PAnews.com, Port Arthur, Texas

May 4, 2013

Gorgeous day enhances RiverFest experience

Sherry Koonce
The Port Arthur News

PORT NECHES — PORT NECHES  — Under sunny skies and balmy spring temperatures, Riverfront Park was crowded Saturday with people out for a good time.

And, what better place than Port Neches’ RiverFest, where the weather could not have better.

“It just turned out to be awesome,” Debbie Plaia, Port Neches Chamber of Commerce RiverFest director, said.

What started as a cold and gloomy weekend, turned sunny and warm, Plaia said.

A break in record cold temperatures started Friday night when headliner Randy Rogers took the main stage. About 1,000 people crowded around to see the country sensation, Plaia said.

By, Saturday the midway was full with families bringing their children, and in some cases, even their dogs.

Gina Larkie, 33, and Eddie Reyes, 49, both of Dallas were in town for a wedding, but decided to experience small town charm when they heard about Port Neches’ annual festival along the banks of the Neches River.

Along with their two dachshunds and one Chihuahua, the pair strolled the midway while taking in all the sights and sounds, and conversing with strangers about their canine companions.

“It seems like everybody here has dachshunds. Everybody just keep stopping and telling us they have one too,” Larkie said.

The couple said they were glad to have found the festival on their list of things to do.  

“Coming from Dallas, its a great small town atmosphere,” Larkie said.

While the midway drew the largest crowd Saturday afternoon, the aroma of barbecue wafting through festival grounds lured many to smoke-filled pits.

Eleven teams entered this year’s  barbecue cook-off.

Among those was Hawglegs, a cooking team comprised of Nicholas Raggio, 27, of Port Arthur; Brandon White, 33, of Port Neches and Thomas Teague, 26, of Port Neches.

The team started cooking their secret recipe Friday afternoon, and continued all night, then well into the day Saturday.

White, the team’s barbecue chef, said his secret recipe is just that, but he did offer one ingredient.

“I just put my fingers in it,” White said.

The trio has cooked together professionally for four years, he said.

“If we don’t win, we had a good time anyway. Plus, it is for a good cause,” White said.

All barbecue cookoff proceeds benefit the United Way.

RiverFest continues Sunday for a final day of festivities.

skoonce@panews.com