Chowder sampling, nautical shopping, kids’ activities, music and a beer garden are all part of the Port of Olympia’s all-ages Boatswap & Chowder Challenge this Saturday.
Best known for offering the opportunity to sample some of the best chowders from local chefs, the Boatswap and Chowder Challenge is a community festival that also has shopping — both vendor booths, and a chance to buy boats and gear — and live entertainment.
New this year is a beer garden hosted by the Olympia Firefighters Civic Foundation, and sponsored by the Tumwater Rotary. Port officials say they are excited for this addition since it is an element they’ve been told visitors missed in the past.
Kids’ activities include a trout pond, bounce house, inflatable obstacle course, face painting and crafts.
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The chowder sampling will go from 1 to 2:30 p.m., during which time 10 chowder-making competitors will face off for the “best chowder” awards.
Visitors pay $5 for a commemorative chowder mug and a token to vote for their favorite chowder. They can taste as many times as they want, so long as the chowder lasts.
Chowder contestants include Emma's Grill House, Darby’s Café, Fish Tale Brewpub, Little Creek Casino, O’Blarney’s Irish Pub, Olympia Seafood, South Bay Pub and Eatery, Spunky Monkey Bar and Grill, The Sidewalk Café, and Vern’s Catering.
Forza Coffee Company, Pizza Time, All Fed Up and Southbay BBQ will sell alternatives to chowder.
At 3:15 p.m., Port Commissioners will announce the winners of the People’s Choice and the Chef’s Choice awards.
Last year’s first-place People’s Choice winner was Little Creek Casino, and Lady of the Lake took home the Chef’s Choice award.
The Chef’s Choice award is decided among the competitors. The restaurants taste each other’s chowders before the public sampling begins and then vote for their favorite.
Jennie Foglia-Jones, Port marketing and community relations coordinator, said the Port created the event in 1996 for the community to have waterfront family fun.
The first event hosted approximately 500 guests, and by 2007 there were about 7,000 people attending. After a five-year hiatus because of marina construction, the event returned in 2013. In 2014, there were about 6,000 people, including about 1,500 chowder tasters.
“This year we anticipate 6,000-7,000 attendees to join us for a fun day on the waterfront,” Foglia-Jones said.
She said that last year 11 restaurants each brought about 25-30 gallons of chowder, and the same amount is expected from each of this year’s 10 restaurants.