes shrimp, sausage and potatoes, for only $15 — all while overlooking the Choctawhatchee Bay.
"It’s one of my favorite spots on resort," Motes told The Log.
When the Gumbo Festival stirs into action at 12 p.m. Saturday, festival goers can stroll along The Village streets while enjoying a variety of family activities and sampling tasty treats from 19 local restaurants, including The Marlin Grill, 790 on the Gulf, Poppy's Seafood Factory, Sago, Marina Bar and Grill, The Village Door, and Harry T's, just to name a few. Dikki Du and the Zydeco Krewe will provide the event's Zydeco-inspired soundtrack.
Whether it's crafted with a light roux or a dark roux, chicken, shrimp or sausage, participants will bring their "A game," as celebrity judges choose their favorite gumbo through a blind vote. The top-three restaurants and businesses will be honored as "Area's Best" in three categories — Area's Best Freshman, Area's Best 5 years and or less, Area's Best Veteran (more than 5 years of participation).
Motes told The Log that the Veteran's category is new to the Gumbo Festival and gives long-time participants a chance to compete directly with other festival stalwarts. Motes said Buster's Bar and Grill, which has participated for all 24 years, will compete in the Veteran's division.
Also up for vote is "The People's Choice" and "Best Display" awards. Festival attendees will cast ballots for the "People's Choice" award, which was awarded to Pompano Joe's last year. With their vote, guests will be eligible for raffle items from participating restaurants. The awards ceremony begins at 4 p.m.
Tickets for the Gumbo Festival are $20 in advance and $25 the day of the event. Tickets can be purchased online at www.sandestingumbofestival.com or at Village merchants Graffiti & the Funky Blues Shack or Aloha Surf Company.
With the annual festival right around the corner, attendees are encouraged to bring their appetites and enjoy the extended President's Day weekend.
"The best thing about coming to Baytowne is wherever you go there is something to do," Motes told The Log. "You can sample some gumbo, then go shopping in one of the retail stores and then go have dinner. It's just a nice place to be outside."