By George Slaughter
City of Katy and Rotary Club leaders have been working since the summer to organize the annual Katy Rice Festival, which takes place Saturday and Sunday in downtown Katy.
City leaders and festival organizers said the goal for this year’s festival is to return the festival to its original form. The emphasis will again be on quality art and craft vendors, along with live music, family activities, and food and drinks.
Mayor Chuck Brawner said the goal for the festival was to get as many families with their children as they could get to come and enjoy the events.
“This is a new beginning for the Katy Rice Festival,” Brawner said. “It’s been a tradition for many, many years, and now it’s changed to go back to the way it used to be.”
Brawner said many Katy residents have told him that they missed the festival’s emphasis on crafts and arts over the past few years, and they are pleased with the changes for this year’s festival.
The city took over sponsorship of the festival, formerly known as the Katy Rice Harvest Festival, this year when its long-time sponsor, the Katy Area Chamber of Commerce, declined to sponsor it again. The Katy Rotary Club has joined the city to co-sponsor the festival.
According to the chamber, the festival was originally called “Sellabration” and was a weekend event to honor the local rice farmers and their contributions to the local economy. The Tri-County Optimists staged the event in the late 1970s.
Things evolved and the first official Rice Harvest Festival took place in 1981.
The city-Rotary Club partnership, dropping “Harvest” from the festival name, and renewing the focus on arts, crafts, and family activities are among the biggest changes to this year’s festival. But the festival dates and location—the second weekend in October, in downtown Katy—remain the same.
Proceeds from the festival will go towards scholarships for Katy-area students, as in the past. The Rotary Club will distribute the scholarship money this year. The chamber distributed the scholarship money in previous years.
Tickets are $5. Children 12 and under are admitted free.
In addition to Saturday and Sunday’s events, an Octoberfest event is set for 6 to 11 p.m. Friday night at Avenue B and 3rd Street. The Octoberfest event features live music, a carnival, food trucks and beer garden.
Shuttle Service Available from Merrill Center
Festival-goers are encouraged to take the free shuttle service from the Leonard E. Merrell Center parking lot, 6301 S. Stadium Lane, to the festival, which will be between 1st Street and 4th Street and Avenue A to Avenue D.
Kayce Reina, the city’s tourism, marketing, and public relations director, said the shuttle would run from 10 a.m. to 10 p.m. Saturday and from 12-6 p.m. Sunday.
The parking lot location is a change from previous years, where the Katy Mills Mall parking lot had been used.
Parade Set for 9 a.m. Saturday
As in previous years, the parade will begin with a parade through the streets of Katy. But this year, the parade will take place at 9 a.m. Saturday morning to kick off the festival.
The parade will begin at the intersection of Avenue C and 10th Street. It will proceed east on 10th Street until it reaches Drexel Drive, where it will turn right, or south.
The parade will continue down Drexel Drive until it reaches 5th Street, where it will turn right, or west. The judges’ stage will be at the northeast intersection of East Avenue and 5th Street.
The parade will continue along 5th Street until it reaches Avenue C, where it will turn right, or north, and proceed to its finish at the 10th Street intersection.
The parade will feature some of the city’s newer fire trucks, among other vehicles.
In previous years, the parade was held the weekend before the festival.
Rice Cooking Competition on the Menu
This year’s festival features the return of the rice cooking competition. Organizers said the competition is one of the festivals earliest traditions and is one way of celebrating the communities Rice heritage.
Contestants will submit samples, be they entrées or desserts, of their favorite rice dishes.
A judging panel will taste and evaluate the dishes, with winners being announced Saturday afternoon.
Volunteers Still Welcome and Needed
Reina said volunteers are still welcome and needed for Saturday afternoon and Sunday shifts. Volunteers will be given t-shirts, Brawner said.
Organizations, or just individuals wanting to help, are asked to visit the festival’s web page, katyricefestival.com, for more information.
“We’re very excited and looking forward to the community celebrating our heritage,” Reina said.