Tommy Mann Jr.
The Orange Leader
Organizers for the Texas Bar-B-Q Festival are on a mission for redemption.
One year after what can arguably be described as the least impressive event in the history of the Texas Bar-Q-Festival, organizers are making a determined effort to redeem the festival in the eyes of its patrons and its community.
The festival has relocated from its previous confines at Claiborne West Park to the open space and higher visibility area of Conn Park, which is located on South Street, the Interstate 10 East feeder road, near Old Highway 90 in Vidor.
According to Jodi Woodard of the Vidor Chamber of Commerce, this year’s festival is going back to basics and making sure it delivers an event high on fun and affordability.
“This is the largest carnival we have ever had and there’s a lot of excitement about the festival this year,” Woodard said. “We know there’s a lot of pressure on the chamber to make sure this festival is the best it can be, and I think it will be.”
Along with a new location, the festival has also expanded its days of operation by adding a fourth day to the festival. The festival now will be open from 5 p.m. - 10 p.m., Thursday; 5 p.m., Friday, through midnight; Saturday from 10 a.m. - midnight; and 10 a.m. - 5 p.m., Sunday.
Admission has also been changed to encourage area residents to experience the new and improved Texas Bar-B-Q Festival. Admission is $1 per person. However, since the festival is at a new location, there is a $5 per car parking fee.
Wagner’s Carnival, according to its official website, offers “old fashioned favorites like the Merry-Go-Round, Tea Cups and Ferris Wheel, and the new fast and exciting rides such as the Zipper, Kamikaze and Force 10.”
Wristbands for all-you-can ride sessions are available for $18 in advance from the Vidor Chamber of Commerce, 945 N. Main St. in Vidor. Wristbands are $22 if purchased at the carnival. There are two sessions - 11 a.m. - 6 p.m. and 6 p.m. - midnight - on Saturday.
Woodard said the decision to relocate the festival was not made lightly, but once the decision was made in early 2013, it was full speed ahead to get the new location prepared.
“We’ve brought in more than 225 loads of sand to build up the grounds,” she said. “We’ve had a lot of donations to help us get to his point, and we’ve had a tremendous outpouring of volunteer help.
“The surrounding chambers in Orange, Bridge City and Beaumont have been sending volunteers to help us get the festival ready,” she continued. “This kind of cooperation really started at the Bassmaster tournament in Orange last March and it’s really continued between the chambers.”
Woodard said the decision to move has caused its share of stress and worries, but there is light at the end of the proverbial tunnel.
“We were really sweating it there for a while,” she stated. “When we got all that rain a couple of weeks ago, that’s when I was worried. But everyone has come together to make it happen and we’re just about ready for Thursday.”
The festival will include the Bar-B-Q Cook-Off as always, and Woodard said there are 20 teams competing for the highest cash prizes ever offered by festival organizers. The always popular horseshoe tournament will be held on Saturday, and, this year, the washer tournament is state sanctioned which should prove to be very competitive.
Live music is also part of this year’s festival and will feature a variety of local artists. The highlight of the event will be Saturday, when the three winners of Thursday’s “Talent Show Finals” will perform.
Thursday’s finalists will begin performing at 7 p.m. Finalists include Josh Brantley, the Dirt Road Band, Lauriann Beggs, Traveling Roads, Rachel Honza, Ashley Smith, Samantha Murdock and Looking for Lazarus.
Woodard said guests may bring lawn chairs to the festival, but coolers and outside food and beverages will not be permitted.
A new addition to this year’s festival, courtesy of the new location, is the sale of beer will be allowed. Woodard said proceeds from beer sales will benefit the Conn Park Committee and help to the future development of Conn Park.
Call the Vidor Chamber of Commerce at 409-769-6339 for more information.