Fests up! Fall 2012
As summer slowly comes to a close, the annual flurry of fall activities approaches at full speed. The structure of back-to-school descends, displacing the splashes at swimming pools, the squeals at theme parks, and lazy days by the lakeshore. But many small towns come alive in autumn—with home-grown events that celebrate our state’s rich and varied (and sometimes quirky) heritage. We share a handful here, so be ready, these festivals will tempt your tastebuds at the promise of succulent shrimp or barbecue, make your body move along to some blues, and even transport you back to the Texas frontier.
Blues and BBQ Festival, Bedford, September 1-2.
When Bedford decided to resurrect its old blues festival in 2009 after a five-year hiatus, they revamped it by adding a barbecue competition. Little did the city know just how far barbecue fans would travel for a sampling of delectable meats. Call 817/952-2128; www.bedfordbluesbbq.com.
Big Bend Balloon Bash, Alpine, September 1-3.
At the Big Bend Balloon Bash, you can learn a lot about hot-air ballooning without ever leaving the ground. The festival welcomes more than 20 pilots and their balloons to three early-morning balloon launches and one evening glow. Although you can’t request balloon rides at the event, many pilots need extra hands to prepare for liftoff and landing, and anyone age seven or older can crew. Call 432/837-7486.
FallsFest, Wichita Falls, September 28-29.
Held in Lucy Park, Wichita Falls’ FallsFest draws crowds with its food, sports competitions, 100-mile motorcycle ride, and nationally recognized music acts.To help work off the varied indulgent food options (fried Oreos, cheesecake on a stick, and tacos, to name a few), FallsFest includes Highlander Games, a series of strength challenges for both men and women that pay tribute to Scottish culture. Call 940/692-9797.
Pecan Fest Heritage Days, Seguin, October 26-28.
To coincide with the birthday of the city’s namesake, Juan Seguin, Pecan Fest Heritage Days celebrates several town traits, both the quirky and the historic.
“Seguin is home to the world’s largest pecan, a 16-foot-long statue at the Red Barn Agricultural Center,” says Mary Jo Filip, festival founder. “We are also an older city with a number of interesting historic attractions. We use this weekend to get all of those sites open on the same day and welcome visitors to town." Call 800/580-7322.
Halloween Festival, Bastrop, October 31.
On Halloween night, join thousands in Bastrop’s historic downtown for what the city boasts as one of the top Halloween festivals in the country. The area closes off at the north and south blocks of Main Street to allow visitors easy access to the evening’s events. Diversions include a pumpkin-carving contest, hayrides, and a haunted house. Area nonprofit groups set up booths for the kids and have various activities, from a photo booth to arts and crafts and a bean bag toss.Call 512/303-0904.
World Championship Shrimp Cook-off, Port Isabel, November 3.
With around 30 amateur and professional chefs whipping up creative shrimp dishes for the masses, it’s hard to resist the lure of the World Championship Shrimp Cook-off. Teams boil, fry, chill, chop, or barbecue more than a ton of shrimp caught locally around Port Isabel for the day’s competition. Call 956/943-2262.
Feeding the Frontier, Montgomery, November 17.
Feeding the Frontier lets visitors time-travel to the 1800s with various hands-on activities and heritage demonstrations. The festival takes place in Fernland Historical Park, the birthplace of the Texas flag. Four homes from the 1830s to the 1860s provide a per-fect backdrop for the vendors, performers, and volunteers, who all dress in period costumes. Call 936/539-6686.