50 Years of Bluebonnet Festival Fun

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By Jamie O’Toole

A warm April breeze carries the aroma of smoky barbeque and sizzling burgers through the throngs of people moving up and down Main Street in the historic Texas town of Chappell Hill. Some stop to listen to the upbeat melodies of the local country band while others peruse the array of handcrafted offerings at one of hundreds of artisan vendors.

Last year between 20,000 and 22,000 people ushered in springtime at the Texas Annual Bluebonnet Festival, and this year’s turnout is expected to be just as large at the event’s 50th celebration. People come from all over Texas and even out of state to attend The Official State Bluebonnet Festival, so named by the governor 15 years ago.

“It’s just that time of the year when people want to get outside,” said Ladonna Vest, administrative director of the Chappell Hill Historical Society. This festival and the Scarecrow Festival in October are two annual fundraisers supporting the society’s efforts to preserve Chappell Hill’s abundant history.

Founded in 1847, some Chappell Hill buildings date to the 1860s. The Chappell Hill Historical Society was founded in 1964 and now owns five of Chappell Hill’s historically significant sites, working both to maintain the sites and educate the community about the rich history of the town. One such site is the Old Rock Store, built in 1869 as a general store, which houses two folk art murals depicting the town’s history and hand-stitched by local women from Chappell Hill in the 1970s.

The two-day Bluebonnet Festival celebrates local artists and craftsmen showcasing more than 400 vendors offering an array of unique and generally handmade products.

The festivities would not be complete without good eats and live entertainment. Ranging from savory to sweet and hot-off-the-grill to chilled-to-perfection, food vendors can be found among the craft stalls. Live bands and local musicians take the small stage on the main thoroughfare over the course of the weekend, covering a wide variety of styles. Chappell Hill’s resident group of cloggers has performed for a number of years.

There is always an area designated for the younger festivalgoers with sand art and other crafts, face painting, a petting zoo, and a miniature train ride.

Governor Rick Perry has been invited to this year’s festival to commemorate the 50th anniversary of the Bluebonnet Festival and the 50th anniversary of the formation of the Chappell Hill Historical Society.

What: 50th Annual Texas Bluebonnet Festival
When: Saturday, April 12, 9am-6pm; Sunday, April 13, 9am to 5pm
Where: Main Street, Chappell Hill
How: Free admission; $5 parking; www.chappellhillmuseum.org/bluebonnet