This year’s Battle for the Paddle winner will truly have to earn the trophy after 101 teams signed up to cook their special gumbo and jambalaya recipes for a parish full of taste testers.
The mouth-watering aroma of steaming chicken andouille gumbo and jambalaya will hover in the air at the West Bank Bridge Park on Oct. 6. When patrons are finally allowed inside the gates of the United Way of St. Charles’ Battle for the Paddle at 4 p.m., a culinary free-for-all will take place.
Members of the participating teams will do all they can to entice visitors to their booths to try their special recipes.
Because while a panel of judges will pick some of the winners, everyone is gunning for the People’s Choice award.
The Battle for the Paddle has continued to grow as more participating teams drive up visitors to one of the largest yearly events in the parish.
Last year, a then-record 80 teams signed up to cook their own special gumbo and jambalaya recipes on-site and serve the finished product to those in attendance. While 101 teams have signed up so far this year, more are expected before the Oct. 5 deadline. Older patrons pay only $5 to eat as much as they like, while those 10 and under get into the event for free.
The recent increase in teams has correlated to a bigger audience. In 2008, 74 teams signed up to cook, which brought around 1,600 people to the battle. In 2009, 77 teams signed up and nearly 2,000 people attended.
Last year, 2,500 people made their way to the West Bank Bridge Park to try those special recipes.
“It’s a very popular event,” Trista Brazan, United Way of St. Charles campaign and communications manager, said. “A lot of people like it and it’s a great way to celebrate south Louisiana food.”
Battle for the Paddle serves as the kick-off event for United Way’s fundraising campaign each year. Brazan said that more than 44,000 people in St. Charles Parish benefit from one of the many organizations that the United Way supports with their donations.
While the public chows down on all the gumbo and jambalaya they want, they will be entertained by local musician Reese Chiasson.
Along with cooked food, which will be judged by both the public and a panel comprised of local leaders, sweets, snoballs, soft drinks and beer will be served during the event.
Teams will begin arriving to set up their tents at 8 a.m. At 11 a.m., the contestants begin cooking, and at 4 p.m., residents get their first chance to enter the event.
Battle for the Paddle ends at 7:30 p.m.
To sign up a team online, visit http://www.uwaysc.org and click on the Battle for the Paddle link. There is a $100 registration fee to enter.