Residents of Howe crowded the streets of downtown Saturday afternoon for a day of community fun during the city’s annual Founder’s Day Festival. The event, first celebrated in 1986, started as a celebration of Howe’s origins, but has transitioned into more of a community party in recent years.
Monte Walker, director of economic development, said the event has seen a resurgence in recent years after organizers attempted to revive it following a downturn in attendance and interest. With this year’s event, Walker said he hoped to have about 2,000 people attend, including visitors from outside the community.
“We have come a long way in the past three or four years,” Walker said. “They tried to cancel it in 2013 when we only had seven vendors, but now we have more than 60.”
Walker said the event was originally held in celebration of not only the city’s history but also the sesquicentennial of Texas. Festival goers were dressed in period clothing harking back to the state’s origin as the Republic of Texas. While most of that has long since left the event, Walker said some hints of Howe’s past still remain.
“It was originally set up as a celebration of the start of our city, but it has evolved a lot since then,” he said. “Now it’s more a big block party.”
Among the attractions at this year’s festival was a small train for children that would run along the old route of the interurban rail lines, Walker said. Other attractions included children’s games and activities, live music and a lawnmower race. For this year’s race, Walker said competition seemed to be more intense than in previous years.
“It is the first time I have seen people souping up their lawn mowers for the race,” he said. “They must really want that trophy.”
Other attractions included a performance by Texas Flood, a Stevie Ray Vaughn tribute band that has a following in Dallas. With them performing in Howe, Walker said he hoped fans would travel up U.S. Highway 75 for the show.
Howe Mayor Jeff Stanley said he was unsure how many people would visit for the festivities, but added that he saw Founder’s Day as more of a community event than a tourism initiative. However, he did note the larger crowds the event has attracted in recent years.
“It really brings out a sense of togetherness and, I believe, a sense of belonging,” he said.
Stanley said the event was officially revived in 2010 after it had been discontinued some time before he took office in 2009. While it took some effort by local organizers, he said he was happy with the turn out.