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Annual Texas Festivals, Events, And Notable Competitions

Every year, the Lone Star State bustles with numerous annual festivals, national competitions, and special events that embody Texan culture. From the historic streets of San Antonio to the lush gardens of East Texas, each event, festival, and competition offers a unique blend of local tradition, global influence, international music, community spirit, and more.

As we look ahead to upcoming events, let’s explore the host of annual Texas festivals, events, and national competitions that make Texas a premier destination for domestic and international tourists year in and year out.

I. Annual Texas Festivals

Texas Wine Festivals & Whiskey Festivals

  • Grapevine’s Texas Wine and Grape Harvest Festival: An annual celebration in the historic town of Grapevine featuring local wineries, culinary delights, and grape-stomping competitions. It highlights the best of Texas vineyards and offers tastings and pairings to delight any wine connoisseur.
    • Location: Grapevine, Texas.
    • Time of Year: Typically held in September.
  • Legends of Texas Whiskey Festival: The Legends of Texas Whiskey Festival is a unique event held at the Texas Sports Hall of Fame, offering an opportunity to sample fine whiskies from Texas distillers and master blenders. Set against the backdrop of a venue home to over 400 sports legends and 13,000 pieces of memorabilia, the festival blends the appreciation of Texas whiskey with the state’s rich sports heritage, including the attendance of famous athletes.
    • Location: Waco, Texas
    • Time of Year: February

Music Festivals

  • Houston Jazz Festival: A vibrant showcase of jazz music featuring both local talent and international stars. It’s an event where enthusiasts can revel in the rich sounds of live performances and masterclasses.
    • Location: Houston, Texas.
    • Time of Year: Dates can vary, often in the fall.
  • Landlock Fest (Waco): The Landlock Fest event is hosted at Waco Surf in Waco, Texas. It’s a 3-day extravaganza featuring surf competitions, hot tubs, the longest lazy river in the world, international food options from renowned chefs and restaurants, 20+ well-known, top-of-the-game artists in the music industry, and much more.
  • Old Settler’s Music Festival in Tilmon: This festival brings together lovers of Americana, bluegrass, and roots music for a weekend filled with workshops, jam sessions, and camping under the Texas stars.
    • Location: Tilmon, near Lockhart, Texas.
    • Time of Year: Usually in April.
  • Tejano Conjunto Festival in San Antonio: Celebrates the unique sounds of Tejano and Conjunto music with performances by legendary and upcoming musicians, dance, and traditional food.
    • Location: San Antonio, Texas.
    • Time of Year: Typically in May.
  • Brazos Nights (Waco): Brazos Nights is a fun-filled, epic concert series held in Downtown Waco, Texas. It’s been a cherished tradition since 1989, bringing to life the riverfront area with a soulful mix of musicians, food trucks, and family fun. The concerts are known for their free, family-friendly atmosphere and provide a diverse array of live music, ranging from Texas and roots music to a variety of other genres. The 2023 series featured Jackie Venson, an increasingly famous guitarist and singer/songwriter making a splash on the national Blues, Soul, and Pop music scenes. But this event is not just about music; it’s a full-blown celebration that includes drone displays over the river, family activities, and more. It represents a significant aspect of Waco’s cultural life, attracting more than 30,000 people to downtown annually, those who live both near and far.
    • Location: Waco, Texas.
    • Time of Year: Often in the spring or early summer.

Cultural Festivals

  • Mardi Gras! Galveston: Galveston, Texas, hosts an annual Mardi Gras celebration (dating back to its first event in 1867) that is noted as the third largest in the United States. The celebration is known as Mardi Gras! Galveston features a variety of parades, live entertainment, street food vendors, and much more, offering a unique experience with the added charm of beachside festivities.
    • Location: Galveston, TX.
    • Time of Year: Annually; February.
  • Texas Greek Festival: Offering a taste of Greece with traditional dance, music, and delicious Greek cuisine, this festival brings a piece of the Mediterranean to the heart of Texas.
    • Location: Various cities in Texas, including Houston and Dallas.
    • Time of Year: Dates vary, often in the fall.
  • San Antonio’s Diwali Festival: Known as the Festival of Lights, this event features Indian culture through dance, music, and a spectacular fireworks display, embodying the spirit of this important Hindu festival.
    • Location: San Antonio, Texas.
    • Time of Year: Coincides with the Hindu festival of Diwali, usually in October or November.
  • Houston Turkish Festival: Visitors can experience Turkish hospitality with authentic cuisine, folk dances, and crafts, promoting cultural exchange and understanding.
    • Location: Houston, Texas.
    • Time of Year: Typically in November.
  • Dia de Los Muertos Festivals in Texas: These annual festivals are a deep-rooted cultural tradition in the region, where the living honor the departed. Towns like San Antonio, Corpus Christi, and Waco come alive with altars, crafts shows, and parades featuring skull masks and marigolds, creating a lively atmosphere to remember the deceased. These events often include traditional music, dance performances, and sharing stories about those who have passed, making it a poignant yet celebratory time that draws both local and international visitors eager to experience this unique cultural expression.
    • Location: Various cities, including San Antonio, Corpus Christi, and Waco.
    • Time of Year: Around November 1st and 2nd.
  • Waco Cultural Arts Fest: The Waco Cultural Arts Fest is an annual event that celebrates a diverse range of artistic and cultural expressions. It was started in 2003 and typically takes place over three days on the last weekend of September. The festival is known for its variety of hands-on activities suitable for all ages, along with visual art and entertainment available both day and night. Over 50 artists and 300 performers participate, including poets, filmmakers, dancers, musicians, and other entertainers. This eclectic festival is located at Indian Spring Park, with some activities in the Waco Convention Center. The festival is free for all attendees.
    • Location: Waco, Texas.
    • Time of Year: Often in the Fall.
  • Heart O’ Texas Fair & Rodeo: The Heart O’ Texas Fair & Rodeo, established in 1953, is an annual event held in October in Waco, Texas. It features a week of excitement with professional rodeo events, craft and cooking competitions, and a midway filled with thrilling rides and classic fair food. One of the highlights of the HOT Fair is the MCC College Dance Company’s annual performance. They’re a world-class, multi-championship-winning dance team (11 NDA National Championships & 1 DTU National Invitational Championship), and they’ve performed at the HOT Fair for almost as long as it’s been around. This fair has become a beloved tradition for many Texans, attracting thousands of visitors yearly.
    • Location: Waco, Texas.
    • Time of Year: Usually in October.

Food Competitions and Festivals

  • Terlingua International Chili Championship: Known as the “Granddaddy of all Chili Cook-offs,” this competition draws the bravest chili aficionados from around the world to compete and sample.
    • Location: Terlingua, Texas.
    • Time of Year: Early November.
  • Fredericksburg Food and Wine Fest: A gastronomic extravaganza in the heart of Texas wine country featuring cooking classes, chef demonstrations, and a grand tasting event.
    • Location: Fredericksburg, Texas.
    • Time of Year: Usually in October.
  • The Texas Food Truck Showdown: The Texas Food Truck Showdown, initiated in 2015 by the Greater Waco Chamber of Commerce, rapidly emerged as a prominent culinary event in Waco, Texas. It features an extensive array of food trucks, drawing in thousands, with the inaugural event attracting 15,000 people and 35 trucks. The 2023 showdown continued this trend, hosting 36 food trucks and welcoming over 25,000 attendees, highlighting its growth and popularity. The next Texas Food Truck Showdown is scheduled for April 13, 2024.
    • Location: Waco, Texas
    • Time of Year: Dates can vary, usually during late Spring or early Summer.

Film Festivals

  • Dallas International Film Festival: Showcases a diverse range of films from global cinema, offering movie buffs the opportunity to engage with filmmakers through screenings and Q&A sessions.
    • Location: Dallas, Texas.
    • Time of Year: Often in the spring, around April or May.
  • Houston International Film Festival: Celebrates international films and filmmakers with a focus on independent cinema, providing a platform for emerging talent and thought-provoking narratives.
    • Location: Houston, Texas.
    • Time of Year: Dates vary, typically in the spring or fall.
  • Waco Independent Film Festival: The Waco Independent Film Festival (formerly the Deep In The Heart Film Festival) is hosted in Waco, Texas. In 2023, the festival took place from July 20 to July 22, with an online encore following from July 23 through July 29. This festival is known for showcasing a diverse range of film genres, including comedy, drama, horror, thriller, documentary, and animation, featuring stories from Texas and around the world. The event is characterized by its independent films, created by passionate storytellers outside the big studios.
    • Location: Waco, Texas.
    • Time of Year: Annually; The Waco Independent Film Festival is typically hosted during the Summer.

Art Festivals

  • Bayou City Art Festival in Houston: One of the top art festivals in the country, it displays works from hundreds of artists and includes music, food, and creative zones for children.
    • Location: Houston, Texas.
    • Time of Year: Held twice a year, in the spring and fall.
  • Main St. Fort Worth Arts Festival: Features hundreds of juried artists, live concerts, performance art, and street performers, making it one of the largest art events in Texas.
    • Location: Fort Worth, Texas.
    • Time of Year: Usually in April.

Literary Events

  • Texas Book Festival in Austin: Founded by Laura Bush, this event features readings, book signings, and panels with authors from Texas and around the world, fostering a love for reading and writing.
    • Location: Austin, Texas.
    • Time of Year: Typically in October.
  • San Antonio Book Festival: A free literary event that unites readers and writers in a celebration of culture, literature, and the arts of the written word.
    • Location: San Antonio, Texas.
    • Time of Year: Usually in April.

Outdoor and Nature Events

  • Whooping Crane Festival in Port Aransas: Observers can witness the majestic migration of the whooping cranes and participate in educational sessions about wildlife conservation.
    • Location: Port Aransas, Texas.
    • Time of Year: Generally in February.
  • Bluebonnet Festival in Chappell Hill: Celebrates the state flower with family-friendly activities, live music, and a parade through fields of blooming wildflowers.
    • Location: Chappell Hill, Texas.
    • Time of Year: Usually in April.

Historical Reenactments

  • Battle of San Jacinto Reenactment: A dramatic reenactment of Texas’s fight for independence, bringing to life the decisive battle that changed the course of history.
    • Location: Near Houston, Texas.
    • Time of Year: Around April 21st, the anniversary of the battle.
  • Texas Independence Day Celebration: Commemorates the declaration of Texas’s independence with historical performances, live music, and storytelling.
    • Location: Various locations across Texas.
    • Time of Year: March 2nd, commemorating the Declaration of Independence.

Tech Conferences

  • Innovate Tech Conference in Austin: Gathers industry leaders, startups, and investors to discuss the future of technology, featuring interactive workshops and networking opportunities.
    • Location: Austin, Texas.
    • Time of Year: Dates can vary.
  • Houston Tech Rodeo: A newer addition to the tech scene, offering a series of events that blend the local culture with technology, innovation, and entrepreneurship.
    • Location: Houston, Texas.
    • Time of Year: Often in the spring.

Craft Festivals

  • Homestead Fair:
    • Location: Near Waco, Texas.
    • Time of Year: Usually in late November.

Seasonal & Holiday Festivals

  • Waco Wonderland:
    • Location: Waco, Texas.
    • Time of Year: Usually the 1st week of December.

II. Annual National Competitions Hosted in Texas

Texas is not only vast in geography but also in the range and significance of its annual national competitions, each contributing to the state’s rich cultural tapestry in various ways:

A. Van Cliburn International Piano Competition

  1. Significance in the Classical Music World: This competition is a pinnacle event in the world of classical music. Named after the renowned American pianist Van Cliburn, it attracts some of the most talented pianists from around the globe, contributing significantly to the careers of young musicians.
  2. Competition Format: The competition is known for its rigorous and highly competitive format. Participants perform various classical pieces over several rounds, showcasing not only their technical skill but also their artistic expression.
  3. Location: Hosted in Fort Worth, Texas.
  4. Time of Year: Typically held every four years; the most recent competitions have been in the late spring to early summer.

B. Great American Shoot-Out Basketball Tournaments

  1. Scope and Scale: This event is one of the largest amateur basketball tournaments in the United States. It draws teams from across the nation, featuring a wide range of talent levels.
  2. Role in High School Basketball: The tournament is crucial for high school basketball, offering young players a platform to showcase their skills and gain exposure to college scouts and coaches.
  3. Location: These tournaments are held in various locations throughout Texas, including major cities like Dallas, Houston, and Austin.
  4. Time of Year: They occur several times a year, with major events usually in the summer months.

C. UIL Texas State High School Football Championships

  1. Texas Football Culture: High school football is a cornerstone of Texas culture. The championships are highly anticipated each year, drawing massive crowds and fostering community spirit.
  2. Impact on Community and Players: These games are more than just sporting events; they are community gatherings that bring pride and a sense of identity. For players, these championships can be a stepping stone to collegiate and professional football careers.
  3. Location: The championship games are often held at AT&T Stadium in Arlington, Texas.
  4. Time of Year: These championships usually take place in December, at the end of the high school football season.

D. Ironman Texas in The Woodlands

  1. Triathlon Challenges and Course: Ironman Texas is known for its grueling course, which includes swimming, biking, and running. The race tests the endurance and determination of athletes from around the world.
  2. International Participation: This event attracts a global field of competitors, making it a melting pot of cultures and an international showcase of athleticism.
  3. Location: The Woodlands, a master-planned community in the Houston metropolitan area.
  4. Time of Year: Typically held in the spring, often in April or May.

E. Other Significant Competitions

  1. USA Track & Field Championships: These championships bring together the country’s best track and field athletes, serving as a platform for national titles and Olympic qualification.
    • Location: Varies, but Texas cities like Houston have hosted events.
    • Time of Year: Usually in the summer, often in June or July.
  2. American Royal World Series of Barbecue: A celebration of culinary skill, this event is one of the largest barbecue competitions in the world.
    • Location: Historically associated with Kansas City, Missouri, but Texas cities have hosted similar events.
    • Time of Year: Typically in the fall, around September or October.
  3. Big Tex BBQ Fest: This fest combines the love for barbecue with Texan culture, attracting chefs and enthusiasts alike.
    • Location: Locations can vary within Texas.
    • Time of Year: Often held in the spring or summer.
  4. Texas International Fishing Tournament: As one of the largest saltwater fishing tournaments, it draws anglers from various regions, showcasing fishing skills and marine conservation.
    • Location: Primarily in South Padre Island, Texas.
    • Time of Year: Usually in the summer, around July or August.
  5. Texas State Chess Championships: This event underscores the intellectual vigor in Texas, attracting top chess players from the state and beyond.
    • Location: Varies across Texas.
    • Time of Year: Dates can vary, often held annually.

Each of these competitions, in its own unique way, reinforces Texas’s reputation as a center for diverse talents and interests and contributes to the state’s cultural and economic vitality.

III. Additional Annual Texas Events Worth Noting

Texas indeed offers an impressively diverse range of events and attractions, showcasing its rich cultural, historical, and natural heritage. Here’s a closer look at the variety of events hosted each year:

  1. Texas Wine Festivals: The state’s wine industry is celebrated in events like the Grapevine’s Texas Wine and Grape Harvest Festival, attracting wine enthusiasts to enjoy local productions, especially in the Texas Hill Country.
  2. Music Festivals: Texas is a hotbed for music festivals, covering various genres. Notable examples include the Houston Jazz Festival, Old Settler’s Music Festival in Tilmon, and the Tejano Conjunto Festival in San Antonio, each offering unique musical experiences beyond the well-known SXSW and Austin City Limits.
  3. Cultural Festivals: Reflecting Texas’ diverse cultural tapestry, festivals like the Texas Greek Festival, San Antonio’s Diwali Festival, and the Houston Turkish Festival celebrate the state’s multicultural communities through food, music, and art.
  4. Food Competitions and Festivals: Texas is known for its BBQ competitions, but it also hosts other culinary events like the Terlingua International Chili Championship and the Fredericksburg Food and Wine Fest, showcasing a wide array of gastronomic delights.
  5. Film Festivals: For film enthusiasts, the Dallas International Film Festival and the Houston International Film Festival provide platforms for international filmmakers and audiences to connect and share cinematic works.
  6. Art Festivals: Art lovers are catered to with events like the Bayou City Art Festival in Houston and the Main St. Fort Worth Arts Festival, which feature a mix of local and national artists.
  7. Literary Events: Book lovers can revel in the Texas Book Festival in Austin and the San Antonio Book Festival, which are major gatherings for authors, publishers, and literary enthusiasts.
  8. Outdoor and Nature Events: Celebrating the natural beauty of Texas, festivals like the Whooping Crane Festival in Port Aransas and the Bluebonnet Festival in Chappell Hill focus on birdwatching and wildflowers, respectively.
  9. Historical Reenactments: Events like the Battle of San Jacinto Reenactment and the Texas Independence Day Celebration provide immersive experiences into Texas’s rich historical past.
  10. Tech Conferences: Beyond SXSW, Texas hosts various other tech and innovation conferences in tech hubs like Austin and Houston, attracting a global crowd of professionals.

Each of these events contributes to the vibrant and dynamic character of Texas, offering something for everyone, whether they’re interested in culture, arts, technology, history, or nature.

Conclusion

From the rousing Mardi Gras celebrations in the vibrant streets of Galveston to the solemn remembrances during the annual Dia de Los Muertos festivals, Texas offers a year-round itinerary of festivals and events that are as diverse as they are engaging. Whether you’re swaying to live music in San Antonio or perusing crafts in the Hill Country, every event is a testament to Texas’ enduring charm and eclectic spirit. So, mark your calendars for these upcoming events and immerse yourself in the heart and soul of Texas.