The results are in: Seagulls go for fries

On any other day, Russ Hallsted would probably have gotten arrested — or at least recommended for a psychiatric exam.

There he was, hopping up and down on one leg in a skunk hat, screeching at the top of his lungs and tossing bagfuls of Cheetos onto the waterfront Saturday morning.

But last weekend, the large crowd that had understandably gathered to watch Hallsted on the beach clapped and cheered him on during his crazy dance. Because this was the Seagull Calling Festival, and Hallsted’s antics are the type that are not only expected, but encouraged.

A regular at the annual contest, Hallsted said he choose Cheetos for “their color and shape,” and explained that the skunk hat was to provide “extra stink.”

Unfortunately, all his careful preparation went for naught, because the seagulls stayed far away from the sand during Hallsted’s performance, either scared of him or his two Labrador retrievers, who were frantically barking the whole time.

Another contestant who carefully planned his outfit was 7-year-old Skyler

Tosh, who donned a black helmet and a life jacket to toss handfuls of white bread into the water.

“The helmet is for the poop, and the life jacket is in case (the birds) pick him up and carry him out to sea,” said Skyler’s grandfather, Darryl Lindsey of Port Orchard.

Lindsey said this was his grandson’s first time competing, but his lack of experience did not keep him from attracting enough birds to win the “Most gulls landing award” from the judges, who included Port Orchard Mayor Kim Abel and Chamber of Commerce President Billie Gurnsey.

Other contestants were not so lucky, however. Like Hallsted with his snubbed Cheetos, they learned that seagulls are pretty picky about their junk food.

South Kitsap resident Chris Adkins’ Doritos didn’t catch their attention, nor did the saltine crackers offered by 5-year-old Orchard Heights kindergartner Autumn Murray, who also may have scared them off by dressing as a black cat.

And tiny George Sidler learned that seagulls won’t really dive in for chicken drumsticks, either, as he stood patiently holding his bait up to the sky and calling to no avail.

Sidler’s attempt did win over the hearts of the judges, however, who deemed him the “Cutest Contestant.”

The bait that proved to be irresistible — as predicted beforehand by one of the event’s founders, Melode Sapp — were the french fries tossed by the newly elected Fathoms o’Fun Royalty Court, which was the first group to draw a crowd of birds Saturday morning.

Each clutching a bag of hot fries and wearing their tiaras, Queen Bailey Jo Nelson and princesses Brianna Martin and Ischaly Frei attracted enough birds to win “Best Commercial Entry,” thanking the local Jack-in-the-Box restaurant for the potatoes as they accepted their award.

All the winners went home with a driftwood plaque created by Cathy Hall, who also designed the signature “Seagull Plop” candy given to every contestant.

“It’s a very authentic-looking mix of dark chocolate and white chocolate,” said Sapp. “It looks gross, but it’s wonderful.”

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