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Wednesday, Feb. 22, 2023

Battle of the Gumbo Gladiators


Cook-off to benefit Volunteers for Youth Justice

You might want to skip breakfast on Saturday, March 11. That’s the day the Volunteers for Youth Justice (VYJ) will open its 10th annual Battle of the Gumbo Gladiators Gumbo Cook-Off.

Gates open at noon, but the contestants will have already been slaving for hours over steaming pots of southern succulence.

Amie Roberts is the director of development for VYJ. “The teams get there at 5 in the morning, and they start cooking the gumbo. By 11:30 is the first ‘turn in,’ where they turn their gumbo in to the judges. At noon the gates open to the public, and the public gets to come in and start sampling the gumbo.”

When the gates open, attendees will get to sample the handiwork of the competitors. “We usually have about 40 teams,” Roberts said. “Some of them cook multiple pots of gumbo. Sometimes we might have like 60 pots of gumbo because some of [the teams] might compete in [multiple] categories.”

The is an annual fundraiser to support VYJ programs, providing advocacy for child victims of abuse or neglect and those at risk of being involved in the juvenile court system. Last year, VYJ provided services for over 4,500 children utilizing 350 volunteers.

On March 11, the judging starts around 11:30 a.m. in Festival Plaza downtown, the gates open at noon, and category winners will be announced at 4 p.m. There are some minor changes this year, according to Roberts. “It’s always been free to get in. This year we’re going to charge a dollar. We liked it being free, but we needed to cover some expenses. Hopefully, that won’t hurt [attendance] any.”

She suggested bringing back-up if you want to sample several of the recipes. “We sell the samples for like $2 each, it’s a fourounce sample. That doesn’t sound like much, but when you think about eating 20 ounces of gumbo, that’s pretty darn cheap. If you want to try some different ones, you better bring somebody with you. Definitely don’t eat before you come.”

She added that there would also be concession stands and food trucks on hand for those who aren’t gumbo fans [if there is such a thing]. There will even be bounce house entertainment available for kids who need some distraction and musical entertainment for non-children who need a distraction.

But, “the majority of what the people come for is to do the gumbo sampling,” Roberts said.

Last season’s competition broke records, with 30 teams cooking up 41 pots of steaming gumbo. Teams from Breaux Bridge, Texarkana, and as far as Lufkin competed with local teams in hopes of taking home the trophy for the tastiest gumbo in North Louisiana.

To enter your business or organization in the competition, please visit www.gumbogladiators.com/register for all participation and registration information. The deadline to register is Feb. 24. For more information, contact amie.roberts@vyjla.org or call 318-425-4413.

VYJ was created in 1981 by members of the First Presbyterian Church of Shreveport to provide intervention and support services to children in our community. VYJ currently operates six primary programs: Court Programs (FINS), TASC-Truancy, Youth Programs, CASA (Court Appointed Special Advocates), TBRI (Trust Based Relational Intervention) and the Misdemeanor Referral Center

These programs rely on VYJ staff, along with over 400 community volunteers to help children and their families in times of crisis. They provide advocacy for child victims of abuse or neglect, diversion and intervention services, youth mentoring and leadership, and truancy intervention with family support services. VYJ serves children of all ages, racial and socio-economic backgrounds in Northwest Louisiana. VYJ provided services to over 4,500 children in 2021.


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