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Nederland Heritage Festival kicks off next week

NEDERLAND — We are only a few days away from what promises to be an amazing Nederland Heritage Festival.

This year’s event, themed “2020 Our Vision is Clear,” plays out over six days with a full slate of events, entertainment, rides and food starting March 10.

The new paved food court area has been years in the making with city, engineer and construction benchmarks to clear.

Attendees and vendors alike finally get to enjoy the planning and follow through next week.

“It’s been a very long process but one that is worth the wait,” Festival Executive Director Shannon Hemby said. “We’re going to use our existing food vendors area with one line, then we will turn into the new area, which will also have a 20-by-40 covered tent with picnic tables. We will utilize it for not only our food vendors but also for a whole other eating area.”

A crowd of people line Boston Avenue for the opening day of the 2019 Nederland Heritage Festival. (File photo)

The festival’s traditional calling cards of family fun, free entrance and parking, exciting rides, great food and music are scheduled again.

Lifelong local resident Scott Nutt, who manages Butchers Korner, is serving as 2020’s Mr. Nederland.

Nutt has been attending the festival for as long as he can remember, now taking his children to the same rides he enjoyed as a young boy.

“That tells you how successful it is every year,” he said. “It hasn’t ever stopped. It’s been a continuous thing that started before I was ever born. They put on a good event every year for the community.”

Nederland High School’s Lilei Shipley is this year’s Miss Nederland Pageant winner, a natural outcome for a senior who has saved all of her previous passport photo badges.

The 18-year-old recently joked that her fondest festival memories are about “eating the funnel cakes that none of us need, but all of us want.”

Organizers stress they have 20 food booths completely full.

“We will have a new food court area this year, so we won’t have the same double line where it is crowded in the middle,” Hemby said. “We’ll better service the community, the patrons and the concession workers who are here to raise money for their non-profit.”

Hemby volunteered for 25 years and took over as executive director when the position became available four years ago.

“I was blessed to be able to be a stay-at-home mom so all of my extra time was volunteering and giving back to the community,” she said. “The Festival is in my heart. When this position became available, they knew I spent a lot of time up here and asked me if I would be interested in it. Of course, I said yes because I wanted to continue seeing it grow.”

The Heritage Festival officially sold out of weeklong ride passports Friday but announced carnival armband nights are March 10, 12 and 15. Armbands are $25 and can be purchased from the ticket booths throughout the carnival.

Be sure to check out The Port Arthur News on Saturday (March 7) for a 24-page special section devoted completely to the Nederland Heritage Festival.

Among the highlights are a day-by-day festival game and entertainment schedule, profiles on this year’s honorees and pageant participant pictures.

The first day of the Nederland Heritage Festival Carnival is March 10, with carnival hours from 4 to 11 p.m.