43rd annual Texas Rice Festival
Rice, festival in its honor are staples in Southeast Texas
The Texas Rice Festival is more than just a catchy name — it’s a staple here in Southeast Texas. Now in its 43rd year, the renowned Texas Rice Festival is a weeklong annual harvest celebration honoring rice farming, a major economic activity in the region, especially in Winnie.
The festival includes a carnival, livestock shows, barbeque cook-off, nightly street dances, parades, pageants, music, great food and, of course, rice balls.
“A rice ball is a combination of things, but it basically begins with a ball of rice with a little chili in the middle of it,” said TRF spokesperson Chris Street. “It’s then breaded and fried. If you have never tried one, I highly suggest that you do.”
Volunteers at the St. Louis Catholic Church are responsible for those round tasty treats, and every year they make an estimated 10,000 to sell. “It’s their single largest fundraiser of the year,” added Street. “Not only the St. Louis Catholic Church, but many of the food booths are nonprofit, and all their money goes directly back into the community.”
Funds generated help pay for 10 different scholarships at participating schools such as East Chambers, Hamshire-Fannett, Anahuac and High Island, plus there are welding and livestock scholarships and a special scholarship for the Texas Rice Festival Queen.
What kind of food can you expect to let your taste buds enjoy? Rice balls, gumbo, ettouffe, pistolettes, blooming onions, crab balls, boudain balls, pork-kabobs and many other delicious delicacies.
The TRF festivities begin with a free admission BBQ Weekend beginning Friday, Sept. 28, at 5 p.m. There will be a fajita cook-off along with live music from Jimmy and The Jokers, plus the carnival midway with rides from Wright’s Amusement Carnival will be up and running. There is a one-price bracelet available each day for the carnival rides, so check texasricefestival.org for details.
Saturday, a horseshoe contest kicks off the daily activities at 10 a.m. followed by the judging for the International Barbecue Cookers Association contest at 11 a.m. The carnival midway is open noon to midnight, and also scheduled Sept. 29 is a washer-pitching tournament at 3 p.m., TRF Senior Queen Coronation at 6 p.m. and live music from Al White and The Chaparral.
BBQ Weekend will end Sunday, Sept. 30, as the carnival midway opens from noon to 6 p.m. Also scheduled on the music stage is a Gospel Jubilee.
The big party hits the ground running on Wednesday, Oct. 3, at 5 p.m. and going until midnight. Along with the carnival, all vendor booths will be open along with rice education exhibits, and a multi-million dollar farm equipment display will be on hand. Nonstop musical entertainment for Oct. 3 includes Josh Ward Band (5:30 p.m.), Cody Johnson (8 p.m.) and Kyle Park (10 p.m.). The first 1,000 paid adults on opening night will receive a special festival T-shirt.
Gates will open at 5 p.m. Thursday, Oct. 4, with music by Katie and The Draw (6 p.m.), Aaron Watson (8:30 p.m.) and Easton Corbin (10:30 p.m.).
Friday, Oct. 5, is known as Youth Day as the park opens at 9 a.m. and kids under the age of 18 pay no admission fee until 5 p.m. Youth Day Activities include a 4-H and FFA Livestock Show, Diaper Derby, Baby Costume Contest, Little Rice King and Miss La Petite Contests, Little Rice Sweetheart Pageant, Junior Queen Pageant, Characters in the Park, face painting, poster, photography and art contests and an ice cream eating contest.
There will also be performances by the East Chamber Buccadears, Hamshire-Fannett Golden Girls, and the Anahuac Pantherettes throughout the day.
The music theme for Friday night will be Cajun with performances by Charles Thibodeaux and The Austin Cajun Aces (5:30 p.m.), L’Angelus (8 p.m.) and everyone’s favorite Cajun, Wayne Toups and Zydecajun at 10 p.m.
The daily festivities on, Oct. 6, will begin at 9:30 a.m. with the TRF Pageant Royalty along with the Grand Parade at 10 a.m. Also scheduled for the day will be an auction for the American Cancer Society, rice-cooking contest, craft show featuring 30 booths, photography and art exhibits, antique car show and youth longhorn show.
The music schedule includes Champagne Room at 2:30 p.m. followed by brothers Bruce Robinson (6 p.m.) and Charlie Robison (8 p.m.). Bag of Donuts will conclude the music Saturday beginning at 10 p.m.
The 43rd annual festival will wrap up on Sunday, Oct. 7, with Cowboy Church at 8:30 a.m. An open longhorn show follows at 9 a.m., and the carnival midway is open from noon to 6 p.m.
Advance tickets can be purchased at Texas Market Basket locations and the TRF throughout Southeast Texas and the TRF Office (1328 Texas 124) for $6 (adults) and $3 for students (ages 6-18) through Sept. 28.
Gate price admission will be $8 for adults and $5 for students, while entry is free for seniors 65 and older and kids ages 5 and under.
“It’s just a great fun-filled event for the entire family,” said Street. “We have a very good group of volunteers and a strong loyal base that keep coming back to make this a successful event that has plenty of great food, awesome entertainment and a super atmosphere.”
To get to the festival, take exit 829 from Interstate 10 in Winnie and head south down Highway 124 and follow the signs.
For more information, view texasricefestival.org or call Chris Street at (409) 718-0205 or Eric Sullivan at (409) 832-2027.