Festivals typically consist of three main things: deliciously unhealthy snacks, quirky craft vendors and a bit of live music. It’s a perfectly fine recipe for a small town function, but it’s hardly memorable. These 10 unique Texas festivals do things a bit differently. Whether they’re showing off vibrantly decorated vehicles or boasting of an elaborate costume contest, these events are unlike any other.
10. Big Country Balloon Fest
Every September, the Optimist Club of Abilene sends over 20 colorful hot air balloons into the Texas sky. The Big Country Balloon Fest has been lighting up the city for 19 years, and the designs get more lavish with each festival. Whether it’s a flying pig or a gigantic shoe, these balloons can be seen from miles away. Of course, this annual shindig has plenty of festival food staples, too, so you can get your fill of turkey legs, funnel cake and fried Oreos.
9. World Championship BBQ Goat Cook-Off
Sure, barbecue festivals are a Texas staple. Almost every town hosts one, and the competition can get heated. No Texas festival does barbecue quite like Brady’s World Championship Goat Cook-Off. This hometown cooking competition began in 1974 in an effort to raise money for The Jaycees of McCulloch County. This year, over 200 teams entered the cook-off with more than 90 on the waitlist. That culminated into about 5,700 pounds of goat!
8. Bertram’s Oatmeal Festival
At most festivals, you’ll find vendors selling funnel cakes, bacon-wrapped steak on a stick and deep-fried cheesecake. Rarely can a festival stir up so much excitement about healthy food, but the Bertram Oatmeal Festival gets hearts racing every year. In fact, the festival kicks off with a “run for your oats” 5K. Some might think of oatmeal as a healthy necessity for a balanced breakfast, but the city of Bertram makes it an annual celebration.
7. Arlington Festival of Quilts
Quilts aren’t just a cozy way to keep warm anymore. At the Arlington Festival of Quilts, these blankets are works of art. Over 170 quilts are presented at this annual festival and competitors vie for a winning title. Of course, art is a subjective thing, so there are plenty of opportunities to receive recognition. The festival presents over 30 awards including the Spirit of Arlington prize and recognition in exemplary hand quilting.
6. Billy the Kid Festival
In the mid 1800s, infamous outlaw Billy the Kid broke into the San Elizario jail to free his friend, Melquiades Segura. After posing as a Texas Ranger, pointing his gun and locking the guards in a jail cell, Billy the Kid rescued his friend and fled the town. Every June, San Elizario celebrates this famous tale with historical reenactments, live music, and delicious food.
5. Texas Firearms Festival
The Texas Firearms Festival blazes through Liberty Hill every October. Ammo enthusiasts can try out the latest guns from all over the world. For those willing to splurge, VIP tickets grant early entry, line-cutting privileges and shuttle service.
4. Houston Art Car Parade
Cars topped with crispy bacon, automobiles that look like Yoda, and enormous Radio Flyer Wagons are just a few of the impressive vehicles you’ll find at the Houston Art Car Parade. The Art Car Ball revs the excitement on this event every April, and the parade takes over Smith Street the next day. This vibrant spectacle has attracted car enthusiasts for 29 years.
3. Texas Pirate Festival
For two days a year, the small town of Hillsboro becomes a storybook full of buccaneering pirates and swashbuckling adventurers. At the Texas Pirate Festival, you can watch magic lamp dancers and learn how to swordplay. You can meet Smee the singing pirate and hang out with Seadog Slam. This event encourages elaborate costumes and adventurous alter egos.
2. The O. Henry Pun Off
Quick-witted wordsmiths flock to Austin for the O. Henry Pun Off every May. Though it may look lighthearted and fun, this competition is fierce. If competitors hesitate longer than five seconds before saying a pun, they are immediately eliminated. Whether or not you compete in this high-stakes word race, the O. Henry Pun Off will undoubtedly make you chuckle.
1. Buda Weiner Dog Races
You’ll hear nothing but a chorus of adorable squeals and sighs at the Buda Weiner Dog races. No matter how bad your day is going, there’s nothing like a swarm of cute dachshunds to cheer you up. The races are part of Buda’s County Fair and all proceeds go towards the Buda Lions Club.