HENDERSON — A handful of alumni from Hill High School in Henderson devoted the bulk of their weekend to roasting turkey legs.
The approach seems to be in high demand, allowing the group of old school friends to hand out three annual scholarships of roughly $1,200 each.
“The festival is a lot of fun,” Bernice Murphy, Class of 1965, said. “We meet different people from all over Texas. … And we get to see old friends.”
Other Hill alumni helping in the efforts included Jesse Hill, Class of 1958, with wife, Linda; Cassandra Jones, 1977; Clara Childress, 1961; Annie Lacy, 1961; Emory Whetstone, 1963; and Havard Weatherton, 1965.
The alumni were among thousands of people who found it hard to resist the old-time flavors of the city’s annual syrup fest.
“Last year we had about 30,000,” Suzanne Cross, tour-ism coordinator for the city of Tyler, said. “This year, because of the weather, we’re expecting at least 30,000, maybe more. We’ve had calls from around Texas, the motels are full. … It should be a good time.”
Ms. Cross said when she started with the festival in 1995 it took up two city blocks and featured about seven food vendors.
Today, it spans more than 11 blocks with dozens of vendors and attractions, ranging from old-time syrup making and folk art to antique tractors and music entertainment.
LaSonya Runnels and Dakota Blanton drove in from Tyler to attend, bringing their dogs, Lucy and Maggie, along as company.
“We come every year, mostly for the Polo shirts,” Ms. Runnels said, referring to merchandise offered for sale in a downtown shop. “I haven’t had the syrup.”
“It was good,” she said with a grin.
A few feet away, syrup guru Dudley Mosele was enjoying brisk sales of his Ryan’s Favorite Cane Syrup, a product created in Garrison.
“The weather is beautiful,” he said. “This is the busiest year in the last three. … Everybody’s been real nice.”
Syrup enthusiast Carleen Wilkie drove in from Dallas to stock up on the thick, gooey goodness.
“This is my first time to come,” she said. “I’m getting three bottles.”
Betty Tinney and Jan Lee, both of Henderson, seemed to be having a hard time moving around their booth, stuffed with sale items to benefit East Texas Medical Center-Henderson.
“We’ve got a little bit of everything,” Ms. Lee said, hugging a cuddly teddy bear.
The hospital’s giveaway seat cushions seemed to fly off the shelf as the crowd began to swell.
“All of our guests get a place to sit,” Ms. Tinney, Council for Volunteers president, teased.
Dianne Hamilton and Pat Cooper, representing the First Baptist Church of Mixon, near Troup, were selling cookbooks as a fundraiser.
She seemed to have a tough time narrowing down a favorite recipe.
“Maybe the caramel corn,” she said. “There’s also a lemon pie I love.”
Ms. Cooper, on the other hand, had no difficulties deciding preferences.
“I just like all of them,” she said.