Return of Heritage Festival means return of fundraising for local nonprofit food vendors

Published 12:38 am Friday, March 4, 2022

For more than 14 years, Port Arthur Little Theatre has been serving unique items and crowd favorites at the Nederland Heritage Festival.

And each year, they earn between $12,000-$14,000 — double their annual operating expenses.

But it’s a loss they deeply felt in 2021 when COVID-19 caused the festival to cancel its annual six-day Spring Break celebration.

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“We were able to continue doing our shows at the little theatre, although we had to change from large casts to small casts and reduce the capacity in our theatre,” said Carl Heubach, treasurer of the organization. “We kept going. Our income significantly dropped but it was enough to pay our utilities.”

It was a feeling shared by many of the area non-profit organizations that rely on the festival for fundraising.

Last year, the Port Neches Rainbow Girls worked to fill the gap by selling funnel cakes on Nederland Avenue when they’d normally be at the Heritage Festival.

“This is our first time to go mobile,” said Katie Rendon while preparing the dessert they sold annually on Boston Avenue.

Katie Rendon makes funnel cakes for the Port Neches Rainbow Girls in 2021 near the parking lot of First Baptist Church Nederland. (Monique Batson/The News)

It’s the largest fundraiser of the year for the service group that works to build self-confidence, leadership skills and community service skills in young women between 11 and 20.

“This money goes towards our travel expenses and allows us to give back to the community and donate to other charities,” Rendon said.

But on March 15, the festival’s mainstays will be back to join the fun and fundraising.

“I’m looking forward to it,” Heubach said. “The only thing we pray for now, so to speak, is good weather.”

But rain or shine, PALT is prepared for the event. On Thursday, they filled their propane tanks and added them to the trailer with the rest of their supplies.

Each year the group of 15 board members works the festival to make snow cones, nachos, Scottish eggs, Butterbeer and Death by Chocolate.

The latter is one of PALT’s best-selling items, along with Butterbeer pattered from the Harry Potter series.

“The kids love that,” Heubach said. “I don’t know if it’s the name or the drink.”

The Scottish eggs are hard-boiled, wrapped in sausage, dipped in bread crumbs and deep fried.

But an unexpected impact from COVID is rising cost of foods. Their sausage is hard to find, and some of the supplies they often bought in bulk are either no longer sold or consistently out of stock.

That has caused an increase in price of some items, but the treasurer maintains they’re still one of the cheaper vendors at the festival — and one of the fastest.

“I can put out a snow cone in 20-30 seconds,” he said. “Most of the stuff we can turn over within a minute. Scottish eggs take a couple of minutes if we don’t have any already precooked to sale.”

Vendors will begin setting up March 12, ahead of opening day.

The festival will open at 4 p.m. March 15.