Texas Pecan Festival, Groves
The majority of Texans may be clustered in the state’s six biggest cities, but neither Texas’s continued urbanization nor its long-suffering drought could dry out our enthusiasm for a homespun harvest festival. Texas remains one of the most bounteous agricultural states, and we celebrate accordingly. From cotton in the High Plains to citrus in the Rio Grande Valley, every region has its star crop, each of which is a worthy excuse for a weekend filled with parades, carnival rides, pageants, and copious amounts of fried food.
The Texas Pecan Festival, in Groves, is the official state festival of the official state nut. Pecan trees have grown in Texas for an estimated 65 million years, and in 1919 an enterprising resident of present-day Groves decided to plant some 2,500 of them, for which the town has been known ever since. This annual gathering has been kicking off the picking season for the past 46 years. Local pecan enthusiasts will vie to see who can toss the edible kernel the farthest, who can make the tastiest nut-filled dish, and who can eat the most pecan pies. And we’ll all have reason to cheer, as experts predict that this year’s crop will produce up to 55 million pounds, one of the largest yields in the past few drought-plagued years.
September 18–21, texaspecanfestival.com, 409-962-3631
Mustang grapes still grow wild on the fences of this North Texas town, which hosts the largest consumer-judged wine competition in the U.S. This is your chance to play sommelier and stick your snout into glass after glass of the good stuff. An entirely different skill set is necessary, however, to win the Champagne Cork Shoot-Off or the GrapeStomp, in which teams of two have 120 seconds to squish eighteen pounds of grapes.
September 11–14, grapevinetexasusa.com/grapefest, 800-457-6338
Texas Rice Festival, Winnie
The southeastern part of the state has long cultivated one of the world’s oldest domesticated grains. And since 1969, the tiny town of Winnie (pop. 3,254) has been sowing one of Texas’s largest harvest festivals. More than 100,000 folks flock to fete the starchy seed with street dances, a welding contest, a diaper derby, livestock shows, and the crowning of the Farmer of the Year as well as no fewer than five pageant queens.
October 1–5, texasricefestival.com, 409-296-4404
Peanut Festival, Floresville
First dubbed the Peanut Pow Wow when it began, in 1938, this South Texas shindig is presided over by the cheekily named (hint: read backwards) Queen Tunaep and King Reboog, who wears a cowboy hat covered in peanut shells. Per tradition, local businesses decorate their facades with garlands of peanut plants to signal the start of the festivities, which include a peanut brittle contest and the Goober Games.
October 7 and 9–11, floresvillepeanutfestival.org, 210-383-1285
The event schedule for the 77th East Texas Yamboree reads as though it has never been altered: there’s the Broiler Sift and Show, the Carnival/Youth Night, the Home Canning Judging, the Junior Beef Judging, the Fiddler’s Contest, the Barn Dance, and the Queen’s Coronation. But the best draw may be the chance to buy the sweet orange tubers straight from the truck beds of the farmers who’ve been growing them for generations.
October 15–18, yamboree.com, 903-843-2413