This year will be the 45th year of Ballinger’s Ethnic Festival. The festival has grown in popularity every year, including last year when they had record attendance estimated at over 2,000 people.
The day is chock full of activities for adults and children alike. The day begins with a parade that, last year, took over 40 minutes to complete from start to finish. A line of tractors fire trucks, classic cars, Goodfellow soldiers, Marines, sailors and airmen, high school bands and others entertained everyone.
The Ballinger Noon Lions’ Club also has a Bikefest on the morning of the festival. Bicycle enthusiasts from all over the state descend on Ballinger to compete in the Bikefest.
Last year marked the first year that the No Man’s Land Chili Cook-off was held in Ballinger. The chili cook-off is organized by the Ballinger Police Department and police chief Stanley Maresch and will be at this year’s Ethnic Festival once again. Maresch has big plans for the cook-off, “It just makes sense to hold the chili cook-off in conjunction with the Ethnic Festval. We want to get our chili cook-off as a qualifier for the Terlingua Chili Cook-off.” Last year the wonderful aroma of Texas chili wafted over those attending the Ethnic Festival.
There will also be the other food at the Ethnic Festival, including kolaches, bratwurst, fried fish, crawfish and more. The food vendors prepare a variety of foods from other cultures. As celebrity chef Guy Fieri once said, “Cooking is all about people. Food is maybe the only universal thing that really has the power to bring everyone together. No matter what culture, everywhere around the world, people get together to eat.”
Ballinger Memorial Hospital District CEO Rhett Fricke, along with Anita Jalomo, Justin Sehorn and Cindy Dahlbert manned German booth and prepared the best of the wurst.
Ethnic Fest brings in people who want to explore, experience and learn about other cultures and ethnicities, and who want to have a great time while they’re learning. The Sahawe Dancers are popular and the tent where they perform is almost always packed to capacity with people who want to watch the dancers and learn about Native American culture. The dance troupe comes all the way in from Uvalde. Their history is posted on their website, “The Sahawe Dancers were originally founded in 1950 as the Comanche Club Indians by Scoutmaster of Troop 81 in Uvalde, Texas, Joe W. Williams, as a program for older boys in scouting. Mr. Williams had read about a similar program in La Junta, Colorado, known as the Koshare Dancers, and their leader Buck Burshears. Mr. William and Mr. Burshears corresponded for some time about the possibilities of starting such an Indian dance group in Uvalde. The name of the group was changed to Sahawe Dancers in 1952.
Their performance is the product of hundreds of hours of planning, preparation, craftwork, and rehearsal, as the youth learn valuable life skills such as leadership, teamwork, dedication, and cooperation.
No member or leader receives any pay for their time dedicated to Sahawe activities. Instead, all funds are used to promote the future efforts of the Sahawe Dancers to provide worthwhile experiences and positive growth.”
Jeff Smith is the KRUN radio general manager and morning show co-host. Smith is a member of the Chamber of Commerce and a Ballinger city councilman. He says that the city and the Chamber of Commerce are always looking for ways to improve the festival, “With everything you do you always want to improve and with the Ethnic Festival that is no different. Those of us on the Chamber fully expect to have a bigger and better Ethnic Festival in 2020. That means more arts and crafts vendors, more activities for the kids, a bigger parade, etc. If you look at the amount of ground we have covered over the course of the last two years growing this festival you have to get excited. This year alone we are adding so much including a Corn Hole Tournament and we're also expanding the No Man's Land Chili Cook-Off to now include a full on traditional cook off with a kids division. The concert at the Pioneer Plaza to close out last years Ethnic Festival was a huge success so this year we've reached out and grabbed even bigger names to come and play. There is so much more to do and look forward to we've actually had to add an extra hour to the day, so this year we will be closing it out at 5pm instead of 4pm like in years past. With these changes we haven't gotten away from what has made this festival a staple in our community for over 40 years. You can bet we are still going to have the all day live entertainment, food and games that has allowed the Ethnic Festival to interweave itself into Ballinger's culture. There might even be a few surprises along the way. This combined with the Lone Star Market should make for a great weekend here in Ballinger.”
You can find out more about the Ethnic Festival by calling the Ballinger Chamber of Commerce Visitor’s Center at (325) 365-2333 or by visiting the city’s website, https://ballinger-tx.com.