BALLINGER - The new and revamped 43rd Annual Texas State Festival of Ethnic Cultures and Arts and Crafts Show held Saturday, April 28 brought thousands of visitors to Ballinger.

BALLINGER - The new and revamped 43rd Annual Texas State Festival of Ethnic Cultures and Arts and Crafts Show held Saturday, April 28 brought thousands of visitors to Ballinger. Downtown Ballinger was buzzing with activity all day and visitors were flocking to the fest held on the Runnels County Courthouse lawn with other events spilling over into other areas of the city. The event is sponsored and organized each year by the Ballinger Area Chamber of Commerce as well as many local businesses and organizations.

Ballinger Chamber of Commerce President Tammie Virden said the weather was great and people were ready to get out of the house.

“We had around 2,500 (visitors) downtown,” Virden said. “It was a great turnout with lots of participation from the community making this another successful event.”

This was a complete turn around from last year’s event, when bad weather converged on Ballinger just as the parade started. Temperatures dropped and high winds threatened to blow the fest away, but most of the vendors persevered.

After that, Virden and the chamber board vowed to revamp the event, to give it new life.

This year, added attractions included the climbing wall, where children squealed with delight after mastering the wall. There were more bounce houses too.

The historical shootout reenactments drew crowds as did the additional food booths and vendors.

Brian Drake, who has been a vendor for the past 12 years, returned again this year.

“I love coming here,” Drake said. “I always have good repeat business.”

Sandra Sabine and Mary Harbin, of S & M Jewelry, returned this year and said there was much improvement over last year.

“Business is steady,” Sabine said. “There’s a lot more vendors than last year.”

Cindy Winchester, who was out shopping with friends, said the festival was “a lot better than last year.”

Plus, organizations were making funds. The Ballinger Memorial Hospital District Foundation had the German food booth and folks lined up for some authentic cuisine.

“This weather is really helping,” said Whitney Shorb of the BMHD Foundation.

The Ballinger Area Chamber of Commerce sold fruit kolaches and by noon 75 dozen had been sold.

The Beer and Wine Garden was set up in Pioneer Plaza with beer served from the Eola School Brewery and wine served from Seifert Cellars in Lake Ivie. Concho Grass and Guitar Shawn performed throughout the day.

Local businesses were enjoying the traffic too.

In addition, Lone Star Market, held twice a year, was ongoing Saturday, with booths set up outside the Wool and Mohair building.

A car and motorcycle show was held on 8th Street and brought enthusiasts in from all over the area.

As in years past, the Colorado River Bike Fest was held in conjunction with Ethnic Fest. They had 45 entries with runners and cyclists from all over the area including Odessa, Midland, Abilene. The event was sponsored by the Ballinger Noon Lions Club.

The annual festival celebrating the rich history and ethnicity of Runnels County, traces its roots back to April 18, 1976 when a group of local business owners decided to create a celebration in conjunction with the Bicentennial celebration that year.