Annual festival celebrates Dripping Springs’ community spirit
“It always amazes me how many different organizations, residents and families come together in one place every year for Founders Day to celebrate our town,” says Bonnie Gonzalez, communications coordinator for the City of Dripping Springs.
“I think it’s the camaraderie,” she continues. “It’s seeing all of your friends and the smiles on kids’ faces when they win a stuffed animal at the darts booth or step off the Ferris wheel. You really feel that profound sense of community when you attend.”
The Dripping Springs Founders Day Festival is a three-day celebration that brings live music and entertainment across two stages, cook-off competitions, a festive “Grand Parade” and kid-oriented “Mighty Thomas” carnival, street dancing, and more than 150 arts and crafts, food, drink, and vendor booths to Mercer Street in historic downtown each spring.
As arguably the festival’s most anticipated event, the Grand Parade kicks off the first day of festivities, but the celebration’s shopping, philanthropy, and revelry opportunities promise a full weekend of fun-filled events.
Vendor booths famously offer a wide variety of gorgeous handcrafted goods, such as furniture, pottery, jewelry, and clothing. Children and the young at heart can eat their weight in cotton candy, ride the merry-go-round and Ferris wheel, make crafts, and play classic carnival games. Cook-off competitions and food and beverage vendors keep festival-goers fed and hydrated, a boon during Texas’s springtime temperatures.
Live performers, including dancers, musicians, and up-and-coming artists, enhance the aesthetic of the whole gathering by twirling, crooning, and strumming across two different stages. As evening falls, vendors break out the beers and folks take to the streets for two-stepping.
City employees and the Founders Day Commission—staffed by heads of local nonprofit organizations such as the Lion’s Club, Cook Off Club, the Knights of Columbus, and other town leaders—collaborate to plan the festival. The commission’s current chairperson, Brenda Medcalf, describes Founders Day as “a big three-day party you never want to miss.”
“When I first moved to Dripping in 2001, Founders Day was the thing to do, and it’s just continued to grow since then,” says Brenda, who has helped coordinate the event since 2005. “The festival attracts plenty of residents from neighboring towns and even the kids who are away at college come back for the festival. My family has a cook-off booth, which my boys have taken over, and their friends visit every year to help them cook.”
A benevolent celebration
Founders Day provides plenty of merriment, but it’s first and foremost a charitable event focused on generating community spirit and volunteerism. Parking income, individual donations, ticket sales, vendor profits, and all other festival proceeds directly benefit local nonprofit and community organizations, many of whom are represented at festival booths.
Dripping Springs Cook Off Club
The Dripping Springs Cook Off Club runs cooking contests throughout the weekend, rewarding participating teams—made up of club members—for their culinary prowess in classic Texas fare like barbecue, chili, and salsa. They’ve donated their Founders Day profits to Helping Hands, the Senior Citizens Activity Center, North Hays County Fire Department, Hays County Crime Prevention Program, EMS, Dripping Springs Youth Sports Association, and 4-H.
Learn more about the Dripping Springs Cook Off Club at dscoctx.com.
Martin de Porres Church
With help from the Dripping Springs Knights of Columbus, St. Martin de Porres Catholic Church has been heavily involved in Founders Day planning for decades. This allows the Knights of Columbus to connect to their values for community service, financial generosity, and fellowship. The Knights take the lead on coordinating the festival’s 150 vendor booths for the commission.
Dripping Springs Lions Club
A local chapter of Lions Clubs International, the world’s largest service club organization, the Dripping Springs Lions Club spends time and resources to help organize Dripping Springs’ Christmas on Mercer Street, an annual golf tournament, and of course the Founders Day Festival, playing into their values for taking care of the community and especially local kids. For Founders Day in particular, DSLC organizes the food vendor booths and the carnival.
Founders Day and Dripping Springs history
A group of Dripping Springs citizens first established the Founders Day Festival tradition in 1987 to commemorate the town’s initial settlement in the 1850s. Three families—the Pounds, Mosses, and Wallaces—relocated from Mississippi, arriving with everything they owned loaded in covered wagons to discover the beautiful rolling hills and live oak-filled fields of present-day Dripping Springs.
Now, Dripping Springs has gained fame as the first International Dark Sky Community in Texas, as the Wedding Capital of Texas, and as the “Gateway to the Texas Hill Country,” since it’s the first town that community drivers come to when they head west from Austin on Highway 290. In addition to the annual Founders Day festival, the city has commemorated its founding by naming its 30-acre park Founders City Park.
2017 Founders Day Festival
The commission has worked hard to iron out all the details for 2017’s Founders Day Festival. Exact details and an event schedule can be found on the festival’s website. Notably, 2017 marks the 30th anniversary of the event, so expect to see some special new features in honor of that legacy.
“I think it all comes down to how we just really love our town,” Bonnie says. “Although we’re rapidly growing, it’s still just a different way of life out here. Life moves a little slower. If you’re on the backroads, you wave to the random driver that passes by; I think that neighborliness is what Founders Day is all about. We’re all so proud and grateful to live here and to be a part of such a supportive, uplifting community.”
The 2017 Dripping Springs Founders Day Festival will take place April 21st, 22nd, and 23rd. For more information, visit the event’s official website at foundersdayfestival.com or Facebook page at facebook.com/foundersdayfestival.