Hundreds brave the rain to chow down at Boatswap and Chowder Challenge

Staff writerMay 17, 2014 

Even rain couldn’t stop the chowder.

Hundreds of people poured into Swantown Marina on Saturday for the Boatswap and Chowder Challenge, eager to sample seafood soup from 10 competitors.

A shower soaked the crowd about 20 minutes after the gates opened, but it was a minor inconvenience. Most people endured the downpour with dignity and dined on steaming chowder while waiting in long lines for the next sample.

Jason Bishop and his mother, Carrie, sought refuge from the rain in a covered golf cart. The Olympia residents said their favorite sample came from Little Creek Casino — the eventual winner that earned kudos from several tasters.

“It was just good, normal chowder,” he said. “Some of the other ones had too much thyme.”

One of the first people in line for Saturday’s challenge was Olympia resident Peter Lesser, who reminisced about his favorite chowders shortly after the sunshine returned.

“I sampled one of each, and then I had to go back to my runners-up,” he said. “I’m stuffed.”

Before the rain, Judy Ludwig and Neva Leons raved about the chowder from Fatso’s, which Leons described as “what I grew up on. It’s like my mom’s chowder.” The friends agreed that the Chowder Challenge has helped raise the bar for quality chowder in the region.

Over at the Fatso’s tent, David Weedon handed out samples of savory chowder in white paper cups.

“We’ve been doing clam chowder for 25-30 years. We do everything from scratch,” Weedon said of his family’s recipe, which took second place at last year’s challenge. “My mom taught me how to make it.”

Winners were determined by an audience vote. Little Creek Casino finished first; Fatso’s was second; Falls Terrace was third, and Lady of The Lake won the Chefs’ Choice award. Falls Terrace also won an award for best decorated booth.

Sponsored by the Port of Olympia, the event included information booths from sponsors along with an opportunity to buy boats and gear. The band Raucous provided live music, and children checked out activities such as fishing, face painting and a bouncy house. About 5,000 people were expected to attend the daylong event, with up to 1,800 people attending the Chowder Challenge, said coordinator Jennie Foglia-Jones.

Before announcing the chowder awards, Port Commissioner Bill McGregor reflected on the value of reviving the Boatswap and Chowder Challenge. The event returned in 2013 after a five-year hiatus due to construction at the marina.

“One of the best decisions we’ve made so far,” he said, “was to bring this back so the community could enjoy it.”

Andy Hobbs: 360-704-6869

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