Texas Festivals: In Celebration of Oatmeal, Gators, Mosquitoes & Thumping Watermelons

In a place the size of Texas it's no surprise that there are countless themed festivals happening in small towns and cities across the state. A little research reveals that lots of fruits, native wildlife, and cultures are represented in festivals all over Texas, and we decided to look at a few that set themselves apart from some of the rest, due to the unique themes they have or the quirky way they celebrate them. Absent from this list are big city festivals like Austin's Eeyore's Birthday, because while those types of events can be a lot of fun, they're urban events that are different in nature from the smaller festivals. Since these festivals are happening throughout the year, some have already happened as of this writing, so remember to plan ahead if you're interested in attending in the future.

8. The Lone Star Gourd Festival - New Braunfels

This central Texas festival celebrates the many uses of the humble gourd, with an emphasis on its use in decorative arts. It runs from July 31 through August 2 each year, and offers visitors art classes, activities for kids, and plenty of gourd based activities in New Braunfels.

7. Bertram Oatmeal Festival - Bertram

The city of Bertram is located about 45 miles northwest of Austin, and hosts a yearly oatmeal festival that was started in 1978 as a sort of spoof on the many chili cook-offs hosted in towns scattered all over Texas. Named for the nearby rural community of Oatmeal, Bertram decided to make the most out of the cereal connection, and the Oatmeal Festival was born. The festival features a trail ride, a bake-off, a parade, and BBQ among other festivities for visitors to enjoy. The surrounding area is a beautiful part of the Texas Hill Country, and well worth exploring.

6. The Pearland Crawfish Festival - Pearland

To be fair, Texas is the location of several Crawfish Festivals, and choosing one to focus on is a difficult choice. But Pearland's annual event on April 10-12, is a great place to start for any Texan who loves mud bugs and festivals that offer lots of activities to enjoy. Pearland's event has a carnival, crawfish eating contests, armadillo races, and lots of food and music, making it a great way to celebrate the region's favorite fresh water crustacean.

5. Kolache Festival - Caldwell

This festival honoring Czech culture, and the delicious pastry that immigrants brought into our state culture is held on September 12 in Burleson County. Visitors can indulge in many festival activities a Kolache eating contest, various demonstrations, and a street rod and classic car show. Admission is free, and there is plenty of music food, and Czech Texan culture to enjoy.

4. Luling Watermelon Thump - Luling

Stretching back over six decades, Luling Texas has hosted a Watermelon "Thump" - A festival engineered to promote the local watermelon industry. The city has a huge water tower painted like a watermelon, and the festival includes seed spitting distance contests, and a parade. There is a Thump Queen each year, and an auction where local growers bring out sometimes enormous watermelons that can weigh over 50 pounds each. The festival also has music, food, and carnival rides, offering lots for visitors to do, and Luling is a notable BBQ town, so there's more to the local food than just watermelons.

3. Texas Gatorfest - Anahuac

This east Texas festival runs September 11-13, and has a lot going on. Music, food, airboat rides, BBQ, a carnival, and classic car show are just a few of the activities Texas Gatorfest has in store for visitors. There is also a Rumble on The Swamp motorcycle ride, and the gator roundup, which is a hunting event, so that part is probably something those who are squeamish about these sorts of things might choose to avoid. Fortunately for them, the festival also offers guests the opportunity to see living specimens up close.

2. The Great Mosquito Festival - Clute

It's perhaps unsurprising that the bloodsucking insect which is such a nuisance to Texans would be honored by a yearly festival in Clute, which is about 55 miles southeast of Houston. The festival runs from July 23-25, and visitors are greeted by the event's mascot, Willie-Man-Chew, a 26 foot tall mosquito wearing a cowboy hat and boots. It's hard to picture anything more Texan than that. The festival features live music, a carnival, games contests, and a "Mosquito Chase" 5K run, making it an event just about anyone could enjoy.

Robert E. Howard Days - Barbarian Festival - Cross Plains

Many people might be surprised to know that one of the most important writers of fantasy literature was a Texan. Robert E. Howard, was born and lived in Cross Plains Texas, and created Conan the Barbarian, one of the most iconic sword and sorcery characters of all time. On June 12-13, the town welcomes Howard's fans, who can mingle with others like themselves, take tours of the writer's home, and attend panels, speeches, films, and other events. On June 14 the town of Cross Plains hosts a county fair celebration called the Barbarian Festival, which has food, games, music, rides, a petting zoo, parades, and many more activities for people of all types to enjoy. Texas is a strange and interesting place, and it is fitting that one of the creators of an iconic fantasy character is from Cross Plains.  
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Chris Lane is a contributing writer who enjoys covering art, music, pop culture, and social issues.