Recently, Miss Gonzales Jambalaya Meredith Conger traveled to Washington D.C. to represent the Jambalaya Festival and Gonzales in Washington D.C.’s Mardi Gras celebrations. There, she attended lavish lunches, dazzling balls, and fancy tea parties with our nation’s leaders. The trip, Conger explained, was a way to showcase what makes Louisiana and Gonzales so special.
Q: Why did you go to Washington D.C.?
A: There are 24 festival queens in Louisiana that rotate bi-yearly to go to the Mardi Gras festivities in Washington. Luckily for me, this was the Jambalaya Queen’s year to go. We go to represent our communities and to network. We have a unique culture down here, and I got to showcase that in Washington.
Q. How did you represent our area while you were there? What kind of events did you attend?
A: Each night there was a different event. The first day I was there, I toured the Capital Building. We even got to see some of the underground escape tunnels. I was then escorted to Representative Bill Cassidy’s office. He told me about what he does in D.C., and he let us ask him questions. It was awesome. Then, I went to a King’s Luncheon for a fancy lunch of roasted duck. I was placed at the King’s table, and was able to talk with his children while eating. There were several speeches, and Bill Cassidy was the Ball Captain. I immediately went from there to Mary Landrieu’s house for tea and finger foods. Lolo Jones made an appearance, and I got to snap a photo with her. It was really nice to go to Mary Landrieu’s home; we were welcomed in with opened arms. That night, we had our first evening event, LA LIVE. The ball showcased Cajun cooking and music, and brought a little piece of Louisiana to D.C. It was a lot of fun!
Q: And that was all in one day?
Yes! It was busy, but I had such a wonderful time! Then, on Friday night, I was presented as Miss Gonzales Jambalaya in the Friday Festival. It was awesome to have such a support system with me. Charlotte Guedry from The Creole was there, along with Sherrie Despino from The Chamber, and our State Representatives Johnny Berthelot and Clay Shexnayder. It made me feel special. They were all cheering for me. On Saturday for the Mardi Gras Ball and Parade, I was escorted by Brad Walker, your Publisher, also from the Gonzales area, which was so special to me. Most of the other girls did not know their escort. All the queens were escorted through the entire ballroom – past each and every table. I have never had so much attention on me. After the presentations, we had the chance to mingle. I met people from all over the world, and as I told them who I was and where I was from, many said things like ‘Oh, I know of that festival!’ It was amazing to have people recognize our home all the way in D.C. It was such an awesome way to show off Gonzales in our nation’s capital.
Q. How did it feel to represent the community?
A: It was such an honor. The experience was amazing. It really can’t be put into words. I can’t thank the Jambalaya Festival Association enough for sending me to represent them in D.C. It really means the world to me.
Q: What did you do in your free time while you were there?
Well, I would just catch a cab and ride around Washington to see all I could. I didn’t want to leave anything out, so any free time I found I would find something to do. I walked around, visited shops, and just took in the city. It was so exciting.
Q. What was your favorite thing you did in D.C.?
A: My tour of Arlington was my favorite part of the whole trip. I was allowed into a private ceremony for the exchange of the guards, which was something I thought I would never witness. I also laid a wreath on the Tomb of the Unknown Soldier. It was a very moving moment that I will remember the rest of my life.
Q. What else do you do as Jambalaya Queen?
I travel almost every weekend as ‘visiting royalty.’ I have been to almost every city in Louisiana, 1200 miles so far! Next, I will be competing on February 23 at the LA Association of Fairs and Festivals competition. All of the Festival Queens from 2012 will compete to find the ‘Queen of Queens.’ I am very excited about that right now, and just trying to get ready. I personally like to do things around Gonzales, also. I recently went to the Senior Citizen’s Sock Hop to help serve Jambalaya. I have read to classrooms and gone to nursing homes. To me, it is not all about reaping; I want to give back to my community. I want to do as much as I possibly can while I still have time left as the Jambalaya Queen.