By Danza Johnson | NEMS Daily Journal
IUKA – Saturday was a beautiful day to fry some fish, listen to some music and watch the children play in the park, so Iuka combined all three.
The Iuka Development and Economic Association put on the town’s first-ever catfish cookoff in conjunction with the season-ending Music in the Park concert at Iuka Mineral Springs Park on Saturday. Dozens of people showed up to enjoy the music, but more came for the catfish that was swimming in hot oil all around the park.
About a dozen contestants competed for the title of best catfish, hushpuppies and coleslaw. Jenna Rosa and Stephanie Giles, with their team Gulf Coast Catfish, combined efforts in the quest to be catfish champions.
“We’ve had a lot of compliments on our fish and we’ve had a lot of fun competing,” said Rose, who like Giles is from the Mississippi Gulf Coast. “People have really enjoyed our food. This has just been a fun day and a fun event.”
Even though this was his first time to enter a catfish cooking contest, Kenny Phifer is no rookie to cooking competitions. He has entered several chili cookoffs and decided to try his luck with fish. Phifer, an Alcorn County resident, said whether it’s fish or chili, cooking for competition is fun for him and his team.
“We just enjoy getting out in good weather and cooking good food,” Phifer said before he learned his team had won. “This has been a great experience because it’s everyone’s first time. I hope they bring it back next year. I think it will be a much bigger event next year.”
While the cooks cooked, the bands played. The park was filled with music as acts like SRX, Kaitlen Wallace, Ester Giles, and R.T. Rinehart.
Park patrons danced and sang along with the music.
“Iuka is a very small town and people always say there is nothing to do here,” said Mark Ware, an Iuka resident. “But today we didn’t have that excuse. This was a great event for the family.”