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Monday, March 16, 2015

Raising the Roux

Gumbo battle turns up local flavor

gumbo

Get ready to gumbo March 21 as the third annual Battle of the Gumbo Gladiators brings some spice to Festival Plaza in downtown Shreveport. The gates open at 11 a.m., and winners will be announced at 3:30 p.m.

Aimee Baham, development director for the Volunteers of Youth Justice, said the Battle of the Gumbo Gladiators has been increasingly successful each year of the event.

“This is our third year, and when we started, we looked around to see what Northwest Louisiana didn’t have, and there wasn’t a gumbo cook-off, so that’s how we got the idea,” Baham said. “The first year we had 1,200 people; last year we had about 2,500, and this year we are hoping for around 4,000 people. Last year, we had 24 teams that cooked 30 pots of gumbo, and this year we have 39 teams cooking 46 pots of gumbo. In the past, we have had additional teams join in at the last minute.”

Gumbo sampling starts at noon. “Last year, some of the teams ran out of gumbo, but this year, we are hoping to have plenty of gumbo. It costs $1 per sample, and samples are in a 4-ounce cup, so there’s enough that you can share. You and a friend could fill up on all kinds of gumbos,” Baham said. “There’s no charge for admission. There will be a children’s area with blow-ups and things like that. We are going to have different arts and crafts vendors, and other types of food will be available.”

The event brings in gumbo geniuses from all around the state. This is Bossier City native Teresa Thibodeaux’s third year of competing in the event with her team, The Melted Spoons. Thibodeaux’s husband, Skipper, is originally from Breaux Bridge, and several of his friends and family make an annual pilgrimage to the event.

“It’s fun because Skip’s people come in and make it feel like a real down south event,” Thibodeaux said. “The hardest part is always the roux – that’s why we’re called The Melted Spoons!” Admission is free to the event, and there will be much more going on than just gumbo.

“When you look back at the pictures that have been taken [from past events] of the crowd in general – everyone is having so much fun! The first year we had a band; the second year we had a DJ, and the DJ just got everything hopping. Everyone was out dancing. We will have the same DJ back again this year. It’s nice because you can bring the whole family out,” Baham said.

There is still availability for teams, vendors and sponsors. Team fees are $75 for seafood or non-seafood categories, or it’s $100 to enter in both. First place for both categories will receive $500 cash each, the people’s choice gets $250, and third place gets a prize basket.

All proceeds from Battle of the Gumbo Gladiators benefits Volunteers for Youth Justice.

“We’ve been around for over 30 years and have three different programs. We have our court program, which deals with truancy and family needs and services, and then we have our youth program, which is a diversion program, for kids who get into trouble,” Baham said. “Within our youth programs we have court programs, conflict resolution – different programs that keep kids out of the justice system. The third part is CASA, or court-appointed special advocates. What they do is they become the voice of the child. We get children that are in state’s care, and we become the voice for them,” she said. “We have over 100 volunteers that work with children in our six parishes. We find out what the need of the child is – should they go back to their parents, should they stay in foster care, should they be put up for adoption – what should happen to this child and then let the courts know.”

For more information, go to www.gumbogladiators.com. To learn more about Volunteers for Youth Justice, call 425-4413 or visit www.vyjla.org.


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