WAXAHACHIE — Live music, street performers, food and handcrafted items are just a small fraction of the fabric that weaves itself around Waxahachie when the Texas Country Reporter Festival returns each year.
The festival returns for the 22nd time to downtown Waxahachie this Saturday, Oct. 28.
Spurred from the weekly “Texas Country Reporter” television show, the festival brings the personalities and stories found on the backroads of Texas to one central location.
“We have a good mix this year of people that have been here for several years and a few new people that are coming this year. There are around 300 (booths), and we are right at 60 (booths) around the courthouse square and those are the ones that have been featured on the TV show,” Bob Phillips previously told the Daily Light. “Our food court, I think, is one of the best food courts at any festival anywhere. Right there on the town square, we are going to have an incredible snow cone stand. They make their own syrup and such. It is not like any snow cone that you have had in your life.”
To say the festival brings about all walks of life from all corners of the great State of Texas could very well be an understatement.
For example, in 2016 the festival proudly boasted a vendor who offered the newly state-legislature designated "Texas Cupcake." The tasty pastry stands outs because of the pecans incorporated into its recipe.
There was even a visit from Austin-based Amy’s Ice Cream, which, according to its website, started in 1984 and has more than 350 flavors in its daily rotation.
While the festival typically begins at 9 a.m. on the Saturday of the weekend, the opening ceremonies usually commence at 9:30 a.m. — when Bob and Kelli Phillips are welcomed back "home" to Waxahachie. Activities will wind down this year around 7 p.m. after Exile takes the main stage for a 6 p.m. concert.
The festival changed its opening ceremonies in 2016 from the grand-entry-parade style previously used to a "Texas-sized" grand opening.
"Of course, we are going to have the Waxahachie High School cheerleaders and SAGU cheerleaders involved. We will also have the SAGU drumline involved,” said Laurie Moseley, director of the Waxahachie Convention and Visitors Bureau. “It is going to more of a ceremony type of thing with the color guard that will present the colors, the pledge of allegiance and the Texas pledge.”
Despite the tweaks and subtle changes for the weekend, one central feature remains untouched — live music.
This year's stage lineup includes Prairie Dogs (9 a.m.), Western Swing (10:45 a.m.), Pistol Packin' Paula (11:40 a.m.), Houser and the Dogs (noon), Gator Country (1:30 p.m.), Emma and Ryan (2:40 p.m.), Western Swing (3:30 p.m.), Blues Boy Willie (4:15 p.m.) and Exile (6 p.m.).
Exile is a five-piece country band that began touring in 1963 under the original band name, The Exiles, according to the group's official website. Band members include J.P. Pennington (guitar, lead vocals), Les Taylor (guitar, vocals), Sonny LeMaire (bass, vocals), Marlon Hargis (keyboards) and Steve Goetzman/Gary Freeman (drums).
Hit songs include "Woke Up in Love," "I Don't Want to Be a Memory," "Give Me One More Chance," "Crazy For Your Love," "She's a Miracle," "Hang On to Your Heart," "I Could Get Used to You," "It'll Be Me," "She's Too Good to Be True," and "I Can't Get Close Enough."
Past acts have included Restless Heart, America, Orleans, Fireball, The Bellamy Brothers, and Eddy Raven, just to name a few.
Along with the live music, the festival features several live acts and demonstrations.
One of the newer features introduced at the festival is the Texas Country Reporter Festival Wisdom Series. The Wisdom Series highlights people featured TCR television show who speak about their unique talent.
“A lot of the people that we feature on our television show have an interesting knowledge about a particular subject that is far more detailed than we have time in a six or seven minutes. Some of those people we have invited to come to the little pocket park there around the square,” Phillips said. “There will be five different ones that are going to be there throughout the day.
"I hesitate to call it a lecture series. It is more of discussion. They are going to be presenting their subject and talking about it."
This year's Texas Speaker Series includes Waldo Way Dairy (10 a.m.), Keyhole Gardens (10 a.m. inside the City Council Chambers), Cadillite Jewelry (11 a.m.), GONZO 247 (1 p.m.), and Yellow Jacket Boats (2 p.m.).
With the personalities in place and city prepared, Mosley previously said a good-weather year could expect to bring upward of 50,000 visitors to Waxahachie.
As always, admission is free, and vendors will be present with crafts, food and more for purchase.
"Our downtown has never looked better with all of those storefronts being filled," she added. "It is going to be an exciting year for our visitors, our businesses, and the festival.”
For more information about the festival, visit the “Texas Country Reporter” website at www.texascountryreporter.com or the Waxahachie Chamber of Commerce website at www.waxahachiechamber.com.