The 2012 Harbor City Cook-off Festival featured something for everyone: gallons of gumbo, a variety of music and plenty of fun.

The 2012 Harbor City Cook-off Festival featured something for everyone: gallons of gumbo, a variety of music and plenty of fun.

Held Saturday at Saracen Landing, the event included vendors, children’s activities, bounce houses, games and crafts. Afternoon activities included live music and the tasting and judging of the gumbo and catfish cook-offs.

Tantalizing aromas filled the air as teams squared off to see who could cook up the best gumbo. Other teams competed to earn bragging rights for fried catfish. Win or lose, all agreed that it was a chance to get together and enjoy the day.

“We enjoy the camaraderie and the friendly competition against the other teams,” said Lt. Mike Hipp, a member of the Pine Bluff Fire and Emergency Services Department team. He and Lt. Fabian Fontenot were tending to a huge simmering pot of gumbo.

They faced some interesting competition from teams like the California Gumbo Kings, Just Gumbo (Evergreen Packaging), Pine Bluff Wastewater Utility Gumbo Float, ICVR King Team, Swamp Gumbo (Simmons First National Bank), The Cotton Belt Federal Credit Union, Bayou Justice (Pine Bluff City Attorney’s Office) and L.A.’s Finest Cooks. There was even a gumbo-cooking team from McDonald’s,

“We’re having a great time,” said Jennifer Norris Riles, a McDonald’s general manager. “We just want to help the community. We are winners as long as we participate.”

No one revealed any secret recipes but they talked about some intriguing strategies.

“We don’t even have a family recipe,” said Bobbie Harris, a Cotton Belt team member “We just start throwing stuff in there.”

“I just thought it would be a lot of fun,” said Joe Spadoni, who also enlisted his son Andrew’s help on the team.

Calvin Tichy, who led the cook team from Simmons, jokingly claimed the “secret recipe” for Swamp Gumbo is “kept in the vault at Simmons Bank.” In keeping with the team’s name, Tichy and his crew – Susan Lambert, Liz Ellis, Linda Roberts and Hayley Wreyford — wore denim bib overalls and camouflage hats. They said they enjoy coming out and meeting the public and being involved in the community.

Kenneth Collins, whose Kappa Alpha Psi Fraternity team won first place in the catfish category last year, said he would not have missed the cook-off.

“I’m here to hold up my reputation,” he said. The team competed against Failla Janitorial, B.R.A.V.E (Pine Bluff Black Firefighters Association) and Granny’s Kitchen.

Guests young and old found something to enjoy ranging from funnel cakes to live music. Friends Taylor South and Brittany Davis enjoyed both as they shared a fried cake topped with powdered sugar and listened to the Saints of Yesterday band.

Many called the event a positive for Pine Bluff.

“I just like a peaceful environment of the kids,” said LaToya Wallace.

”It’s a beautiful day,” said Sharon Simmons. “Everybody is enjoying themselves. We need to do this more often.”

Besides enjoying an array of kids’ activities, 2-year-old Leiana Nickerson was fascinated by bass, minnows and other fish in a portable aquarium provided by the Arkansas Game and Fish Commission.

Marcus Brookins, the festival’s entertainment director, said the goal is to bring together Pine Bluff residents, offer family-friendly activities and bring in different businesses to show what the city has to offer.

“It’s a positive event for Pine Bluff and it’s a time to show the community that we have positive things going on. “