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Quirky festivals in the Highland Lakes

The star of the Castell Testicle Festival: calf fries. The event is one of many unusual festivals that take place across the Highland Lakes each year. Staff photo

Make your visit to the Highland Lakes an exploration of the niche, the peculiar, and the downright curious by attending one — or all — of these unusual festivals.

Llano Earth Art Fest

March 13-16

With its abundance of water-worn stones, the rocky shoreline of the Llano River is the perfect location for the Llano Earth Art Fest and World Rock Stacking Championships, which attract competitors and spectators from around the world. Staff photo by Jennifer Greenwell

The Llano Earth Art Fest is one of those broad, catch-all festivals that’s much more than it seems. On its face, the event that takes place along the Llano River is already unique with installations made of soil, rock, and local plant life and the World Rock Stacking Championships. The curiosities don’t end there. Themed camps, fire spinners, exhibitions on a wide range of earthy topics, fringe music performances, and yoga all make this event stand out. Admission for the 2020 festival is $20 in advance and $25 at the gate. For tickets and an extensive schedule, visit the festival's website.

Castell Testicle Festival

May 16

The Castell Testicle Festival serves up hundreds of pounds of calf fries and rounds up visitors from across the area every year. Staff photo by Jennifer Greenwell

For the adventurous eater who’s unimpressed by mere tripe or pig’s feet, there’s another cut of meat in which to indulge. Some call them calf fries, others Rocky Mountain oysters — or even meatballs. To put it simply, we’re talking about calf testicles and a whole festival devoted to battering and deep frying them into a tasty hors d’oeuvre. The Castell General Store prepares as much as 600 pounds of calf fries for public consumption and serves them alongside barbecue.

Pine Moore Days

Late May

Blades fly in the mounted knife-throwing competition during Pine Moore Days. Contestants throw knives and tomahawks to test their deadly accuracy while riding horseback at three different speeds: a walk, a trot, and a gallop. Courtesy photo

Pine Moore Days highlights the wild side of Old West history with mounted knife throwing competitions and tomahawk workshops. The annual event is a fundraiser for the nonprofit Buggy Barn Museum and Pine-Moore Town in Blanco. The museum's collection has been rented to major Hollywood films such as “There Will be Blood” and the remake of “True Grit.” Truly a must-see for Western enthusiasts. This event occurs in late May. The 2020 date is yet to be determined. Check the festival's website for details.

Blanco Lavender Festival

June 12-14

Vendors and diehard lavender fans gather for this niche festival to celebrate the aromatic blooms. Staff photo by Jennifer Greenwell

This fragrant festival gives a lot of love to lavender, a non-native flowering plant that’s right at home in Central Texas. Texas’ first commercial lavender farm in Blanco began the celebration, which includes food, music, local vendors, and speakers with tips on growing and using the versatile plant. Admission is free. Visit the Blanco Lavender Festival website for more information.

Stonewall Peach JAMboree

June 18-20

A peach pit spitting contest is one of the highlights of the annual Stonewall Peach JAMboree. Staff photo

Stonewall’s appreciation of the peach knows no bounds. Fresh peaches, peach ice cream, and yes, peach jam are all to be had at this celebration of Gillespie County’s peach production. The festival includes a rodeo, the Peach Queen pageant, a parade, peach eating and pit spitting competitions, food contests, and more on the Stonewall Chamber of Commerce grounds. Admission is free for daytime activities on Saturday. Tickets are required for the rodeo and dance. For a schedule of events, tickets, and application forms, visit the festival website.

Johnson City Antique Engine and Tractor Pull

June 27

Just because they’re antiques doesn’t mean they can’t pull many times their own weight. Antique tractor enthusiasts face off each June at the Johnson City Antique Engine and Tractor Pull. Staff photo

Texans take pride in their tractors, be it a bright red Massey Ferguson, a green John Deere, a classic Ford, or something else. Antique tractor fanatics gather in Johnson City each year to show off their old farm equipment. The antique tractor pull includes up to 10 classes divided by horsepower and weighted and non-weighted. For more information, check the Johnson City Antique Tractor and Engine Club Facebook page.

Oatmeal Festival

Labor Day weekend

The grand finale of the Oatmeal Festival parade is an oatmeal drop from above. Photo by Martelle Luedecke/Luedecke Photography

Chili cook-offs might be all the rage in Texas, but there’s another traditional bowl people go wild for. At least, that’s the joke that started this whole event. Oatmeal might be on the opposite end of the palate spectrum, but that doesn’t mean it can’t be celebrated with just as much fervor as chili. Visit the community of Oatmeal and the city of Bertram to witness the Miss Oatmeal pageant, a parade, live music, and — what Texas festival would be complete without it? — a barbecue supper. Check out the festival's website for details.


September 17-19

It wouldn’t be an outdoor festival without the great outdoors. Enjoy free camping and live music at the 12th annual UtopiaFest in Burnet. Courtesy photo

Camp in the great outdoors while enjoying live music, yoga, mountain biking, hiking, a silent disco, and more. The annual UtopiaFest at Reveille Peak Ranch in Burnet is a lifestyle more than a festival with a host of bands, free camping, workshops, and more. This is a BYOB event. Attendance is capped at 2,000. Weekend passes for adults start at $159, but prices vary for kids and the number of days attending. Visit the festival website for more information.

Johnson City Pig Roast

October 9-11

A complimentary meal accompanies motorcycle contests and more at the Johnson City Pig Roast charity event. Courtesy photo

You'll see two kinds of hogs at this annual motorcycle rally and fundraiser for the Cherokee Home for Children. At the Blanco County Fairgrounds in Johnson City, the Hill Country Toy Run hosts a free pig roast and bike show with live music, a slow race, and a poker run. Admission is $45 a person. Visit the event website for details.

For more Highland Lakes events, check out our calendar.

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There are 1 comments.

Charles Watkins —
Too bad the Soap Box races could not be included.

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