The Year All The Festivals Were Cancelled

This article by Ray Spitzenberger first appeared in IMAGES for August 27, 2020, East Bernard Express, East Bernard, Texas.

            Festivals have been celebrated throughout the world as far back as history records. Festivals, Fests, Fiestas, Fairs, Picnics! Whatever you call them, there seems to be a strong need for them within the hearts of all human beings. “All work and no play make Jack, Jacques, Jake, Jaakko, Dzhek, Honza, a dull boy!” Not to mention Jill, Jillian, Julia, Yulia, Dzhill, Juul!

            Yet, 2020 was the year all Festivals were cancelled!

            To a country boy like me, growing up in Lee County, Texas, the “Fests” or “Picknicks” (German for “Picnics”), as we called them in the 1940’s, were the exciting, longed-for highlights of every year!

            Although the Wendish Fest didn’t begin in Serbin until a mere 31 years ago, the “Serbin Picknick” was its predecessor, and my family and I looked forward to it every year, — just as we looked forward to the Lee County Fair, held at the “Airline” in Giddings each year, and where my grandmother’s crocheted bedspread won “Best of Fair” one of those years. Of course, my brother and I liked the Carnival part of the Fair best. And there was also the nearby Annual Brenham Maifest, which provided endless entertainment for everybody.

            This uncanny year of the coronavirus, 2020, saw both the Wendish Fest, scheduled for September 27, 2020, cancelled, as well as the Lee County Fair, scheduled for May 14-16. This crazy year also saw the Brenham Maifest re-scheduled, at first, as an Oktober Fest, and later cancelled.

            And here in Wharton County we were sad to see the Wharton County Youth Fair, scheduled for April 16-20, cancelled, though I think the exhibitors were able to show their animals. The June 13 East Bernard Kolache-Klobase Festival was cancelled, as was the July 1 Praha Picnic (Prazska Point), scheduled at St. Mary’s Catholic Church, as was our September 13, St. Paul Lutheran Church, Wallis, Annual Fundraiser and Auction.

            Festivals, large and small, known and little known, were cancelled all over the State of Texas in this surreal year of 2020.

            Yes, even the REALLY BIG ONES were cancelled, too!

            First begun in 1889, Fiesta San Antonio is one of the oldest, if not the oldest, festival in Texas. It started as a festival to honor the heroes of the Alamo and the Battle of San Jacinto. At first, the Fiesta was postponed from April to November 2020, then cancelled because of the persistence of COVID19, the first time it has been cancelled since World War II.

            The millions of folks each year who visit Dallas Fair Park for the State Fair of Texas won’t be there this September 25 through October 18, as it, too, has been cancelled for 2020.

            And the world’s largest livestock show, The Houston Live Stock Show and Rodeo, set for March 3 through March 22, was forced to cancel, as difficult and sorrowful as cancelling the event was.

            And, finally, just to mention some of the lesser known celebrations, the Great Texas Mosquito Festival, usually held in Clute, Texas, and scheduled for July 23, 2020, had to go the way of the others. Too bad the mosquitoes didn’t go rather than the Festival!

            One that is close to my heart, but few people probably know about is the McDade Watermelon Festival, begun in McDade, Texas, in 1948, when I was still in high school, just a short drive from Giddings. It was supposed to take place on July 11, but COVID19 got it, too. Obviously I haven’t mentioned all the festivals in Texas that were cancelled this year, but, to do so would probably take up the entire newspaper!

            Even in “normal” years, we all need festivals to lift our spirits and bring joy to our hearts, but when we needed them the most, in the bizarre year of 2020, they were cancelled!


Ray Spitzenberger is a retired WCJC teacher and Lutheran pastor, and author of two books, Open Prairies and It Must Be the Noodles.

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