Nacogdoches hosts 30th Texas Blueberry Festival thanks to volunteers

Nacogdoches hosts 30th Texas Blueberry Festival thanks to volunteers

NACOGDOCHES, Texas (KTRE) - Nacogdoches is about to have a lot of company.

Last year 24,000 guests showed up for the Texas Blueberry Festival. This year, 30,000 visitors are expected.

"The road behind that building will not be blocked," festival chair Grace Handler is heard saying on one of hundreds of festival related phone calls.

She’s been on those logistical phone calls for a year. She knows nothing happens by itself. That's why there are volunteers.

"I just want to thank all my crew that works so hard and gives their time,” said the woman who has chaired the biggest event in Nacogdoches for six years.

Right after a press conference and 30-year birthday party for the Blueberry Festival block captains gather in a side room for one last meeting.

Their job is to please over 200 vendors rolling into town Friday afternoon.

Chamber of Commerce CEO Wayne Mitchell arms them with a bit of advice, just in case.

"There's nothing in the world more disarming than a smile," he says on how to deal with tired vendors.

Blueberry fun generates smiles. What's the formula? Dedication. Even down to making this year's t-shirt presentable.

"Folded hundreds," said Bonnie Mitchell, Wayne’s wife, but a volunteer.

City staff is in on the prep too. They hang banners across the street. They make everyone who needs it has electricity.

The chamber calls 'Electric Wayne' for that task.

“We have an engineer that helps with the drawings and we do load calculations,” said Wayne Triana, the Nacogdoches facilities maintenance director. “We probably have 1000 to 1500 pounds of cableing."

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Public Works Director Cary Walker maps out other needs. "So, we can shut this down tonight about ten o'clock shut the city parking lot," he asks crews while studying a map marking barrier spots.

Each one helps keep crowds under control and safe. Staff placed fences, barriers and cones in just right the places.

"Crews have been working for two days getting everything staged so tomorrow at three o'clock we can start implementing our plan," said Walker.

Retailers know to have their blueberry offerings ready to go. Blueberry cookies anyone? Blue Horse Bakery has them iced and ready to go.

Or perhaps a cold one in a signature blueberry mug found at Fredonia Brewery.

“We always have to have a great idea,” Michell reminded volunteers.

The festival idea came to co-founders Leon and Patsy Hallman thirty years ago. They know it takes a village to host thousands.

“We wanted to develop an event that would be good for the community, but not require a lot of money for families,” said Patsy Hallman. “A family can come to the Blueberry Festival and not spend a dime, but still have a good time.”

"It's all of these people doing individual jobs and then all of sudden on Blueberry Day, everything falls into place," said Leon Hallman.

The commitment is demonstrated when Handler gives a chamber staffer a high five when a task fell into place.

"That's what I'm talking about," Handler says with a smile.

What’s Happening

Friday night the Blueberry Bluegrass Concert In the Park kicks activities off in Festival Park. Saturday is devoted to so many blueberry events, food, games and music. A complete schedule can be found at

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