Kountze Trade Days offers variety of unique merchandise, fun for entire family

Louis McNeeley

Kountze Trade Days has been a fixture of the “The Big Light in The Big Thicket” since 2010, offering a wide array of unique vendors and some of the best festival-style food Southeast Texas has to offer.

The event, which is operated and overseen by the city of Kountze, has grown to more than 100 vendors including around 10 food vendors offering everything from Tex Mex to country-style cookin’. Held the fourth weekend of the month, Kountze Trade Days will be bustling with event-goers on Friday, June 27, Saturday, June 28, and Sunday, June 29. Event hours are 8 a.m. to 5 p.m. Friday-Sunday.

Saturday there will be raffle drawing for a chance to win a fully-rigged Blazer Bay 2020 boat, motor and trailer. Funds from raffle tickets will be sold to raise money for the Children’s Miracle Network.

“This is a nice time to get out and be with family,” said Donna McGilberry, event coordinator for the city of Kountze. “This is a very friendly and family-oriented event. We have live music on Saturdays and the best food around from barbecue, funnel cakes, Mexican food and the best pork chops in Hardin County. You have to try the fajita nachos and a special hamburger called a Shack Attack. We have delicious snow cones in all kinds of flavors, and so much more.”

Admission is free, but there is a $2 parking fee on Saturday and Sunday. RV sites are available for $25 for the whole weekend. McGilberry said visitors could expect to find a myriad of quality merchandise both new and old.

“We have arts and crafts and antiques,” she said. “Some vintage stuff. We have several boutiques. We have one gentleman, Louis McNeeley — he can tell you anything about the history of Kountze.”

McNeeley’s shop, which he aptly named the Old Nona Trading Post after his Kountze neighborhood, offers board games, books, vintage Coca-Cola products, cowboy collectables and other memorabilia. McNeeley, 75, is most proud, however, of different nutcrackers and nut shellers he’s collected over the years.

“I’ve probably got the largest collection of pecan crackers of anybody in the state of Texas. This one was developed in 1946 by a sheet metal worker out in San Angelo,” McNeeley said,  pointing to a Texan “York” Nut Sheller, invented by R.D. “Shorty” York.

McNeeley  also sells a dog-shaped pecan sheller made from solid brass and developed in Beaumont.

“The thing that makes this one unique is that it was made at A One Pattern Works,” he said. “That company was last listed in 1949, so I know without a doubt that this is an antique.”

McNeeley said Kountze Trade Days was founded in 2010.

“A bunch of the workers for the city, on their own time, came up with the idea and they came over here and started getting this place ready. The Kountze Economic Development Corporation came in and put some money behind it. One of the railroad companies gave the rock.”

Kountze Trade Days’ variety of vendors encapsulates the spirit of Kountze. Big L’s Resale offers a variety of tools, and hunting and fishing supplies, while One of a Kind sells custom scroll saw designs, furniture and jewelry boxes. Neco Tackle Co. sells custom-made lures and tackle, and Ronnie Bingham from Korner Collectables makes art objects from cypress knees. One of the main attractions of Trade Days is Frankie’s Wildlife Metal Art, works made with real wood found on Big Thicket riverbanks and shaped into a wide variety of critters including fish, deer, ducks, eagles and horses. Sixty-year-old Kountze resident Frankie Joines, who also works at Allied Fence Company, builds decorative bird-shaped hanging baskets from old golf cart tires.

“This is something I just started,” he said. “I built 12 and brought them to Trade Days just to see how they’d sell. I brought them out and I sold them all.”

Joines, who has been working with metal since he was a young boy, said his metal art started as a hobby but grew into something he never imagined.

“I started building metal art and it got big,” said Jones, who added he was recently named as a guest on Bob Phillips’Texas Country Reporter TV show. “People started buying it and said, ‘Man you need to go to Trade Days.’ I started Trade Days about three years ago.”

Joines art, made from cypress knees found at the bottom of local creeks, riverbeds and marshes, personifies the Big Thicket lifestyle every hunter, angler and outdoor lover enjoys.

“I fished and hunted all my life,” said Joines, who added that the many trips he’s taken into the Big Thicket have offered him many opportunities to find wood just right for the pickin’. “Some of this wood has been under (water) … for 80 or 90 years. Some of it is nearly petrified. My wood means as much to me as my metal.”

Joines said he boils the wood for four hours prior to peeling the bark and applying polyurethane. He then prepares the metal by grinding, welding, cutting and shaping it before attaching it to the wooden base and adding those special touches of scenic flair.

While the opportunity to view and purchase Joines’ unique art is reason enough to visit Kountze Trade Days, McGilberry said you never know what you’ll find at the event.

“There’s just a variety of stuff,” McGilberry said, mentioning barbecue sauce, peach butter, jam and preserves. “That’s what makes it so fun to come out here — you never know what kind of treasures you’ll find.”

Kountze Trade Days is at 960 N. Pine Street. For more information and directions, visit www.tradedayskountze.com or call (409) 880-5667.