For Lori Buteau, entering the World Championship Gumbo CookOff poster contest was starting to feel a little like actress Susan Lucci’s annual bid for a daytime Emmy award.

“I submitted entries six times,” she said Friday, as she loosened up her wrist while signing the first batch of the 300 prints of this year’s poster, which she created. “I always followed the theme, but it didn’t seem like the judges were worried about that. They chose some that were not really on topic.”

Nonetheless, the Westgate High School art teacher stayed on topic for this year’s theme, “The Wizard of Roux,” and won with her colorful paean to the deep brown concoction that has become synonymous with south Louisiana cuisine, especially as the first cool snap of fall penetrates the Teche Area.

With her mother, Patrice Williams, keeping the flow of posters moving, Buteau went through the process of signing and numbering each print. The prints are sold as a fundraiser for the cookoff.

More than 20 submissions were received in this year’s competition.

Buteau graduated from University of Louisiana not only with a baccalaureate in Art Education but also a masters degree in gifted and talented education. Prior to her time at Westgate, she worked as a waitress, secretary and taught at Patterson High, Hattie Watts Elementary, and Jeanerette High.

Buteau says she really started to hone her craft in high school, though she’s always been an artistic person. Luckily, it did not take her decades to be recognized as the Gumbo Cookoff contest winner.

“It’s as exciting as it is humbling,” Buteau said. “I’ve been able to express myself creatively and follow the same process that I teach my students. My students have been so supportive and excited for me, and I can’t wait to share this with them.”

Buteau’s artwork this year features a “gumbo witch” brandishing her roux spoon, her “flying monkeys” (a wood duck and alligator in a flying monkey costume), and of course key hallmarks of the Teche Area, like the Evangeline Theatre marquee and cane fields. But Buteau says her favorite part of this year’s artwork is the crystal ball that her gumbo witch gazes into. The techniques she used to create light and reflections are part of what really makes this year’s poster pop.

“Everything about this piece screams New Iberia, and the crystal ball really connects it to the Wizard of Roux,” she said.

The official poster will be available for purchase at the event and will be available for purchase online. The 31st Annual World Championship Gumbo CookOff kicks off in Bouligny Plaza on Oct. 9 and concludes Oct. 10.

Dwayne Fatherree is the community editor for The Daily Iberian. He can be reached at dwayne.fatherree@daily-iberian.com.

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