If it’s the first weekend in March, it’s time for the blue, briny and bold to take a bow.
Bivalves, commonly called mussels, take center stage this weekend during Coupeville’s annual Musselfest. The event — in its 37th year — boosts the tiny town’s economy during the down, dreary days of winter as it boasts about the blue beauties of Penn Cove.
Coupeville’s homegrown crop is known for its sweet flavor and unique color and texture. Penn Cove Shellfish, which grows and sells millions of mussels annually, prides itself on growing mussels free of fertilizer or feed.
Tasting tickets for the weekend’s chowder-tasting competition between local restaurants are long gone (online sales only) but there’s still plenty to see and do, said Kellie Sites with Coupeville Historic Waterfront Association, which sponsors the event.
“There are steamed mussels for sale as well as the free samples from the chef demos,” she said. “There is live music all day on Saturday and Sunday and plenty to do for the whole family. Mussels in the Kettles is another fun way to enjoy the day — a bike ride put on by the Whidbey Island Bicycle Club.”
Sites encourages everyone to attend even if these particular sea stars don’t float your boat.
“You don’t have to like mussels to enjoy Musselfest,” she said.
Exactly how many hard, blue shells are shucked during the annual event is unknown. (Some 500 pounds are needed just for the chowder tasting.) Boatloads is an appropriate overall guess, given that’s how the mussels get to shore via the Penn Cove Shellfish aquaculture enterprise.
Owned and operated by the Jefferds family since 1975, the business quickly grew into the nation’s largest mussel farm, then soared to star status when acclaimed chefs around the globe discovered the tasty treat from the Pacific Northwest. The company offers boat tours of its mussel rafts during the festival, and the $15 tickets go fast.
Penn Cove Shellfish also sponsors a beer tent open on Saturday featuring mussels and live music. Proceeds from sales benefit the Boys and Girls Club of Coupeville and the Coupeville High School Science Scholarship program.
Scavenger hunts and other activities for kids — including a rare chance to meet a few mermaids — are also part of Musselfest’s lineup. (Some activities require purchasing tickets.) There’s also plenty to sniff and sample inside the Coupeville Rec Hall, which serves as event headquarters.
Featured in free cooking demos: Mukilteo’s Ivar’s Landing, Michael Weeks of Coupeville’s Callen’s Restaurant, chef James Donahue of La Conner’s Nell Thorn restaurant, chef Robert Spaulding of Elliot’s Oyster House in Seattle, Langley’s Saltwater Grill and Prima Bistro and chef Ronald Walker Jr. of Bloom’s Winery in Freeland.
Watching the mussel-eating contest Saturday and Sunday afternoons is a fun food fight for all. Dozens of competitors sit around a huge table devouring cups of steamers in hopes of winning the coveted Mussel King crown and cape. (Shells are counted and examined both before and after the bell, and shirts, laps and beards are scrutinized for any missing mussel morsels.)
Muscling in for a close view of the mussel-eating madness is advised before the popular 3 p.m. event begins Saturday and Sunday.
Better yet, enter the contest.
For only $5, you’ll get a mound of mighty mollusks. And you can forget your table manners.
Musselfest, March 4-5, Coupeville, Whidbey Island
Free general admission, but some events require tickets.
10 a.m.-5 p.m.: Food and other vendors open
10 a.m.-3 p.m.: Free children’s activities, 804 N. Main St
11 a.m.-7 p.m: Beer/wine/cider tent for the 21-plus crowd
Free shuttle buses
This is a partial list of activities. For more information, visit Musselfest Headquarters at the Coupeville Rec Hall or see https://www.coupevillehistoricwaterfront.com/musselfest2023
Be advised many activities are outside or in tents so dress appropriately.
Coupeville closes its streets to vehicles during the festival.
Dogs must be leashed.
Talk to us
- You can tell us about news and ask us about our journalism by emailing email@example.com or by calling 425-339-3428.
- If you have an opinion you wish to share for publication, send a letter to the editor to firstname.lastname@example.org or by regular mail to The Daily Herald, Letters, P.O. Box 930, Everett, WA 98206.
- More contact information is here.