Swansboro to celebrate with Mullet Festival this weekend

Published: Thursday, October 10, 2013 at 09:30 PM.

What started as a celebration of a new bridge has grown into one of Swansboro’s premiere festivals, featuring one of Eastern North Carolina’s iconic seafood dishes.

The 59th annual Mullet Fest is scheduled for Saturday and Sunday in Swansboro.

Though often mistaken for a haircut by name, the mullet is a fish with an unmistakable taste, said Randolph Thomas of the Jacksonville Rotary Club.

“It’s a very strong fish,” said Thomas. “It has a very strong, fishy taste … You can’t substitute for it. It’s a regional favorite.”

The Jacksonville Rotary Club will be frying the fish this year, a tradition that has been a part of the festival since the beginning, after the bridge over the White Oak River was built near downtown nearly 60 years ago. The bridge was finished in October, at the height of mullet season, and a tradition was born. The Rotary Club will provide the fish, coleslaw, green beans and green beans for $8 a plate, along with a glass of iced tea or water. Thomas said those who are apprehensive about trying the distinctive fish should put their inhibitions behind them and embrace the festival’s namesake.

“People have tried it before and they love it,” said Thomas. “Fried mullet goes well with coleslaw and hush puppies as well as white wine.”

But the mullet festival has grown in size and scope since the 1950s. Vendor spots have sold out, with over 100 organizations and businesses using the festival as an advertising and awareness venue. Lady Swan Boat Tours will also provide tours at the town dock. According to Judy Haley, one of the festival’s organizers, one of the biggest draws to the festival is actually the smaller crowds and community atmosphere it fosters.

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