They came from near and far for Mardis Gras

Bill Hancock
Budreaux and his favorite food have a staring contest. [Photo by Bill Hancock]

ROWENA — People traveled from Abilene and San Angelo, Ballinger and Winters, Miles and Mereta, to little Rowena, Texas, the map-dot west Texas town sporting a population of just over 700. The estimated 200 people that packed the ODHS hall, known simply throughout the area as, “The Hall,” for Mardi Gras on February 29th. Everyone got more than their money’s worth with live music and that staple of Cajun cuisine, the beloved crawfish.

The festivities kicked off at about 7 p.m. with a crawfish boil that saw well over 100lbs of the mudbugs meet a commercial tub of boiling water and Cajun spices. But it wouldn’t have been a true crawfish boil without the corn, potatoes and sausage that were combined with the mudbugs. Each person received a heaping mound of crawfish and all the ‘fixins’ for $20. It was a BYOB night so there was a $10 cooler fee if you brought in your own refreshments. The revelers ranged in age from the smallest 3-year olds to people in their 70s and 80s, and a healthy mix of all ages in between, including several of the students from Olfen ISD. Gabe Zamora is the superintendent of Olfen ISD and was there to enjoy to party, “This is great. They’ve done a great job,” Zamora said as he stepped in line for his plate of crawfish, corn, sausage and potatoes.

This was the first event hosted by The Hall’s new management, local KRUN general manager Jeff Smith and Olfen ISD Ag teacher Mark Pittman. Also making an appearance was Budreaux the Mardi Gras jester. There was live music provided by new music group, “Runnels County Outlaws”. Ballinger high school freshman Korey Cavazos also played a set with her guitar.

The music was only interrupted by the crawfish race. There were 8 crawfish that were numbered and each one was sold to the highest bidder. Most of the crawfish went between $20 and $30. The winner received half the funds and the other half went to the Sons of Hermann to purchase a new funnel cake trailer. The Sons of Hermann’s old trailer was stolen so Smith and Pittman wanted to help raise funds for them to purchase another trailer. Selling funnel cakes at events is one way the Sons of Hermann raise money for their charity work every year.

After all 8 of the crawfish were auctioned, they were placed on a table topped with butcher paper. There were lines drawn in the shape of a circular target and the crawfish were placed on the bulls-eye. The first mudbug to make it to the outer circle was declared the winner. People crowded around the table to watch their favorite crawfish vie for the first ever Hall crawfish race championship. The winner ended up being mudbug #5 but it was a claw-to-claw race to the end.

There was a free photo area set of for revelers to go and take photos with Budreaux. Many of those at the event were wearing some sort of costume, from something as simple as a theater mask to those in full Mardi Gras regalia. The music was loud, the beer was cold and the partygoers were in full effect, having a great time and sharing in some memories. In the end, the event was so packed that The Hall sold out of mudbugs. Pittman commented on the turnout, “It was great. We have a lot of really good people here and they’re having a really good time.”

Smith and Pittman already have other shows lined up, including The Studebakers, Jody Nix, Radney Foster and Chris Knight. You can check out the dates, times and covers at or on their Facebook page, “The Hall Rowena.” The Hall is always looking for new and established musicians for their upcoming events.