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STEPHEN HEMELT — Groves Pecan Festival is missed but never forgotten

Maybe it’s the food, maybe it’s the music or maybe it’s the family atmosphere, but the Groves Pecan Festival has sure been a fun event for years, bringing together neighbors and strangers from across Mid-County and beyond.

The 2020 event was supposed to be taking place this weekend, but the coronavirus pandemic put a stop to it this year.

That doesn’t mean it’s going away permanently and it certainly doesn’t diminish the event’s cultural significance to our community.

While it’s not here in physical form, the community spirit and joy that is creates each October should never be forgotten.

The annual event connects generations and offers a true throughline for community history.

Some of our community leaders know this better than anyone.

The Courtyard Café owner Karen Theis, a veteran city council member and candidate for mayor, co-chaired the festival planning committee for more than a dozen years.

“It is just a super fantastic family event,” she said. “I loved being a part of the Pecan Festival and I really, really hate that we’re not able to do it this year. When we started years ago it was something that I got involved in and loved being able to be part of, making everything happen for the weekend.”

Because she operated a booth at the event, she loved the front row view of seeing families come out and people visiting.

“It was a great time for the whole community to get together and listen to the music playing down by the pavilion,” Theis told me. “People would hang out and bring their lawn chairs. I had everybody from my parents to my 9-month-old niece out there. It was a great family time.”

She is going to miss the sound and buzz the most this weekend, because during events past, the community rallying together to be part of one thing always put something special in the air.

Chris Borne, an electrician and city council member of two years, is also running for mayor.

For him, the Groves Pecan Festival represents a tradition that has always been a big part of his life.

“As a kid growing up, I lived down the street so we always wanted to go,” he recalls. “It was the rides, the food. Now that I’ve grown up, I live even closer to it. It’s time with the family because they come park at the house and we spend time together. As my kids got older, they started participating in the choir and things like that.”

Borne said the event means family and community getting together and celebrating.

This year he said the community is missing out on seeing friends that some have not seen in years or family members not seeing younger children perform.

“And, of course the food, which is always great,” he said with a laugh.

Borne describes the pandemic cancelation as a necessary evil for what the country is going through, adding recent festival additions like Groves Has Talent event would be missed.

“I participate in the horseshoe tournament every year,” he said. “As a kid, it was riding the rides and playing the games. And then, of course, it’s getting to see my kids do the same thing. I’ll miss the food probably the most. It’s a short four days that everybody gets to go and have some fun.”

Let’s hope and work to ensure the fun returns next year, for this event and so many more in our communities that were eliminated in 2020. Anything that we can do now to help save tomorrow and is something that will be remembered for years to come.

Stephen Hemelt is president of Port Arthur Newsmedia. He can be reached at stephen.hemelt@panews.com or 409-721-2445.