Taste of Gumbo returning as in-person event in March; check out Port Arthur details

Published 12:40 am Wednesday, August 31, 2022

For the first time since 2020, the Taste of Gumbo will return in person March 11, 2023, at the Robert A. “Bob” Bowers Civic Center.

Plans are underway for the 35th year of the Rotary Club of Port Arthur’s main fundraiser.

“We have committees, and the committees are going to be reaching out to the businesses and providing information about Taste of Gumbo, what they can sign up for,” said President-Elect Dana Espinal. “Obviously, we’re going to have gumbo, and we’re going to have the silent auction items. The community and the small business members really help support that with their donations of silent auction items, so we’re looking forward to having a good range of different items donated this year.”

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Espinal holds this year’s title of “King Gumbo,” as the club names the event’s primary organizer each year.

“This program has been a wonderful opportunity for networking and enjoying the fellowship across different neighborhoods and groups,” said Johnny Brown, who has been with the club since 2006 and served previously as “King Gumbo” as well as club president. “We have participants from 1-2 years old to 90 years old, and from neighborhoods all across Southeast Texas.”

Espinal said the event, scheduled from 11 a.m. to 2 p.m., includes door prizes, silent auction items and live entertainment from Rolling Bones.

“It’s our traditional Taste of Gumbo that we’re trying to bring back after three years,” she said. “So it’s getting everybody geared up and excited about getting the Taste of Gumbo back into Port Arthur.”

The 2020 event was canceled due to the pandemic, which also forced 2021 to become a drive-through event rather than in-person. A surge in omicron cases canceled the 2022 event, which was replaced by the Taste of Summer July 9.

The club is a 501(c)3, so donations for door prizes, silent auction items or sponsorships are tax-deductible.

“The main thing is the money that we raise through our club’s fundraiser…is used for different programs in the community, like our scholarship program,” Espinal said. “It’s our way to be able to contribute back to the community. So the more folks we have contribute and donate, the more opportunity we have to raise money and give back to our community.”

Earlier this year, Rotary awarded $16,500 in scholarships to Port Arthur-area students. Other programs include providing car seats for new mothers in need, supplying dictionaries to all third grade students in the Port Arthur Independent School District, supporting the Bob Hope School Interact Program, which is high school Rotary group, and providing more than 100 boxes of Thanksgiving meals to local families.

“It’s a great opportunity to enjoy fellowship and community engagement, and also great gumbo,” Brown said. “It’s a little bit of a competitive situation where each company tries to outdo the others. And most importantly, it’s a great fundraiser for our club, the most of which goes to college scholarships for our youth.”