Mar 5, 2011 10:25 PM by Dr. Anya Winslow

A thriving event with lasting spice

Fat Tuesday‘s celebration came early in Manitou Springs. Saturday marked the 19th year for the town's annual "Mumbo Jumbo Gumbo Cook-off" and Mardi Gras Parade. The event has more economic impact than one may think.

Over a dozen professional and amateur chefs gathered in Soda Springs Park to battle it out over gumbo. One team of three has been participating since 1999. This year, there were six teams in the professional category and eight in the amateur division, and all of the teams had spirit and a drive to win.

Each year, Tom Zimmerman, Darryl Feezor, and Frank Jakowich, who compete in the amateur category, trek down from Denver. They have claimed three first place trophies, two second place trophies, and a "People's Choice" award. This year, the truth of a win was in their gumbo.

Manitou's Chamber of Commerce says that the population of the city is around 5,000. During the Mardi Gras celebration the population swells to approximately 10,000 - 15,000. That extra foot traffic means big bucks for the merchants in Manitou Springs.

We caught up with a spokesperson for The Ancient Mariner, Brian Wonciar, and he says, "We do fifteen times the business today than in any other day during the year. It's enough to pay our property tax for the year. So, that really is a big help."

If this event were to fade away, some businesses would suffer drastically expresses Wonciar. "It would really be devastating to a lot of local merchants. This helps get them through where they can stay open year-round instead of having to close them part of the year," adds Wonciar.

As for the veteran team of three, their fate was sealed with their 2011 batch of seafood gumbo. They secured the first place win in the amateur category. When asked if they would be back next year, Feezor's fervor came through. "We'll be back next year...with a vengeance. We love coming down and doing this and winning."

The winners:
Professional Division:
1st: Front Range BBQ*
2nd: Smiley's Bakery and Café*
3rd: The Club at Flying Horse*
*All from Colorado Springs

Amateur Division:
1st: Marin "Darryl" Feezor
2nd: Jose Gonzalez, Jr.
3rd: The Wayward Cajuns

Showmanship Award: The Wayward Cajuns
People's Choice Award: Whole Foods

$25 dollar cash prizes were awarded to the winners and $25dollars of "Manitou Money" was awarded to the Showmanship and People's Choice winners.


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