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Celebrate Bandera, RiverFest garner national, state kudos

By Judith Pannebaker

Once again, two of Bandera’s festival events have been singled out in national magazines as “not to be missed in 2009” - not bad for a municipality of less than 1,000 people.

In the February-March issue of “American Cowboy” magazine, Celebrate Bandera was selected as one of the magazine’s “101 Best Western Events” - for the third consecutive year. Additionally, RiverFest was featured in a “Save the Date” article in the January issue of “Texas Highways.”

Staff at “American Cowboy” put Celebrate Bandera in formidable company. Eleven other events in The Lone Star State made the final cut, including the Fort Worth, Houston and San Antonio stock shows and rodeos; Cowboys of Color Invitational Rodeo, Mesquite; Working Ranch Cowboys Association World Championship Ranch Rodeo and Cowboy Mounted Shooting Association World Championship and AQHA Bayer Select World Championship Show, Amarillo; Red Steagall Cowboy Gathering, American Paint Horse Association World Show and National Cutting Horse Association World Finals, Fort Worth; Western Heritage Classic, Abilene; and Texas Cowboy Poetry Gathering, Alpine.

As stated in “America Cowboy”: “Paring down the list for ‘American Cowboy’s’ annual roundup of the top 101 Western events for 2009 was no easy task, a fact that speaks as much to the efforts of the many who work to make these events successful as it does to the ongoing popularity of all things Western.”

According to Genie Strickland, event coordinator, “Celebrate Bandera” began as an afternoon benefit concert fundraiser for Hill Country victims of the Great Flood of ‘02, featuring Two Tons of Steel. It has since become Bandera County’s major event of the year - a three-day festival drawing thousands of visitors from across the United States, as well as Mexico and Europe.

“Texas Highways” included RiverFest among a sampling of fundraising events that ran the gamut from Viva! Cinco de Mayo in San Marcos and the XIT Rodeo & Reunion in Dalhart to the Texas Citrus Fiesta in Mission and Mesquite’s Great Texas Mosquito Festival in Clute.

Of the Cowboy Capital’s annual homage to the Median River, Texas Highways stated: “If hanging out on the banks of the cool clear Medina River sounds good to you, the Bandera RiverFest is your kind of event. The Great Hill Country Anything That Floats Regatta caps off the afternoon with prizes for the creative entries that float down the beautiful river.”

According to Texas Highways’ writers: “For visitors festivals also represent an opportunity to savor a slice of small-town Texas, each one with a special flavor all its own.”

RiverFest began in 1997 as a fundraiser for the Bandera Business Association, according to BBA President Margaret Paradee. It gets bigger each year. “The association survives very well on the proceeds generated by RiverFest,” Paradee commented.

The 2009 edition of RiverFest is scheduled for Saturday, June 27, and Celebrate Bandera will take place Friday, Sept. 4, through Sunday, Sept. 6. Mark your calendars now for two of Bandera’s most exciting and entertaining festival events.