By HARRIET PROTHRO PENROD
The term “multitasking” became a buzz word at the dawn of the digital age back in the mid-1960s. If you think you’re good at it, meet Terri Mathews.
“My dad always told me: ‘Terri, I’ve never met anybody who can do in half a day what takes most people a week to do.’”
Case in point: When I met up with Mathews for lunch on Monday of this week, she had already gotten her daughter off to school, set up a trade show event at the Convention Center, set up an event at a local school, met with (and booked) two clients for upcoming events AND checked out the goings-on at Festival Plaza in downtown Shreveport.
That’s quite a bit to get accomplished in one morning. Imagine running on that schedule every day.
“It’s just second nature to me,” Mathews says of her multitasking abilities. “It’s just a talent God blesses me with. I don’t let it overwhelm me. In the morning, I get up and say, ‘What do I do first.’ Then I prioritize.”
There’s a lot of prioritizing in Mathews’ life.
In addition to raising a 12-year-old daughter, she is the owner of Gumbeaux Event Productions, a partner in Rock Solid, and the chairperson of the Mudbug Madness festival – which kicks off this Thursday night and lasts through Sunday.
Gumbeaux Productions is a full-service event production company that specializes in providing services and equipment for special events throughout the Ark-La-Tex. Services include sound and lighting design and production, specialty lighting, DJ services, trade show decorating and management, event coordination, and staging and drapery.
This is Mathews’ 30th year as chairperson of the popular Mudbug Madness festival, which has filled Festival Plaza for the past 38 years – except for, of course, the COVID year.
One year after the COVID cancellation, restrictions were starting to be lifted and the Mudbug Madness organizers thought they were planning for half capacity.
“Then, two weeks before (the festival), all the restrictions were lifted,” explains Mathews. “We were scrambling to put a full festival together.”
Not only did the organizers put together a full festival, they enjoyed the event’s best year ever.
As we visit on this morning just three days before this year’s festival kickoff, Mathews’ phone continues to buzz. There are appointments to make for Gumbeaux and six requests from local TV stations for interviews in the next few days.
“Basically, this is a full-time part-time job,” she says – with a smile — of her volunteer position with Mudbug Madness.
Originally from DeSoto Parish, Mathews was a certified marketing director for shopping centers when she began volunteering as the publicity chairman for Mudbug Madness 32 years ago. When the festival’s chairman stepped down two years later, the committee asked Mathews to take over as chairperson.
It’s a daunting task, of course. As festival chairperson, Mathews is responsible for managing the planning committee and everything from overseeing advertising placements, publicity, operations, working with contractors, and on-site management for two weeks prior to the start of the event.
It’s a year-round responsibility that Mathews undertakes in addition to her other business adventures.
So why has she kept at it so long?
“I love it,” she says of the festival. “I feel like it’s my baby. If I didn’t enjoy the people I work with as a volunteer, I would have been gone.”
And Mathews did have opportunities to leave Shreveport. After starting college at Louisiana Tech, she finished at LSUS with a degree in communications and was chosen as a field consultant for Phi Mu sorority.
Her “very first grown-up job” was as marketing manager for Junior Achievement, followed by her foray into the shopping center industry. When the mall business began to go by the wayside, Mathews went to work for another event company as its marketing director.
“In the shopping center industry, I could have gone anywhere,” Mathews says of her opportunities to leave Shreveport-Bossier. “But I love it here.”
And she loves her “job” as Mudbug Madness chairperson.
There have been lows, of course – including fighting weather conditions and the occasional PR issues – but those are outnumbered by the highs.
“To be at Festival Plaza on Saturday night with wall-to-wall people,” she says, “when everybody is so happy to be there – enjoying the music, food, and atmosphere. It’s a good feeling.”
When asked to recall some of the most memorable times from the festival, Mathews laughs and says, “People meeting at Mudbug and then three years later asking if they can get married on the Main Stage. We say, ‘We had a festival and a wedding broke out.’
“And the relationships with the food vendors, artists, and bands.”
The 39th Mudbug Madness festival kicks off with Rewind – a special opening-night event with reunions of three of Shreveport’s all-time favorite bands (The Crawdads, The Boomers and Shreveport’s Papa Mali). Rewind – which will also recognize the festival sponsors and volunteers – will be held from 5-10 p.m. and is open to the public. A total of 29 bands will perform at this weekend’s event.
After the festival winds down Sunday night, Mathews and the festival committee will start planning for next year’s event.
“We work all year long,” Mathews says of the committee members. “We take only one month off.”
That break comes in June, when Mathews plans on staying busy with her “real job.”
And her family.
She and daughter Chloe love to travel together, watch movies, cook, and go to LSU women’s basketball games. And they’re usually joined by their Goldendoodle named Chandler Bing.
When asked how long she’ll continue in her role as chairperson of Mudbug Madness, she says, “Well, I’m 60 now. I’m like Cher – I’m on the ‘never can say goodbye tour.’ Maybe another five years?”
Contact Harriet at email@example.com