Five Family-friendly festivals Where You Can Enjoy the Hill Country’s Favorite Season

When bluebonnets and Indian paintbrush line the highways and backroads of Texas, and breezes are gentle and temperatures are mild, there’s no better time for festivals and family fun in the Hill Country. Spring fever is infectious, school is almost out, and it’s time to think about getting your lawn and garden back in shape, so why not pack up the kids and make a weekend road trip to celebrate spring? Little towns all over Texas fill the mild weather months of March and April with special market days, art walks, garden shows, spring concerts and family fairs, and most are a short drive or day trip away, so you can be back home chasing fireflies with the kids by nightfall.

34th Annual Bluebonnet Festival, Burnet
On April 7-9, celebrate the state flower of Texas, the bluebonnet, in the beautiful town of Burnet, during its annual Bluebonnet Festival. Last year more than 30,000 people attended, and this year even larger crowds are expected. The family-friendly festival will include a pancake breakfast, the Highland Lakes Birding and Wildflower Show, the annual Grand Parade, a pet parade, a scholarship pageant, a “Destruction Derby,” 5k and 10K runs, arts and crafts stalls on the Burnet Historic Square, the Lakes Area Rod and Classic Car Display, a Burnet Gunfighters shoot-out at Old Town, a praise and worship time at the Main Stage, a rubber ducky race, a children’s bicycle decorating contest, a Wiener Dog Race, the “Mighty Thomas Carnival,” along with a full food court and live music, including Jason Boland & the Stragglers. Burnet is located at the intersection of Highways 281 and 29. For more information call 512-756-4297 or visit www.bluebonnetfestival.org.

Chef Johnny Hernandez’s 8th Annual Paella Challenge, San Antonio

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You don’t need to look far for your first foray into spring fun. Kick off the season with a big tasty Sunday in the park during this family-friendly event of good eats in support of a good cause. Attend the eighth annual Paella Challenge on Sunday, March 26, from 11 a.m. to 4 p.m. at Mission County Park. The best restaurants and chefs from all over the city compete to create giant pans of paella, a Spanish/Mediterranean dish containing seafood and rice and an array of other ingredients. Student chef teams from local high schools will also compete in an H-E-B-sponsored challenge, and all who attend can eat, drink and enjoy live music and entertainment all day for one price. Chef Johnny’s popular paella challenge has already raised $350,000-plus, and all proceeds benefit Kitchen Campus, a nonprofit organization with a mission to connect today’s youth to culinary opportunities through education and advocacy. Parking at the event is free, and ticket prices are all-inclusive of food, drink and entertainment. The event used to be held at Pearl, but it quickly outgrew its space there and moved to Mission County Park, located at 6030 Padre Drive. Call 210-226-3670 or visit www.paellachallenge.com for more information.

Wimberley’s 19th EmilyAnn Annual Butterfly Festival
What better way to welcome spring than with the release of thousands of butterflies, and that’s exactly what folks in Wimberley will do on Saturday, April 22, during this unforgettable festival held at Wimberley’s EmilyAnn Theatre. The festival begins at 9 a.m. with a flag dedication at the Texas flagpole at the Veteran’s Memorial Plaza atop EmilyAnn Mountain, followed by a commemorative Air Force flyover (weather permitting). Then, a live butterfly release will happen every 30 minutes throughout the day until 5 p.m. In addition to the release, there will be other fun activities: butterfly art, nature activities, pirate and princess tents, games, concessions, face painting, an indoor butterfly house with native exotic butterflie, and live entertainment. There is no entrance or parking fee, though there are charges for certain activities and for concessions, but any donation you can make is appreciated. While at the festival, be sure to walk through the gardens, enjoy the life-sized chess/checkerboard and interactive musical garden, and enjoy the peaceful environment of the grounds. The EmilyAnn Theatre is located at 1101 FM 2325, next door to Wimberley High School. Call 512-847-6969 or visit www.emilyann.org for more information.

Hill Country Wildflower Arts & Crafts Faire, Dripping Springs
On Saturday, April 8, from 10 a.m. – 5 p.m. and Sunday, April 9, from 11 a.m. – 4 p.m., at the Dripping Springs Ranch Park enjoy a big spring arts and crafts fair where vendors will showcase gifts, pottery, jewelry, gourmet foods, candles, garden items, collectibles, clothing and more. Thousands attend this annual fun spring fair with food booths, juried competitions, arr and music. Enjoy garden talks and guest speakers, including Amanda Moon, and come for “Chicken Chats” to learn about raising backyard flocks. The Hays County Master Gardeners will be sharing gardening tips, too, and even Texas Parks and Wildlife experts will be on hand. Admission is $4 per person, less $1 with a donation to the Helping Hands Food Pantry. Children aged 12 and under are free. Dripping Springs Ranch Park is located at 1042 Event Center Drive, on RR12, north of Highway 290, across from the Dripping Springs Elementary School. Note: GPS often does not work for this location. For more information call 888-225-3427 or visit www.TexasMarketGuide.com.

Swing on the Square, San Marcos

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On April 7-9, on the Hays County Courthouse square, from 10 a.m. – 5:30 p.m., this big 25th annual Western Swing Festival in downtown San Marcos will not only feature Western swing acts, but also other styles of music that were the roots of Western swing, including blues, 1940s jazz, big band swing and country. Along with all the music will be lots of food as well as a big street dance, a “Brew Hop” to different local craft breweries, a Hall of Fame show, a Gospel Cowboy show, a farmers market, an arts market and lots of activities for the kids. Formerly the Texas Natural & Western Swing Festival, this San Marcos sensation is a relatively short ride from San Antonio and will make an entertaining outdoor event for the family. This rain-or-shine event is located on the courthouse lawn in downtown San Marcos at 111 E San Antonio St. For more information call 512-393-8430 and visit www.smtxswingfest.com.

By Janis Turk