WINTERS — The 16th annual Winters Dove Fest is set for Sept. 1 and is already setting a record for sponsorships.

The president of Dove Fest, Maegan Schwartz, said that in 2017 the Dove Fest attracted approximately 800 people.

“That was during Hurricane Harvey and when people weren’t traveling because everyone was worried about a potential fuel shortage,” Schwartz said. “Even with the concerns in 2017, the festival was still a success, raising thousands of dollars for local non-profits. This year we’ve already set a record for sponsorships.”

The event will include a gun raffle, hunter’s appreciation barbeque, camo (color) run, clay pigeon fun shoot, silent as well as live auctions and live entertainment provided by the band Breaking Stride.

The Dove Fest is the biggest annual event for the town of Winters and requires year-round planning. Schwartz and the 11-member Dove Fest committee start planning for the following year’s Dove Fest within a few days of finishing up the current one. This is Schwartz’s second year as president of the committee and as a native of Winters and a local business owner, she has an intimate understanding of the benefit the festival brings to the town of Winters.

“The Dove Fest is important for many reasons, not the least of which is that it raises money for non-profits in the community and for a local scholarship,” Schwartz said. “Last year we raised over $20,000. This year we hope to exceed that.”

Volunteers from non-profits can sign in as volunteers and their organization is paid for each hour that a volunteer works. Even families of volunteers can help and the organization will be credited for those hours.

One of the keys to hosting a successful annual event year-in and year-out is staying current and always fine tuning it to make the event bigger and better the following year. One example of Dove Fest’s continued efforts is that this year when people buy gun raffle tickets they will be able to buy them in packs so that they don’t have to write their name and contact information on each individual ticket. The attendees will be able to purchase a pack of tickets and only have to write their information once.

The 5K run that has been part of the festival for several years will also undergo a change this year.

“We’ve changed it from just a regular 5K run to a color run,” Schwartz said. “Along the way the participants will have the option to get colors thrown on them.”

Another significant change is that this year they will have ten guns for the raffle rather than seven as they had last year. The guns in the raffle include Weatherby, Axis, Remington, Winchester, Henry along with several other brands.

The hunter’s appreciation barbecue is the highlight of the event. There is plenty of seating, indoor and outdoor, and there will be live music. The barbecue is $10 per person and includes the barbeque lunch, drink, dessert, entertainment and door prizes. The band, Breaking Stride, will play live music during the event.

The items for the auctions and prizes are donated by local businesses.

“We’ve had incredible support from the community,” Schwartz said. “Every year they step up to help make Dove Fest a success. Pretty much every business in Winters donates items. This would not be possible without their support.”

There will also be a kids’ raffle that will be free for the kids to enter. Those prize drawings will begin at noon. The Dove Fest is still accepting items for the raffles and prize drawings.

More information on Dove Fest, including donating items and volunteering can be found at www.wintersdovefest.com.

The festivities will begin at 8 a.m. with a clay pigeon fun shoot. The entry fee is $5 for 25 clays and the shoot will last until approximately 11 a.m.