At this year’s seagull calling contest next month, participants can do more than just talk to the birds — they can eat them, too.
For its 20th annual bird-calling event, the Port Orchard Chamber will be hosting a “Seagull” Wing Cook-off, where local chefs and caterers will put their fowl-frying skills to the test.
“Actually, it’s really chicken wings,” said event chair Desiree Steffens, a member of the chamber’s board of directors, explaining that contestants can cook the wings any way they’d like — frying, barbecuing, grilling or something in between.
“It’s turning out to be quite funny, because a lot of the cooks are really getting excited,” Steffens said, adding that about 10 contestants have signed up so far to earn the title of best wing cooker.
“And it could be for the best seagull wing in the world,” she said. “Who knows how many seagull wing cook-offs there are?”
Of course the main event May 3 will still be the calling, which last year had about 50 people signed up to win in categories like “Most Authentic Seagull Call, Most Seagulls Called, Judge’s Award and best business entry.”
One of the most entertaining aspects of the contest are the costumes some contestants done, such as the seagull “tent” a group of women wore last year.
With authentic touches like seaweed and even poop attached to the costume, the women went on to earn the best costume title — although that also may have been due to them handing out goodies to the judges, an accepted and encouraged practice.
Also consistently amusing are the children who show up to entice the birds, whether it’s with amazingly authentic calls or tempting treats like nachos, chips or even chicken drumsticks.
Some decide their costumes may do the trick, while some dress for the worst-case scenario, such as one 7-year-old who competed recently in a black helmet and a life jacket to toss handfuls of white bread into the water.
“The helmet is for the poop, and the life jacket is in case (the birds) pick him up and carry him out to sea,” said his grandfather, although the youngster needn’t have worried, since the gulls showed no interest in his bait.
What never fails to interest them is, not surprisingly, a favorite of humans, too — french fries. This year, Steffens said, Buck’s A&W will be donating french fries to the event.
Another festival treat, and perhaps the only one available year-round except for the french fries, is “Seagull Plop,” made right on Bay Street at The Candy Shoppe.
The poop-inspired candy is still given out to each seagull-calling contestant, but it is steadily making a name for itself far beyond the first weekend in May when the callers gather at the Port Orchard marina.
“We used to only make it for the contest, but now it’s so popular that we have to keep it in stock all the time,” said Becca Charbonneau, who runs the shop with the help of her mom, Sandy.
This year’s event kicks off May 3 — always the first Saturday — with signups at 10 a.m. and calling beginning at 11 a.m. on the beach near the Gazebo Park along the downtown waterfront. Winners of both the calling and cook-off will be announced at noon, along with music by the band SPF-50.