MONIQUE BATSON — Attendance, impact for Taste of Gumbo was amazing; Thank you Port Arthur

Published 12:26 am Friday, July 15, 2022

It’s been said that you miss 100 percent of the chances you don’t take.

And with that in mind, when an outbreak of COVID-19 killed what would have been the 35th annual Taste of Gumbo for the Rotary Club of Port Arthur, we took the ultimate chance: Do something never done before and hope to Heaven that it works.

Our club does a great deal of service projects, and the Taste of Gumbo has always been our largest fundraiser of the year.

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With those proceeds, we award scholarships to Port Arthur-area high school seniors. And the amount spent and number of recipients continues to grow each year.

In May we awarded $16,500 to well-deserving students. But it was a leap of faith.

There had been no Taste of Gumbo; there was no fundraiser. The money was only available by putting ourselves in the red. But for our local students, there was no question. We were willing to try anything.

When we realized Taste of Gumbo wouldn’t happen, we immediately started planning something new, which we called Taste of Summer.

Gumbo was incorporated, but because we knew it was happening in July, there had to be more.

Immediately we went to work finding food vendors, entertainment and other ways to draw a crowd. As a 501(c)3, we started contacting area industries and businesses for sponsorships.

We begged for door prizes and silent auction items, and did a first in our club’s history: We obtained a license from the Texas Alcoholic Beverage Commission to sell alcohol.

July 9 came, and we learned.

We learned to double-book as some of the vendors didn’t show.

We learned through the gumbo cook-off that people will still eat it regardless of the temperature outside.

We learned the inside of the Carl A. Parker Multipurpose Center will hold everyone we need, and no one has to be outside in the heat.

We learned the Rolling Bones are one of the best bands to come from Port Arthur. (Actually, we already knew. The founder is a Rotarian.)

And to date at least a dozen people saw me wearing a Rolling Bones shirt and asked where to get one.

We learned a great number of high school and college age students will spend their day just picking up trash to help their community.

We learned our first responders will work to help each other. Port Arthur Fire Department Chief Greg Benson was going to bring a fire truck for children to explore, but the ladder truck was broken that weekend.

He called the Port Neches Fire Department, who showed up to help – no questions asked.

We learned you’re all very light drinkers (and thank you for that very easy invoice).

And most importantly, above all else, we learned Port Arthur residents and business are as invested in our success as we are theirs.

Everyone of you who came to support us is appreciated more than you could possibly know.

At the end of the day, with the sponsorships from local businesses and the support of our patrons, Taste of Summer was as profitable as last year’s Taste of Gumbo.

We took a chance, and because of you, it paid off. But no worries: Taste of Gumbo is returning in March 2023.

As the newly elected 2022-23 president of our club, I want to personally thank each and every person who attended. But I’d also like to acknowledge our members.

Whether you were part of the committee or not, you all showed support in every way possible. And not one act was overlooked or under-appreciated.

I’m honored to have being chosen to lead our club for the next year, and I’m beyond grateful to call each of you a friend.

For everyone else: Get ready to eat, because Taste of Gumbo returns next year.

Monique Batson is Port Arthur Newsmedia editor. She can be reached at monique.batson@panews.com.