By Matt GriesmyerRed, lifeless carapaces alongside empty beer bottles and clean-picked corncobs fill trash can after trash can as the faint smells of smokehouse mesquite and Cajun seasoning waft through the air. In the distance, the wails and passion of zydeco music cry their unique and pleasant sounds. It is that time of year again. The Texas Crawfish and Music Festival has arrived.
Old Town Spring hosts the Southern United States’ largest crawfish festival that has been going on for 23 years, and this year’s was a sight to behold.
Vendors from around the Houston area and beyond came to sell their oh-so-secret recipe crawfish buckets, complete with the standard boiled new potato and cob of corn. The prevailing flavors immolate the mouth with cayenne and black pepper, overtones of cinnamon and garlic tickle the palate but mingle oh-so-well with a tall, frosty beer.
This festival boasts as much as 50,000 pounds of crawfish being cooked, all to serve a very special purpose.
Normally, the festival profits benefit the organizations that are charged with preserving Old Town Spring, a railroad town dating back to the early 1900s. This year, however, the funds are going to assist those who have been hit hardest by Hurricane Ike.
The first weekend of the festival was looking almost as dim as Ike did, with a storm forcing the closure of the festival early on Saturday and not reopening the doors to the public until 5 p.m. that day. The festival opened up the next day, much to the public’s applause, despite muddy field conditions and a bit of standing water.
Manning the gate of the festival and much of the volunteer posts were members of the local Knights of Columbus Council 6557, a Catholic organization of men who volunteer within their society. Among the volunteers was Bob Bensfield. Bensfield’s spirits were high despite the aforementioned rainstorm.
“We have been doing this event for six years,” Bensfield said. “It’s always fun. This year’s festival is going pretty well, considering the rain we had yesterday.”
The festival, which happens every year in the springtime, not only features spicy Cajun crawfish, but music acts from around the area and country. This year’s acts included Leroy Thomas & the Zydeco Roadrunners, LT Roberts & the Zydeco Mob, KISS tribute act Destroyer, Glass Intrepid, Cory Morrow and numerous others playing on any one of three stages set up throughout the festival.
Comments from the public were hard to hear over the sounds of the bands, boiling crawfish pots and gnashing of teeth as crawfish tails were devoured, but this reporter was able to make out a single word from patron Damon Kothmann of Houston.
“Great,” Kothmann said, summing up how he felt this year’s festival went.
As this spring comes to a close and we all go our own directions for the summer, make sure to raise a toast and observe a moment of silence for those crusty crustaceans we all crave. Mudbugs, crawdads, crayfish and crawfish – whatever the region may call them – Texas calls them delicious.