Spring into fun in the Lone Star State
When warmer weather arrives in the Lone Star State, a festival fan’s fancy turns to thoughts of upcoming spring fairs. From celebrations of flower power to bashes on the beach, the following festivals will put a “spring” in your step.
March 11-16: Located in a coastal area often referred to as “the Golden Triangle,” since the spring of 1973 the Nederland Heritage Festival has been a golden opportunity for families to enjoy days of good-old-fashioned fun. Attendees with an appetite for culinary competition will want to check out the chili cook-off and the cuisine walk, while those hungering for sustenance for the soul can enjoy a heaping helping of honky-tonk tunes at the Country Music Show. Information, nederlandhf.org.
March 15: Like the Monarchs that congregate in “The Butterfly Capital of East Texas” every fall, admirers of botanical beauty cluster in the city of Jasper each March for the annual Azalea Festival. The daylong tribute to floral finery includes a virtual bouquet of attractions and activities, including an Azalea Trail 5K run/walk, a display of antique automobiles, live musical entertainment and tours of the Jasper Arboretum. Information, jaspercoc.org.
March 18-20: Considered the “Antique Capital of East Texas,” a walk down Gladewater’s Main Street may always be a stroll down memory lane for tourists, but every spring the town takes a sentimental journey back to its oil boom years during East Texas Gusher Days. Three days of family fun include golfing and fishing tournaments, a street dance, a car show, amusement rides, the Gusher Gallop and much more. Information, gusher-days.com.
March 22-April 6: According to traditional floriography (the language of flowers), the dogwood represents durability – an apt word to describe the Dogwood Trails Celebration, which has blossomed perennially in Palestine for more than 75 years. In late March, the city marks the annual profusion of petals that grace the Anderson County community with a series of events including a coach tour of the flowers on display around Palestine and Tyler. Other highlights include enjoying the blossoms by train on the Piney Woods Steam Excursion, wine tastings and the day-long Texas Dogwood Trails Festival on March 22, 2014. Information, texasdogwoodtrails.com.
March 29-30: Drink in the beauty of the season in a community named in honor of the special time of year at SpringFest Wine and Art Festival in Old Town Spring, near Houston. In late March, connoisseurs can clink commemorative glasses as they savor tastings from area wineries, listen to the smooth sounds of live musical entertainment, and admire the talent of Texas artists. Information, winefestoldtownspring.com.
April 10-13: Bird watchers will flock together in mid-April for a four-day ode to ornithology at the Galveston FeatherFest and Nature PhotoFest. From FledglingFest, which features workshops and shows for novice birders, to advanced field trips for those with experience in capturing images of the area’s 235 species, the festival offers more than 100 classes and trips. Information, galvestonfeatherfest.com.
April 11-13: Port Aransas will leave an impression on art aficionados as modern day Michelangelos take to the beach during the largest Master Sand Sculpting Competition in the nation, Texas SandFest. If watching the artisans at work during the mid-April showdown in the sand inspires you to become an amateur Brueghel on the beach, free sand sculpting lessons will be available. Those who just want to soak up the sun and the sights can listen to the seaside sounds of musicians and drink a toast to the talented artists at the Beer and Wine Garden. Information, texassandfest.com.
May 8-11: If springtime puts a song in your heart, celebrate the season with the signature sounds of the Lone Star State as a lineup of country crooners take the stage at the Old Time Village Fair and Texas Music Festival in League City, which is marking its 60th year in 2014. Attendees can also let their inner child out to play on the carnival rides, belt out a tune in the karaoke contest, find out who will be crowned the king of the grill in the barbecue showdown and test their determination in an extreme obstacle course run. Information, lcvillagefair.com.
May 9-10: Artwork to please every aesthetic palate will be on display at AlleyFest, Longview’s two-day tribute to Texas talent. In May, more than 100 vendor booths will be brimming with paintings, pottery, jewelry and photography, while at the Kids Fest crafts table budding Botticellis can create a work of art to hang proudly on the family’s refrigerator door. The athletically-inclined can step into their sneakers for the 10K or 5K Alley Run, while spectators with a love of rock and roll and country tunes can move their feet to the beat of area entertainers at MusicFest. Information, alleyfest.org.
May 16-18: The nation’s “currant” berry favorite is the strawberry, and no where are these sweet treats more revered than in Pasadena, dubbed the “Strawberry Capital of the South.” At the Pasadena Strawberry Festival, sightseers with an appetite for history can savor a slice of the “World’s Largest Strawberry Shortcake.” This huge confection spanning nearly 2,000 square feet is topped with over a ton of strawberries and has been reproduced each year at the opening ceremony of the Pasadena Strawberry Festival since it won the Guinness Book of World Records title in 2005. After the ceremony, visitors enjoy three days filled with cooking contests, a parade and live musical entertainment. Information, strawberryfest.org.
May 17: Beverage buffs are invited to clink glasses at an annual salute to East Texas wineries, the Piney Woods Wine Festival in Mt. Vernon. On the third weekend in May, the fruits of the labor from 17 local wineries can be sampled during a day that also includes live musical entertainment and arts and crafts for sale. For those who would also like to drink in the beauty of the area, self-guided tours of the participating wineries are also available along the Piney Woods Wine Trail, which winds like grapevines through a number of cities including Canton, Tyler and Palestine. Information: pineywoodswinetrail.com.
June 13-15: The city known as Saltwater Heaven is a little slice of paradise for foodies each June as they enjoy a crustacean-themed vacation in Aransas Pass during Shrimporee. Proud of its distinction as the largest shrimp festival in the state, for more than six decades seafood devotees have enjoyed a virtual menu of cuisine-inspired competitions, carnival rides, children’s activities and live music. Information, aransaspass.org.
June 14: “You say to-may-to, I say to-mah-to”…preferences for pronouncing the name of the tasty fruit may differ, but no matter which inflection you favor, Jacksonville’s annual Tomato Fest is seasoned with down-home flavor. Held on the second Saturday in June, the day includes a farmer’s market for those tempted to test their culinary talents, a tomato eating contest for anyone eager to taste victory, a street dance, tennis and fishing tournaments, live entertainment and much more. Information, jacksonvilletexas.com.
June 14: Ripe with entertainment for the entire family, a blueberry pancake breakfast, a pie eating contest, a blueberry cupcake contest, and treats at the Blueberry Hill Soda & Sweet Shoppe--that’s just a tiny taste of the taste bud-tempting activities in store for visitors of the Texas Blueberry Festival. Held in June in Nacogdoches, the only state-sanctioned festival honoring America’s second favorite berry even offers free shuttle rides to area farms so foodies can pick their own berries straight from the bush. For those who crave traditional festival events there are classic car and motorcycle shows, a pet parade, a petting zoo, a washer-pitching tournament and arts and crafts booths. Information: texasblueberryfestival.com.
About the authors: Paris Permenter and John Bigley are a husband-wife team of Texas travel writers and the authors of the newly published DogTipper’s Texas with Dogs (Open Road, distributed by Simon & Schuster).
Free Guide to texas travel
Before you cross the state line to enjoy the many spring festivals in the Lone Star State, don’t forget to order the free Texas Travel Guide and a state map at www.traveltex.com, the official Texas tourism site. You can also stop at one of the Texas Travel Information Centers located on the border in Waskom on I-20 and Orange on I-10 for free maps and booklets.