Walla Crawl participants make rounds to pubs

For every ticket sold to Walla Crawl, organizers donated $5 to the Walla Walla Fire Department Benevolence Fund.

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During the first Walla Crawl, Sapolil Cellars bartender Nick Spencer (left) makes a hurricane, a mixed drink that is popular in New Orleans, for Andrew Gately (in white hat).

WALLA WALLA - The Red Monkey was packed all Saturday afternoon as hundreds of customers enjoyed Alabama Slammers, New Orleans jazz and a pub crawl.

Though the drink had been served before at the establishment, the pub crawl and brassy jazz were a first, according to bartender Anna Allan.

"This is just for Mardi Gras ... We sold 300 tickets," she added.

An estimated 600 people paid $25 each to be part of the Walla Crawl Mardi Gras Pub Crawl.

Each received nine tokens that allowed them to partake in either one drink or one food item at the eight taverns, bars or tasting rooms that took part in the event that lasted from 1-7 p.m.

The extra token could be used at any of the eight locations.

Since the participants were required to start their crawl at the establishment where they bought their tickets, and since the Red Monkey sold roughly 300 tickets, it made sense that the bar packed with 150 crawlers right at the start.

Once they finished their slammers, the crawlers spread across downtown.

A block away, the Crossroads Steakhouse served up a traditional New Orleans-style hurricane drink and gumbo with rice.

"It was pretty strong. It was good," Kelli Knudson said, as she walked from the Crossroads to her next destination.

While most of her party was familiar with the eight participating establishments, there were a couple who said the crawl would get them to try someplace new, which was one of the goals of event coordinators.

"It will because the El Corazon, we don't even know where it is at," Danielle Roughton said.

From 1-7 p.m., groups of pub crawlers hopped from club to club and brought to life rooms that are usually empty early Saturday afternoon in February.

"On Saturdays it's usually very dead. We probably saw about 200 people so far," Crossroads bar manager Angela Locati said.

At Sapolil Cellars, they also saw a bigger than normal Saturday afternoon crowd.

"We wanted to make sure it was this time of year, and to have it around Mardi Gras was just a great idea," Sapolil co-owner Bill Schwerin said.

Keeping with the Mardi Gras theme, participants wore masks, crazy hats, painted faces and plenty of beads.

But there were strict rules to Walla Crawl,

Unlike Mardi Gras in the French Quarter of New Orleans, drinks were not allowed outside the establishments. And there were another French Quarter tradition that was prohibited.

"While we all know what it takes to get beads in New Orleans, that won't fly here," the official rules for the event stated.

Tina Fesler and Kathy Ruiz had plenty of beads around their neck, which they wore proudly as they sipped vodka creamsicles at Marcy's.

"We didn't have to do anything to get our beads, we bought them," Fesler said.

Other rules included no inebriation, and to keep people from getting drunk, the bars allowed crawlers to use their tokens for food items like gumbo and sweet potato fries.

Over at Public House 124, chef Chris Teal went all out on his gumbo.

"It's got duck, sausage, golden prawns. I just tried to utilize what I had around here," Teal said.

At Mill Creek Brew Pub, bartender Steve Hudson served special melon and apple drinks that were popular with the crawlers and regulars. He was also careful to provide an alternative.

"We also have fries for anybody who has had enough to drink. But we also offered our house beers," Hudson said.

Bartenders were also on the lookout for underage token holders, and were quick to card even those with a touch of grey and obviously pushing 40.

"The best part so far is I have actually been carded. I haven't been carded in 10 years," Matt Quistberse said, while enjoying a white wine sangria from El Corazon Winery.

A block away from the winery, it was the beer that ruled at Laht Neppur, where Teri Barker took part in yet another pub crawl.

"I've done a few. On cruise ships they have them," Barker said.

Pub crawls are not a new concept.

Some Walla Crawl participants noted they had also taken part in recent unofficial Whitman College student pub crawls.

Merriam-Webster online dictionary said the term first was used in the United States around 1915, and it defined pub crawl as "a round of visits to a number of bars in succession."

Today, pub crawls are often used a fundraisers.

For every ticket sold to Walla Crawl, organizers donated $5 to the Walla Walla Fire Department Benevolence Fund.

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