18th Annual Girls’ Haven Gumbo Festival

Southeast Texans are connoisseurs when it comes to gumbo. Ask anyone who the award-winning cook is in their family, office or church group and you’ll get 10 different reasons why their favorite is the best. The folks at Girls’ Haven take tasting and enjoying the Southeast Texas staple to the limit. Come on out and enjoy the best gumbo on the planet Saturday, Feb. 25, from 11 a.m. to 6 p.m. on the parking lot at Parkdale Mall in Beaumont in front of Macy’s and behind Logan’s.

You won’t be disappointed, say the organizers. This year’s event promises to be the biggest and the best in all of its 18 years. There will be continuous live entertainment and more than 20 games and activities for the kids. Tickets for the gumbo are $7 a bowl or four taster cups. Tickets can be purchased at the gate or in advance by calling (409) 832-6223. And one of the very best parts of the day is that all proceeds benefit Girls’ Haven.“If your group or family wishes to participate in the actual gumbo-cooking contest, you need to register right away,” said executive director Alice Teeler. “This year’s entry fee is a $100 donation to Girls’ Haven per team, and that gift secures a 10 x 10 (foot) space. A $150 donation secures the larger 10 x 20 space.” The spaces are available to groups or individuals wishing to compete, and a word to the wise: They take this contest very seriously.

Bragging rights for a full year come with a win, and they are a valuable commodity.

Gumbo will be judged in three categories: seafood, poultry and combination. One of the most sought-after awards is the People’s Choice; folks value that win highly.

Not only will guests enjoy award-winning gumbo, either in bowls or taster cups, but there’ll also be live entertainment. Texas 80 Proof, Lamar Port Arthur groups, Stone Cold and others will take the event stage to make your visit truly fun and memorable. Sonny “The Bird Man” will also be on hand for a live show.

The kid’s area will feature carnival like games. Admission and parking are free.

Mark and Lanell Wilson were instrumental in the founding of Girls’ Haven in 1994 when the couple discovered a great need in the area. Girls’ Haven seeks to provide a safe, nurturing environment for girls affected by physical, sexual or emotional abuse, neglect, abandonment, exploitation or severe family dysfunction. The only priority is to promote and enhance the quality of life for girls in need.

Girls’ Haven serves girls ages 6 to 17 in a warm and caring environment. House staff provides an education, and resources are available to help those children who are behind academically. Children older than 17 are also helped if they are continuing to pursue an education. Guidance and positive leadership shape promising futures for the girls entrusted to the care of this valuable organization. More than 200 girls have been served since the inception.

Girls’ Haven is a 501(c)(3) nonprofit organization as designated by the IRS and welcomes visits and inquiries as to their work.

Dana Melancon serves as president of the board of directors, with John Ceravolo as vice president. Rose Blount is secretary and Joe Fisher is treasurer. Christy Mellen is officer at-large, and the board is made up of Lanell Wilson, LeAnn Ewing, and Margueritte Humphrey. Teeler is the executive director.

Some of this year’s sponsors include Lamar, Clear Channel, The Examiner, Fox 4 KBTV, SETMA, SoutheastTexas.com, Market Basket, KLVI, Quality Mat Company, Cumulus, YMBL, Southeast Texas Cancer Center, Coca-Cola Bottling Co., Sign International, ExxonMobil, Jason’s Deli, Southwest Printing, Golden Triangle Waste Solutions, Lanell Wilson, Alphabet Soup, Bob and Karen Wortham, Beaumont Bone and Joint, Thermacon, and Texas State Optical.

To enter a cooking team, or for sponsorship opportunities, call Teeler or Patti Crittenden at Girls’ Haven at (409) 832-6223.

Brenda Cannon Henley can be reached at (409) 781-8788 or at brendacannonhenley [at] yahoo [dot] com.