PALESTINE — The community wanted the Hot Pepper Fest brought back and will get its way, organizers said.
An expanded version of the Hot Pepper Fest is coming to historic downtown and old town Palestine with many new attractions and events in the making.
Every fall for many years, there has been a fall festival in Palestine, but it has been known by different names at different times.
Having gone through an identity crisis, the festival was known for awhile as the firemen's festival, bodacious bat and bicycle festival, ghost festival, Oktoberfest, Hot Pepper Fest and other names but was known the longest as the Hot Pepper Fest.
The chamber of commerce, which puts on the festival, is relinquishing the fall festival this year to the city of Palestine as the chamber prepares to launch a new Christmas holiday event next year.
With the city taking on staging the fall festival with the help of many sponsors, Heather Hrebec, events coordinator for the city of Palestine, said, “We're going back to the Hot Pepper Fest name that it had before, but it's going to be new and improved with extended hours and fun.”
The festival was most successful when it was known as the Hot Pepper Fest, Ms. Hrebec said and added, “We want to make it (Hot Pepper Fest) successful again.”
“The mayor and several citizens had fond memories of the Hot Pepper Fest. … We (the city) are taking the name back to Hot Pepper Fest (while) the chamber is going to develop a holiday festival.”
The one-day revamped Hot Pepper Fest will open at 9 a.m. Oct. 27 and is expected to draw from 10,000 to 15,000 people.
Unlike previous years, there will be no gates or entry fee to the festival area.
The revived Hot Pepper Fest will feature attractions that the fall festival had in the past but incorporate more entertainment and more interactive activities, Ms. Hrebec and Ms. Bean said.
That will be in response to what people said they wanted on surveys the city tourism department conducted during the last four festivals, Ms. Bean said.
There will be so many events and attractions that people will leave tired, Ms. Bean predicted. “It's going to be bigger and better than we've done it in a long time,” she said. “It's going to be good.”
The festival will have a “county fair feel,” Ms. Hrebec said, to bring back the nostalgia of a county fair held in Palestine years ago and discontinued when the fair grounds were sold.
“Keeping that in mind, we will have quilt shows, all sorts of canning and gardening exhibits and demonstrations, tractor shows, 4-H project shows and a petting zoo,” she said.
Naturally there will be a pepper eating contest, she added.
A kids zone will offer a variety of things for children: two rock climbing walls, a mountain bungee jump, inflatables, slides, a carnival swing, a gyro spin, train rides, pony rides, building projects, etceteras.
Palestine Police Department will man a booth to reunite parents and children who get separated.
But the live music will be taken to a whole new level, Ms. Hrebec said.
“One thing we are doing this year that we can't find that they've ever done is bring in a huge stage downtown like you would see at a big concert,” she said.
It will feature local music leading up to a performance by the Casey Donahew Band from 9:30 to 11 p.m.
“You normally have to pay to see Casey Donahew, but the city of Palestine and all our sponsors are allowing you to come see Casey Donahew for free,” Ms. Hrebec said.
Donahew is a Texas country music performer well known in the area and state.
A half hour before Donahew performs, “we are going to give the community a surprise,” Ms. Bean said. “We're going to give everyone something they've never seen.”
Preparations for the barbecue and chili cook-off will start Oct. 26 while music is played in what's known as The Hollow in old town Palestine.
A new festival attraction will be a Wild West interactive demonstration featuring a chuck wagon, an old west camp and stories about the old west to teach children how people cooked in pioneer days. Cream soda from old wooden barrels will be sold in cups.
Another exhibit will feature blades, swords and other cutting items made in the renaissance fashion. An educational Texas longhorn exhibit will present Texas history and allow festivalgoers to have their picture taken with longhorns.
Food booths will offer typical festival food with some new additions. It will include turkey legs, corn on a cob, corn dogs, lemonade, ice cream sold out of a booth shaped like a giant ice cream cone and assorted barbecue such as barbecued baloney sandwiches.
A spook house operated by Palestine Firefighters Association will be open from 7:30 p.m. to midnight in an old garment factory at 3600 W. Oak St.