Editor's note: The pump failure occurred on the grounds of the Harbor History Museum, which is on private property. The City of Gig Harbor’s treatment system, located across from the museum, did not cause the backup nor was it affected by the incident.
It seems Friday the 13th arrived a day late for the 2012 .
A sewer pump failure forced the last-minute cancellation of its featured grand finale, the celebrity chef cook-off, marring what would otherwise have been a “near-perfect” day for the 500 or so people in attendance on Saturday.
In its third year, the festival was organized by the and held on the grounds of the .
“It really was going as near perfect as it could have gotten until the incident,” said Mary DesMarais, the Waterfront Association’s executive director.
This year’s celebrity chef was Holly Smith, a 2010 winner on the Food Network’s Iron Chef America and owner of Café Juanita in Kirkland. She was scheduled to go up against Chef Tin Nguyen of the Clearwater Casino Resort at 4 p.m. in the tented gourmet kitchen set up in front of the museum entrance.
But shortly before 3 p.m., sewer water began bubbling up from a manhole inside the tent during a cooking demonstration by Taylor Shellfish Farms. Toilets in the museum’s two public restrooms malfunctioned as well.
While the pump failure at the museum was on private property, the city maintenance workers arrived as a courtesy to assist with the issue. They determined that the pump that channels wastewater from the museum up to the treatment plant across the street had stopped working, causing water to flow back and up onto the museum grounds.
“Because of [the sewage backup] we had to shut down our food services,” said DesMarais. “It was only about the time the food vendors were going to be shutting down anyway. But we were not able to do our celebrity chef cook-off as a result.”
An auction scheduled just ahead of the competition was canceled as well. But another fundraising event, a game of “Wine Jeopardy,” was moved to the opposite end of the museum grounds.
In place of the cook-off, Chef Smith offered to do a cooking demonstration of the dishes she had planned for the challenge. In one of the tented festival classrooms and with the help of a portable gas burner, Smith prepared Dungeness crab with avocado crema, crushed raspberries and lardo and chitara pasta in parchment with Dungeness, capers and breadcrumbs.
After the demonstration, one scheduled auction item went ahead as planned; attendees quickly bought up 10 available spots to a post-festival private reception with Chef Smith at .
The Wine and Food Festival has more than doubled in size since it was first held in 2010. This year 64 wineries, breweries, restaurants, food vendors and exhibitors participated in the event, compared to about 25 in its inaugural year.
Most were stationed in tents set up behind the museum, where the sewer problem largely went unnoticed until the change in scheduling was announced over the PA system.