RUNNELS COUNTY – Ballinger’s 47th annual Texas Festival of Ethnic Cultures Arts and Crafts was a return to normalcy after 2-years of Covid fears fueled organizers of events across the state to cancel in 2021. This year, Ballinger returned with a bang, and not just figuratively.
Ballinger Ethnic Fest
There was an Old West showdown betwixt cowboys with a score to settle on the courthouse lawn, y’all. County Judge Julia Miller and her dog were on a jail float during the parade. Miller and county jail administrator Kimberly Dunn are raising funds for the 1925 Runnels County Jail project to restore the historic building.
Catfish were being caught hand-over-fist, usually with the kids catching the fish and the game wardens grabbing the line with their fist to unhook the creatures. Then, it was time to re-bait hooks and catch some more! There were around 100 catfish in the tank that Texas Parks & Wildlife brought out to introduce young and old alike to fishing. After the festival, the fish were donated to the Runnels County Film Festival for their July fish fry.
The kickoff parade at 10 am filled the streets with the festive mood as Mexican dancers, Ballinger HS band members, and many businesses and civic groups got the party started with a tremendous atmosphere of fun and life.
The entertainment on the courthouse lawn lasted until 4 pm Vendors packed the lawn with the festivities all around. In addition to the vendors, there was the Ballinger Humane Society booth so that people could meet a four-legged friend and donate to the 501c3.
The aforementioned gunfight (there is no word if Runnels County Sheriff Carl Squyres was able to head ’em off at the pass), foods from around the world, and everything cultural was celebrated in style under bluebird skies and mild temperatures.
The festivities filled the day as people filled up on everything from kolaches to bratwursts. There was no shortage of fun on the beautiful day.
Runnels County Film Festival
The Runnels County Film Festival in Winters attracted scores of people. Their discussion panel included movie director Shane Bradford, Cinematographers Michael Murphy and Troy Dehoyos, actress Lisa Rae Bryant, as well as Hollywood stuntman/director/writer Jeff Caperton. The group discussed what it takes to make movies, what they look for in locations, acting, etc.
Bradford filmed a movie in Runnels County in 2020 and will start filming another one out here in October.
Caperton showed off some serious stunt driving skills in his stunt car after the panel. He showed how they do certain maneuvers in their vehicles, including 180-J turns, slides, spins, etc.
Live music was performed throughout the festival, with the Jeff Jacobs Band playing a full set on Friday evening to kick off the festivities. Saturday had 4 concerts, with Moon Dogs, Christopher Wright, Dale Phillips, and Rag Land performing throughout the day and at the VIP wrap party.
The panelists were taken to the GPS Insurance building for a tour that included the 2nd floor that once housed the Masonic Lodge, 2 dentists, one of whom, ZV Dry, still has his name on the glass of the office, as well as other various businesses. The location is owned by Craig historic and Kelly Gehrel. Craig conducted the tour from the basement to the 2nd floor, including showing off the 4 vaults in the building that once housed a large bank.
The panelists were treated to lunch by the festival organizers at the Old Texas Theater in Ballinger. The restaurant was a sponsor of the festival and hosted the film festival auction back in March.
The short-film competition had several entries, and included a surprising emotional twist by Bradford.
In the competition, Murphy won 1st place for his movie “GHOST”, while Bradford took 2nd place with “Adolescence.”
The film that took 3rd place was written, produced, directed, and filmed by the Miles ISD audio-visual club. After the awards were presented Bradford approached the stage and addressed organizers, saying, “I love this award, but you got it wrong. I actually think the students got 2nd place, so I’m going to swap trophies with them because their film was better than mine.”
Bradford went over to where the students were where he persuaded them to swap trophies with him so that he ultimately took home 3rd place and the students took home 2nd place. The move caught everyone by surprise and was the “feel-good moment” of the festival.
The festival was held at the Winters Community Center where Ballinger’s The Last Chapter Business Solutions took 6 kiddie rides out to entertain the youngsters. The rides were set to “free” so that, unlike a couple of decades ago, you didn’t have to drop in a quarter to ride the ride in front of a grocery store.
The VIP wrap party was held at Gypsy Threads, Tees & More in Winters. The party was limited to 100 people, with sponsors and guests filling the venue as the band Ragland performed. The band has most recently been on tour opening for Reckless Kelly. Angela New, owner of Gypsy Threads was one of the film festival organizers and was given a special award, along with KRUN radio’s Jeff Smith.
The beer and food were donated by two businesses in Miles: The Catch Pen, owned and operated by Shelly Granzin, as well as The Cobblestone Coffee House owned by Lacy Ellison.
The festival organizers also announced that the 2023 Runnels County Film Festival will be held in Miles, Texas on November 10-11.
Lone Star Market draws from near and far
Not to be outdone, the Lone Star Market at the Wool & Mohair building in Ballinger drew in around 1,000 people. The vendors at the market offered goods from every day items such as home decor, to eclectic items. The vendors filled the massive venue.
The market was located just a block from where the Ethnic Festival was going on at the Runnels County Courthouse. People from in from near and far to attend the market when it’s opened a couple of times a year.