Mobile, Ala.- The spirit of Mobile's Downtown Cajun Cook-Off might be perfectly summed up by a quote from the inimitable Noell Broughton: Asked if organizers have a rain plan for Saturday, he quickly replied, "Raincoats."
In effect: We're gonna do this thing, and we're gonna have fun doing it.
That was the unspoken rule last year, when Broughton and other downtown restaurateurs and bar owners came together to fill the void that had been created when the American Cancer Society's Chili Cook-Off, long one of downtown's major spring happenings, left Bienville Square and moved off to west Mobile in search of much-needed elbow room.
A smaller event held in Cathedral Square, the inaugural Cajun Cook-Off was a smash success. "We were expecting maybe 1,500 people and we got 4,000," Broughton said. "You would think it would have been chaos, but it wasn't."
Aside from being a successful happening, it also was a productive fundraiser for the Child Advocacy Center. Elaine Henderson, director of development and marketing for the center, confirmed that thanks to the turnout and sponsors such as Cunningham Bounds, her organization netted more than $50,000 from the event.
Because last year's event worked so well, this year's follows much the same format. It runs from 10 a.m. to 2 p.m. Saturday, March 19, in Cathedral Square. More than 20 teams will cook up a variety of Cajun-themed fare, from standards such as etouffee, gumbo and jambalaya to more exotic options, all of which ticketholders are free to sample. And there will be live music: Rock from the Stereo Dogs and rip-roaring blues from "Gulf Coast Blues Boy" Jamell Richardson.
Tickets will be $15 at the gate, but they're discounted in advance. They are $13 if ordered online at www.cacmobile.org, and they're $10 at a several physical outlets: The Child Advocacy Center, Mellow Mushroom restaurants in Mobile, and Bugmaster offices in Mobile and Daphne. Children younger than 6 enter free if accompanied by an adult ticketholder.
Broughton encouraged advance ticket purchases, saying they help organizers know how many people are coming, and also help patrons avoid a bottleneck at the ticket booth on the way in. Henderson advised visitors to come early, if they want to get in before the crowd peaks.
Broughton also said that organizers have adjusted the layout this year to open up the square. The biggest change is that the music stage, which was in the square last year, has been moved into an adjacent street.
As for the forecast, which is a little iffy, Broughton said he's optimistic that the rain will blow over on Saturday. And Henderson mentioned that she'd just taken delivery of a shipment from sponsor Conecuh Sausage Co., which donated 25 pounds of sausage per team. That would easily be more than 500 pounds of Conecuh, which should provide enough warmth to make up for a little rain.
According to information provided by organizers, participating restaurants include Banana Docks Catering, Boudreaux's Cajun Grill, Cotton State BBQ, Hayley's, LoDa Bier Garten, Lucky Irish Pub & Grill, Mediterranean Sandwich Co., Moe's Original Bar B Que, O'Daly's Irish Pub, Saucy-Q Bar B Que, Silver Horse Pub, T.P. Crockmiers, The Admiral Hotel, The Blind Mule, The Brickyard, The Garage, The Noble South, Veet's Bar & Grill and Wintzell's Oyster House. Sponsor teams include Cunningham Bounds, WALA Fox 10 News, Advanced Disposal Gulf Coast and Wind Creek Atmore.
For updates, visit www.facebook.com/downtowncajuncookoff.