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Texas Rice Festival returns after 2 year hiatus, new changes receive mixed emotions from Southeast Texans

Organizers are standing by their decision to not accept any tickets or carnival ride cards from the 2019 festival and to not sell carnival ride tickets this year.

WINNIE, Texas — After a two-year hiatus due to extreme weather and the global pandemic, the 2021 Texas Rice Festival is back and set for Wednesday.

While most Southeast Texans are excited to hear about the festival’s return, others are expressing their frustrations about decisions made by festival organizers. Organizers are standing by their decision to not accept any tickets or carnival ride cards from the 2019 festival and to not sell carnival ride tickets this year.

“One year was the storm that came in on us, Imelda, and then last year it was COVID, and we couldn’t even get a permit if we wanted to, so that was out of our hands,” Chad Andrus, Texas Rice Festival entertainment chairmen, said. “And now, things have lined up, and we’re ready to go, and our volunteers are ready.”

Rice Festival organizers said this decision impacts performers and vendors who have been waiting to get back on stage. They said it was also tough not having the event for the past two years, as many area churches and non-profits rely on it as their biggest fundraiser. 

“These bands, they have a whole support group. They are supporting the band members’ families,” Andrus said. “They haven’t been able to play, so for them to finally get out and be able to do shows is huge for them. They’re itching and ready to go.”

Organizers are excited about bringing everyone back this year and showcasing the Lilton Sonnier Arena as a new competition venue, as well as 10 new vendors.

“Great group of volunteers, I mean everybody’s, after two years you kind of, it’s hard to remember what went where and how we did certain things, but everybody pulls together, and we’re trying to do the best for the community,” Jeff Leger, Texas Rice Festival president said.

The 52nd annual Texas Rice Festival kicks off Wednesday at 5 p.m., and runs through Saturday night at the Winnie-Stowell County Park. Tickets will be available to purchase on site.

Written by Tiana Johnson (KBMT)

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