MARY MEAUX — Nothing better than eating gumbo for a good cause in Port Arthur

Published 12:04 am Thursday, September 15, 2022

When I heard the news the Rotary Club of Port Arthur is bringing back Taste of Gumbo as an in-person event next year, I was a bit giddy.

I love me some gumbo.

As I thought of the return of the event, I started thinking back to the many times I attended Taste of Gumbo, either to cover the event as a reporter or to go with my family on my own time.

Subscribe to our free email newsletter

Get the latest news sent to your inbox

Either way I had me some gumbo.

Back in February 2020, I had the opportunity to be one of the judges. That, my friend, was an experience.

We opted on a system to judge the gumbo and realized early on we all had different ideas of what makes a good gumbo. Some preferred thin liquid, while others wanted more texture. And we all had our own reasons for choosing the ones we felt rose above the rest.

One of the judges really, really enjoyed one of the samples that I didn’t. After some discussion I realized this was the person’s first time tasting that type of gumbo, so to him, it was great.

While it wasn’t my favorite, it gave me some perspective and I chuckled as I thought about the obvious — we all have different tastes.

The samples kept coming, and we finally whittled the list down to winners we all agreed upon.

But there was more going on at that event and the others I’d been to. There’s camaraderie of sorts as people line up at the tables for a sample, then go sit down and eat. People were happy, smiling and having a good time.

Periodically I would hear Rotary member Dr. Johnny Brown call out ticket numbers of those who’d won door prizes.

But the event is about more than gumbo tasting. It’s a fundraiser for the club.

President-elect Dana Espinal told Port Arthur Newsmedia the funds raised from the event are used for programs in the community such as scholarships.

“It’s our way to be able to contribute back to the community,” Espinal said. “So the more folks we have to 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 a high school Rotary group, and providing more than 100 boxes of Thanksgiving meals to local families.

COVID threw a wrench into previous Taste of Gumbo plans. While the February 2020 event went as scheduled, the pandemic forced the 2021 event to become a drive-thru experience.

In 2022 there was a surge in omicron cases, which led to the cancellation of the event, which was replaced by Taste of Summer July 9.

Now, I’m looking forward to eating gumbo for a good cause once again.

Mary Meaux is a news reporter for Port Arthur Newsmedia. She can be reached at mary.meaux@panews.com.