MONIQUE BATSON — Saluting the volunteers, companies that made Taste of Gumbo a success

Published 12:06 am Friday, March 17, 2023

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More than 400 people filled the Robert A. “Bob” Bowers Civic Center Saturday for the 35th annual Taste of Gumbo.

It was the first time since the pandemic that the largest fundraiser for the Rotary Club of Port Arthur was held in person.

Even though I have served as the organization’s president for the past nine months, it was my first time to experience the event.

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And to say “thank you” just simply isn’t enough.

While there are a few people and organizations I’d like to personally thank, there isn’t enough room on this page to recognize everyone who deserves it. Every member of our club contributed in some way to make this year’s event a success.

The Rollin Bones kept the center rocking for three straight hours as guests sang along and danced in the aisles.

If you haven’t had a chance to experience this local band made of Southeast Texas musicians/business leaders, make it your mission to attend their next event.

The Rollin Bones were organized by Rotarian Barry Davis and has blessed our club with their music for several events.

The prestigious Sweet Shop was once again spearheaded by J.T. Beckman, who helped bring in and serve so many wonderful homemade desserts baked by our members that earned $500.

Johnny and Carolyn Brown went from business to business to secure some amazing auction items that included large gas grills and a 70-inch television. Darragh Castillo with the Port Arthur Convention and Visitors Bureau helped score a four-pack of tickets to a Houston Astros game, which was auctioned off for $600. In total, more than $5,000 was made on auction items.

Cele Quesada worked for hours in the concession stand, selling drinks that brought in almost $700.

Delilah Francis, Diane Brown and Fire Chief Greg Benson manned the front door, selling and taking tickets as lines formed outside.

Jesus Acosta not only drew for our many door prizes but also honored special groups such as military personnel and healthcare professionals.

Russel Buss and David Lattimore were among Rotarians who stood for hours to serve gumbo for the restaurants facing staffing shortages.

Lawanda Finney, smiling as always, ensured our event was well documented with photographs and videos, often going live on Facebook to help bring in more attendees.

Art Thomas brought gumbo on behalf of two companies — his catering company Darlene’s as well as Texas Gas Service.

Approximately 20 students from Bob Hope High School under the direction of Interact sponsor Jordin Cheney spent not only their Saturday but their first day of Spring Break working to serve food, drinks, collect trash and help in any way possible. I would also be remiss — as they quickly reminded me when I publically thanked Bob Hope students at the event — not to thank my own two children, who sat for hours by the front door ensuring everyone had trays and napkins.

And it was all spearheaded by president-elect and this year’s Queen Gumbo Dana Espinal.

Thank you to those who sponsored Taste of Gumbo through either monetary donations or auction items: Sempra Infrastructure, Port of Port Arthur, BASF TotalEnergies Petrochemicals LLC, Texas Gas Service, Republic Services, Mid-America Contractors LLC, H-E-B, Best Buy, Lowe’s, Walmart and Walgreens.

Thank you to those who attended, including so many elected officials and area representatives, to help the Rotary Club support our community.

And most of all, thank you to the Rotarians who spent so much of their time volunteering for our organization so that we can give back to our community.

You are all heroes.

Monique Batson is Port Arthur Newsmedia editor. She can be reached at