Planning to attend the Outer Banks Seafood Festival Saturday, Oct. 20? Don’t worry, the mullet toss competition will return this year at the popular event, though the large, stinky bait fish is unlikely to be served by any of the event’s 12 participating restaurants.
The winner of the highly popular and certainly eccentric contest is the person who tosses a whole mullet the farthest. “The mullet toss is always entertaining and a real crowd favorite,“ says Richard Hess, 2018 festival chair. No spectators have been injured by a flying fish yet, he says.
The seafood fest — which is from 10:30 a.m. to 6 p.m. at the Soundside Event Site, 6800 S. Croatan Hwy., Nags Head — will feature food from: Basnight’s Lone Cedar, Captain George’s, Dirty Dick’s Crab House, Greentail’s Seafood Market and Kitchen, The Jolly Roger, Mulligan’s, Outer Banks Brewing Station, Proof Bakery, Stripers Bar and Grille, Sugar Creek Seafood Restaurant and Ten O Six Bistro.
“These 12 restaurants have committed to a lot of work preparing for this event, working all day outside and then they return to their restaurant for a Saturday night dinner service. It’s a very full day for them,” Hess says.
Liquid refreshments will be available from City Beverage, Outer Banks Brewing Station, Pepsi, Sanctuary Vineyards and Weeping Radish. Outside food and beverages are not allowed.
Participating restaurants receive the benefits of greater exposure to customers who may be unfamiliar with their cuisine, Hess says. And patrons get to sample a wide variety of delicious dishes.
Four bands featuring various musical styles will play for the 10,000 attendees expected to pass through the event site throughout the day. Featured bands are The Jones Sisters, the Dr. Tom Band with Leslie Buck, the No More Room Band and the Main Event Band.
Hess says that a new cook-off event has been added to the Outer Banks Seafood Festival this year: “We’ll have a head-to-head cooking competition between Randolph Sprinkle of the Salt Box Café on Colington Road and Marcelo Ortega of Ortega’z Southwestern Grill in Manteo.
“To make it fun the dueling chefs must use a mystery ingredient we won’t reveal until the event. It should add a challenging element,” Hess says. The cook off begins at 12:30 p.m. in the cooking tent at the Outer Banks Event Park, soundside in Nags Head.
The cooking tent schedule also includes a cooking demo by chef Sharon Peale Kennedy (11 a.m.), a question and answer session on mariculture in North Carolina (1:45 p.m.) and a question and answer session with local captains of boats featured in the National Geographic television show “Wicked Tuna Outer Banks.”
The Outer Banks Seafood Festival will bring back for a second year a boat and tackle section. A local arts and crafts section, which Hess describes as “huge,” will be larger than prior years, and organizers have also added a local products section for businesses that don’t fit into the other categories. Overall, the festival grounds have been expanded since last year for a less crowded experience, Hess says.
The first 7,500 people to enter the festival will be able to vote for the People’s Choice Award, the best local dish of the event. Ballots will be distributed at the entry gate and collected at the SeaBucks tent until 4:30 p.m. The winning dish will be named at approximately 5:20 pm.
Admission is $5 ages 12 and older. Children 11 and younger accompanied by an adult are free. The Outer Banks Seafood Festival is a family-friendly event but pets are not allowed. The event will be held rain or shine.
There is no on-site parking for general admission. Free parking is available with shuttle buses leaving every half hour or less from four sites: Whalebone Park, Nags Head Town Hall (handicap parking only), Nags Head Elementary School and First Flight High School.
The inaugural Outer Banks Seafood Festival, a collaboration between the Outer Banks Chamber of Commerce, Outer Banks Visitors Bureau, Outer Banks Catch and the Outer Banks Restaurant Association, was held in 2012.
The number of participating vendors and attending visitors has steadily grown over the following years.