WITH A NAME LIKE CRYSTAL CITY, you would think this South Texas town would be known for its, well, crystals. But boy would you be wrong. The citizens of Crystal City are much more interested in a leafy green vegetable—the kind that makes Popeye drool and children cry.
Since the thirties, Crystal City has been known as the “Spinach Capital of the World,” a title earned because of the large amounts of the vegetable shipped from the town via the railroad. Crystal City takes its vegetable venue status seriously. Each November the hamlet hosts the Spinach Festival, and there are not one, but two, statues of the spinach-swigging Popeye on display.
Crystal City is not the only Texas town to hold a curious capital distinction. Texas is home to the “Live Music Capital of the World” (Austin), the “World Energy Capital” (Houston), and the “Killer Bee Capital of the World” (Hidalgo). To avoid being stung by bad publicity after killer bees illegally entered the United States at the Hidalgo border, the town’s mayor used the buzz to his favor by turning it into a tourist attraction. Hidalgo is now home to the “World’s Largest Killer Bee,” a statue that has become a notable town fixture.
The next time you’re in the mood for flapjacks, head over to the town of Hawkins, which has been designated the “Pancake Capital of Texas,” in honor of former resident Lillian Richard, who portrayed Aunt Jemima for more than forty years. And Poteet is the place to be if you’re looking for strawberries—keep an eye out for the “World’s Largest Strawberry,” a six-foot-tall monument celebrating the town’s claim to fame as the “Strawberry Capital of Texas.”
In fact, Texas is a haven for food enthusiasts. In addition to Hawkins and Poteet, there’s Terlingua (“Chili Capital of the World”), Lockhart (“Barbecue Capital of Texas”), Caldwell (“Kolache Capital of Texas”), and Elgin (“Sausage Capital of Texas”), to name just a few.
Texas is also proud of its flora and fauna. Boasting the largest municipal rose garden in the nation, Tyler has been dubbed the “Rose Capital of the World.” The 22-acre garden—as well as the Rose Festival in October, during which a Rose Queen is crowned—has put Tyler on the map. Burnet and Llano counties share the title of “Bluebonnet Capital of Texas,” while Ennis is dubbed “Bluebonnet City.” Horticulturists might also enjoy these state capitals: Sanderson (“Cactus Capital”), Waxahachie (“Crape Myrtle Capital”), Paris (“Crape Myrtle City”), Georgetown (“Red Poppy Capital”), Denton (“Redbud Capital”), Hearne (“Sunflower Capital”), and Temple (“Wildflower Capital”).
Having a claim to fame is a savvy approach to boosting tourism. It is in the road tripper’s nature to visit places that have a quirky appeal. For instance, who could resist sending a friend a postcard from, say, the “Polka Capital of Texas” (Fredericksburg) or the “Cowboy Capital of the World” (Bandera)?
However, there are a few points to consider if your town wants to adopt capital status. First, know that you don’t have universal claim over your title. Crystal City is, surprisingly, not the only “Spinach Capital of the World”—Alma, Arkansas, also takes the title. Second, it’s best to choose a title that you can actually live up to. The residents of Lubbock learned an embarrassing lesson after they decided to dub themselves the “Chrysanthemum Capital of the World.” Colorful mums adorned the Texas Tech campus until the seventies, when saline in the groundwater began harming the flowers. The mums were eventually replaced.