API Dickinson would like to ask residents to make room for gumbo on Sat. March 27 at West River Ice Center, located at 2004 Fairway St. for the 23rd annual gumbo cookoff beginning at 9a.m. Tickets are $10.

API Dickinson President Mark Tangen said teams will begin cooking at 9a.m. beginning with their roux which he said must be cooked on site.

“We bring everyone together and say ‘ok, you can start the roux at 11 o’clock’..or whatever we have decided to let the contestants know. That keeps everyone in house...people walk around and talk and visit and...maybe see what the other competition is doing,” Tangen said.

For those not in the gumbo loop, a roux is a combination made up of flour and some form of fat used to thicken up a soup or sauce. It is said to be foundational for any authentic gumbo.

Eighteen teams are participating, according to Tangen’s estimate, however, there’s room for more competitors. Tangen advises all who are interested in filling those spots to send an email to apidickinson@gmail.com.

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Tangen attributed the surplus of space to the new venue, the West River Ice Center. In an interview with M.C. Amick, Tangen mentioned the problems with last year’s venue which included a shortage of space.

“(In 2019,) we had 18 (teams), we had it at the Roosevelt Grand Dakota and it was just so limited space, it was frustrating a lot of people because they couldn’t get around to each of the locations,” Tangen said.

Tangen also said the ice center will allow guests to spread out and feel comfortable and safe given the CDC’s COVID-19 guidelines.

Seven judges, Tangen estimated, will determine the best gumbos. Tangen said the first and second place winners will receive some prize money. Also, Tangen mentioned a 50/50 raffle being part of the event. He said he believes that these things will help create a fun atmosphere.

Tangen said children will be more than welcome at the event until around 6:30 p.m. Beginning at 6:30p.m., Tangen said a bar area will be opened and serviced by Neighbors Bar. Canned beer along with other adult beverages will be available. IDs will be checked at the door, Tangen said.

Gumbo will also be served until there’s none left.

Readers may find themselves perplexed that a Louisiana dish is the centerpiece of a North Dakota cook off and may wonder ‘why Dickinson?’ Tangen summed up his answer in one word ‘oil.’ He said the local oil industry has brought in people from all over the country, including places like Louisiana.

“We have a lot of oil fields that are not from North Dakota, they’re from Louisiana, they’re from Texas...they wanna bring some of that flavor to North Dakota and just let people know that gumbo is for everyone,” Tangen said.

Sharing food while raising money for scholarships, Tangen said, is the name of the game. Scholarships, according to Tangen,are a key part of Dickinson API’s operations. According to the Dickinson API website, the organization gave nearly $25,000 to local students. However, going to a local college is not a requirement, in 2020, recipients attended various schools in North and South Dakota and even Minnesota.

Tangen 2021 scholarships may be applied for on the organization’s website, dickinsonapi.org. However, applicants must submit their applications by Apr. 15. In the flyer for the event, API does not limit the proceeds to scholarships, local charities are included.