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Tuesday, Dec. 4, 2018

Gumbo & Goalposts

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2018 Walk-On’s Independence Bowl Preview

Think YOU make a big pot of gumbo for the family during the holidays?

You You ain’t seen nothing yet.

At this year’s Walk-On’s Independence Bowl, famed Chef John Folse will try to break the Guinness World Record for the largest pot of gumbo ever cooked.

The 43rd annual and 11th oldest post-season football game will kick off Thursday, Dec. 27, at 12:30 p.m. in Shreveport’s Independence Stadium.

However, the action will start early that morning outside the stadium – in the Walk-On’s Tailgate Area. That is where Chef Folse will begin his effort to break the current record of 5,800 pounds of gumbo. Ingredients will be put into a special pot being made by a sheet metal company in South Louisiana.

“It will hold almost 7,000 pounds,” said Logan Lewis, director of marketing and membership for the Bowl. The measurements start at 6,700 pounds, expecting for 200 pounds in evaporation by the time the gumbo is ready.”

Chef Folse has done this before, albeit on a smaller scale. Before the 2011 LSU vs. Alabama game, he broke the then-world record by cooking a pot of gumbo which weighed 3,700 pounds.

As you can imagine, this is not a run-to-the-store-at-the-last-minute type of endeavor.

“Organization and preparation are extremely important in creating a gumbo of over 3.5 tons,” Chef Folse said. “The same recipe for a pot of gumbo made at home would be used for the one we will make. You just have to find the right multiplier and multiply your existing recipe ingredients. Once we decided we were up for the challenge, the Chef John Folse & Company research and development team used an existing recipe and multiplied it to equal about 3.5 tons.”

This will not be a one-person effort, as you can help Chef Folse try to break the record. For a yetto-be-determined donation, you will be able to put some of the gumbo’s ingredients into the pot. You can also buy a bowl of gumbo for $5. All proceeds from the record-setting attempt will go to Fisher House Foundation, a non-profit organization selected by Walk-On’s.

“Since 1990, this organization has created a network of ‘comfort homes,’ where military and veterans’ families can stay at no cost while a loved one is receiving treatment,” Chef Folse explained. “These houses are located at military and VA medical centers across the U.S. and Europe. It is estimated that Fisher House Foundation has saved families about $400 million in lodging and transportation costs since it started.”

The gumbo event is something new – part of a concerted effort to raise the level of bowl day – and bowl week – events.

“I can tell you that this year, for bowl week, every aspect – whether it’s public events or special events just for the teams – every aspect has been touched, enhanced, refreshed, and we have some things that are brand new,” said Bowl Chairman Trey Giglio. “This year will set a new standard for bowl week at the Independence Bowl.”

A new standard needs to be set, Giglio said, because fans now expect more action than what takes place on the field.

“As you travel to regular season games throughout the country in Power 5 conferences (ACC, Big 10, Big 12, Pac 12, SEC), they (schools) have done a lot of work over the past few years to enhance the experience their fans have during a regular season game. This is a bowl game, so intuitively, the experience should be better than that of a regular season game. We have to get better because the bowl game is a reward for these teams, and the fans expect an experience that is equal to or better than a regular-season game experience.”

Shreveport is one of the smallest cities to host a bowl game. However, Giglio says that doesn’t have to mean a small-time game day atmosphere.

“We wanted to focus on the fan experience and make sure the local fan and the traveling fan have that biggame atmosphere when they come to Shreveport and have everything they expect of a big-time bowl game. We have a Power 5 bowl game here, and that’s a big deal.”

It’s also a big deal that this year’s game will be played two days after Christmas.

“Having that day after Christmas for fans to travel to come see the bowl game is tremendous,” Giglio said. “We’re very excited with the 27th.”

Among the changes to this year’s bowl week activities:

The Big Game Show is relocating to Municipal Auditorium. “We think that move will be very neat for the teams to experience the Municipal just because of all the history that’s in that building – a lot of history for Shreveport,” Giglio said. The event, which costs $5 to attend, features coaches and players taking part in game show-style competitions.

The Walk-On’s Independence Bowl Mardi Gras Preview Parade will be the unofficial start to the 2019 Mardi Gras season. “It will feature the majority of our Mardi Gras krewes,” Giglio said. Twenty

floats – along with the participating teams’ bands – will roll from the Louisiana Boardwalk in Bossier City, across the Texas Street bridge into Shreveport, down Texas Street and back to Festival Plaza. “A lot of these floats will be new and updated for the Mardi Gras season,” Lewis said.

The Block Party in Festival Plaza will be bigger than last year. “This year, we tried to get a band (Parish County Line, a country music cover band from Baton Rouge) that has a little more recognition – a higherlevel band,” Giglio said. The concert will follow the annual Pep Rally and Battle of the Bands.

The Pub Crawl has more participating businesses. “Last year, we had six locations,” Lewis said. “This year, we’re hoping for 12 locations. We offer prizes to people that make it to all the locations.”

“We want to offer events that cater to the entire spectrum,” Giglio said. “Whether it’s family events like our Big Game Show, or whether it’s an event for young professionals like our Pub Crawl, we want to offer a wide range of events that have interest across all age groups – all demographics.”

“We want to make sure we touch not part of the community,” Giglio said, “but all of the community.”

Having two teams play in the game which all of the community will embrace is a little harder.

“We try to strike a balance of a match-up that is of local interest but also national relevance,” Giglio said. “It’s important that we strike that balance.

We want a matchup that the locals want to attend – that are interested in seeing – but it also has to be a match-up that people are interested in watching across the country, because that TV rating is an important part of the bowl game as well.”

This year’s game – televised by ESPN – will have a potential audience of millions of people. That means three-and-a-half hours of national television exposure for Shreveport-Bossier.

“For most people in the world, the Independence Bowl is the only impression of Shreveport they will ever get in their lifetime,” Giglio said “That’s a responsibility we take very seriously. We hope people see that game, see our community during the broadcast, and want to come visit. Take vacation here. Want to move their company here. Open a business, open a branch here. That’s what our hope is.”

In 2017, Walk-On’s Bistreaux and Bar – based in Baton Rouge – signed a five-year agreement to be the Bowl’s title sponsor. However, Walk-On’s can opt out of that agreement after next year’s game. For that reason alone, it’s important this year’s game – and pre-game events – is well-attended. But Giglio insists that’s not the only reason.

“Every year is important,” Giglio said. “I can tell you that we’ve worked hand-in-hand with Walk-On’s along the way in planning this year’s bowl week events, our bowl game, on everything. It’s very important. But it’s not only important because of Walk-On’s. It’s important for traveling fans and for our community because we do this game to make an impact not only on Shreveport and our region, but we do it to make our city, our brand, known to the nation. That’s why it’s important.

To learn more about the Walk- On’s Independence Bowl and see a schedule of events, you may visit www.walkonsindependencebowl.org.

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