Texas Rice Festival — fun music and rice balls

Texas Rice Festival — fun music and rice balls

What originally began as a one-day affair in 1969 has grown into a seven-day celebration — the Texas Rice Festival. Now in its 45th year, the renowned Texas Rice Festival is an 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.

What is a rice ball? A rice ball is a combination of several ingredients, but basically begins with a ball of rice with chili inside. It’s then breaded and fried.

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 in their single largest fundraiser of the year. The St. Louis Catholic Church is just one of the many food booths that are nonprofit, with all their money going back into the community.

Funds generated help pay for 12 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, etouffee, pistolettes, blooming onions, crab balls, boudain balls, pork-kabobs and many other delicious delicacies.

Festivities begin with the BBQ Weekend on Friday, Sept. 26, at 5 p.m. There will be a fajita cook-off along with the barbecue contest as well as live music from Jimmy and The Jokers, plus the carnival midway with rides from Wright’s Amusement Carnival will be up and running until midnight.

Saturday, a horseshoe contest at Winnie/Stowell Park kicks off the daily activities at 10 a.m., followed by the judging for the barbeque contest at 11 a.m. The carnival midway is open from noon to midnight, and also scheduled Sept. 27 is a washer-pitching tournament at the park at 3 p.m. and the TRF Senior Queen Coronation at 6 p.m. inside the auditorium on the campus of East Chambers High School.

BBQ Weekend will end Sunday, Sept. 28, as the carnival midway opens from noon to 6 p.m. Also scheduled is a Gospel Jubilee at 4 p.m. as East Chambers High School.

A limited number of passports for the TRF are now on sale at the Winnie Market Basket for $60, which allow you unlimited carnival rides throughout the event.

The big party hits the ground running Wednesday, Oct. 1, at 5 p.m. and goes until midnight. Along with the carnival, all vendor booths will be open, including rice education exhibits, and a multi-million dollar farm equipment display will be on hand. Nonstop musical entertainment for Oct. 1 on the main stage includes American Sons (5:30 p.m.), Adam Hood (8 p.m.) and headliners Cody Johnson Band (10 p.m.).

Gates will open at 5 p.m. Thursday, Oct. 2, with music by Mike & The Moonpies, Jamie Bergeron, Jason Eady (8 p.m.) and Turnpike Trubadors (10 p.m.).

Wednesday and Thursday, the first 1,000 paid adults receive a free T-shirt.

Friday, Oct. 3, is known as Doguet’s Youth Day as the park opens at 9 a.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-Fan-nett Golden Girls and Amber Blanchard’s School of Dance throughout the day.

The music theme for Friday night will be Cajun with performances by Charles Thibodeaux, Bronco Jr., Geno Delafose & French Rockin’ Boogie, and everyone’s favorite Cajun, Wayne Toups at 10 p.m.

The Grand Parade will jumpstart the activities on Saturday, Oct. 4, at 10 a.m. on Chestnut Street and Highway 124. Also scheduled for the day will be an auction for the American Cancer Society, rice-cooking contest, craft show featuring 30 booths (9 a.m. to 6 p.m.), photography and art exhibits, and the popular antique car show.

The music schedule includes the Cadillacs (2 p.m.), Book of Days (2:30 p.m.), Cowboy Mouth (6 p.m.), JAG, Continentals, Stoney LaRue (8 p.m.) and Bag of Donuts (10 p.m.).

The TRF will conclude on Sunday, Oct. 5, as the midway opens from noon – 6 p.m.

Daily gate price admission will be $10 for adults and $5 for students, while entry is free for seniors 65 and older and kids ages 5 and under. Advance admission tickets are $6 for adults and $3 for students.

The TRF is a great fun-filled event for the entire family. Each year, there’s a great group of volunteers and a strong loyal base that keep returning to make this a successful event, which 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 complete details, view the TRF site at texasricefestival.com.