Matthews honored for ‘tireless dedication’ to Rice Festival

Presenting Dolores Matthews, second from left, with the 2013 President’s Choice Award at this year’s Queen’s Ball and Honoree Social were, from left, Gene Williams, 77th International Rice Festival general chairman; Romona Credeur, 77th International Rice Festival president; and Jay Suire, 77th International Rice Festival general chairman.

CROWLEY - Dolores Matthews is always excited about Rice Festival, but this year she sounds almost beside herself with enthusiasm.

This comes as no surprise to those who work with Matthews at the International Rice Festival (IRF) Headquarters in Crowley, where she has served as an administrative assistant for the last seven years or so.

And to say that Matthews has spent a number of years “serving” the Rice Festival organization is not an overstatement — she is an unpaid volunteer.

That’s why she was chosen as the recipient of this year’s President’s Choice Award.

The President’s Choice Award is a one-time award given each year to someone who has been selected by the president as deserving of special recognition.

The 77th IRF president, Romona Credeur, chose Matthews as the recipient of this year’s award because, in short, Matthews has worked “tirelessly” for years.

According to Credeur, Matthews is a sort of “backbone” to the IRF office. She works year-round, even during those times of the year when the office is closed, and she is always on point.

Matthews’ job almost defies description — among about a hundred other things, she answers the phones, runs errands, accepts deliveries, handles correspondence and serves as de facto ambassador of the IRF. She also is heavily involved with the coordination of the poker run. To sum it up, she does “whatever it takes” to get things done and keep the festival running smoothly.

Her role is to try to maintain organization in an environment of controlled chaos. No easy task. But Matthews does it with great enthusiasm, and all for free.

One of the fun things about Matthews’ receipt of the award this year is that the IRF was able to make it a complete surprise for her.

In the past, the award has been presented on the festival’s main platform during the day on Friday. But this year, the IRF organization decided to make a change and begin presenting the award at the annual Queen’s Ball and Honoree’s Social.

Matthews, of course, attends the ball every year, so there was no need for a ruse to get her there. And according to Matthews, hearing her named called as the recipient of the award “surprised the daylights” out of her. For Matthews, who does everything she does because it is more or less fun for her, the recognition “blew her mind.”

This is a little funny given that Matthews’ children, who hadn’t shown any interest in the ball in the past, suddenly decided to attend this year. Matthews thought nothing of it.

Matthews’ face is a familiar one to most people of Acadia Parish. Before she began volunteering with the IRF, she worked as a school secretary for many, many years before eventually retiring from the Acadia Parish School Board.

Matthews has been married to her husband, Norris, for 48 years (it will be 49 in February), and their two children are Monica and Tony, who is married to the former Karen Hebert. Matthews and her husband are the proud grandparents of Bryce and Emily Taylor, and Sloane and Anne Marie Matthews. They also have two great-grandchildren, Kinsley Elizabeth Patin and Alivia Hardy.

And is there something that could make this year’s Rice Festival even better for Matthews than winning the President’s Choice Award does? You bet there is – Neal McCoy.

McCoy is Matthews’ “favorite country music artist” and she is thrilled that he is playing the Rice Festival this year. She laughed as she said that hopefully she will get to “stay up late enough” to see the show, trailing off as she says, “You know, as you get older . . . ."

McCoy will take the stage at 10:30 p.m. Saturday night on the Rice Festival’s main platform.

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