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Bluebonnet Festival features thrill rides, more ‘Reckless’ fun

A bike decorating contest is 10 a.m. April 11. File photo


BURNET — While the calendar claims spring started March 21, folks across the Highland Lakes know it really doesn’t “officially” start until the Bluebonnet Festival opens.

Fortunately, the 32nd annual event rolls into town April 10-12 in Burnet. You early birds can get a jump on things April 9 when the Mighty Thomas Carnival opens at 5 p.m. at the corner of Boundary and League streets. And carnival aficionados will experience a larger spread of rides this year thanks to a bit more space.

But if you don’t make the opening night of the carnival, that’s OK — it’s in town until April 12.

Bluebonnet Festival events really start going April 10 with a long list of fun activities from pancakes in the morning to music at night. And while Austin might be the Live Music Capital of the World, during the Bluebonnet Fest, Burnet certainly gives it a run for the money April 10-12.

The popular doghouse races begin at noon April 12 at the Bluebonnet Festival. File photo
The popular doghouse races begin at noon April 12 at the Bluebonnet Festival. File photo

Kenny Ortz headlines the street dance Friday night on the square, but it’s just the first of many acts that will entertain throughout the weekend.

Saturday night brings out Reckless Kelly at 9:45 p.m. on the Main Stage. Chris Beall and Denny Herrin open the night at 8:30 p.m. Most of the music is free, but there is a $10 admission for the Saturday night concerts. But with Reckless Kelly, one of the iconic Austin bands headlining it, you know it’s worth it.

Reckless Kelly, which is led by brothers Willy and Cody Braun, formed in Bend, Oregon, but moved to Austin in 1997 where they quickly found a great musical fit. The group has produced eight studio albums and a few live albums, but it’s their live performances that have earned them a loyal following in Austin and on the road.

The Mighty Thomas Carnival opens at 5 p.m. April 9. File photo
The Mighty Thomas Carnival opens at 5 p.m. April 9. File photo

Reckless Kelly fuses country, bluegrass and Americana with a touch of rock and blues. You could definitely say they’ve created their own sound.

Their live shows continue to convert more people to Reckless Kelly fans.

But music is only part of the Bluebonnet Festival experience. Organizers pack in quite a bit over the three days including plenty of vendors and the ever-entertaining doghouse race.

This year, the car show returns from 9 a.m.-2 p.m. Saturday. Classic cars and hot rods will set up next to the Jackson Street stage. Along with taking in the cars, feel free to ask the owners about their cars. Most love to share their stories.

A car show is 9 a.m.-2 p.m. April 11. File photo
A car show is 9 a.m.-2 p.m. April 11. File photo

For the folks looking to get their blood flowing, there’s the YMCA of the Highland Lakes 5K and 10K at 8:15 a.m. Saturday. The run takes off from the square before heading out around Burnet. But runners have no fear: You return to the square to finish, which makes for a great jumping-off point for the rest of the events. And kids can even get running at 8 a.m. with the Kids K.

Speaking of kids, the Bluebonnet Festival features lots of family fun. Many of the children’s activities are located on the north side of the square. At 10 a.m., kids can show off their rides in the annual bike decorating contest.

A bike decorating contest is 10 a.m. April 11. File photo
A bike decorating contest is 10 a.m. April 11. File photo

Of course, that’s a great lead-up to the Bluebonnet Festival grand parade at 11 a.m. around the courthouse square. But just a hint: Get their well before 11 a.m. to pick out your spot because the square fills up for this parade. It’s easily one of the largest parades in the Highland Lakes and even Central Texas.

After the parade, check out the Mounted 1st Calvary demonstration at noon (or immediately following the parade) at Wallace Riddell Park, which is located just east of downtown off Texas 29.

The list of fun continues through Saturday and on into Sunday. Folks can enjoy a contemporary praise and worship service at 10 a.m. with the Church of the Epicenter at the Main Stage.

At noon, the annual doghouse race takes to the streets of the square. And, yeah, it’s just what it sounds like. Teams race doghouses (modified ones) around the square.

Then at 1 p.m., the real dogs take over for the annual wiener dog race. Registration starts at 1 p.m. with racing 2-4 p.m.

And if you have a hankering for more, the arts and crafts vendors are open until 4 p.m. Sunday with the Mighty Thomas Carnival closing things down at 5 p.m. so you can squeeze in one more stomach-churning thrill ride.

Yeah, there’s a lot to pack in, but you get a few days to do it.

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5-10 p.m. — Mighty Thomas Carnival Wrist Band/Family Night


6 a.m.-6 p.m. — Kiwanis Club’s all-you-can-eat pancakes (Masonic Lodge, 311 S. Main St.)

2-5 p.m. — Highland Lakes Birding and Wildflower Show (Herman Brown Free Library on Washington)

2-6 p.m. — arts and crafts vendors

4-6 p.m. — KBEY 103.9 FM Radio Picayune live broadcast

5 p.m. — pet parade sign-up (Herman Brown Free Library)

5-11 p.m. — Mighty Thomas Carnival

5:30-6 p.m. — opening ceremonies

6 p.m. — pet parade

7 p.m. — Miss Burnet Bluebonnet Scholarship Pageant

8-11 p.m. — live music by Kenny Ortz and street dance


8 a.m. — Kids K

8:15 a.m. — 5K Bluebonnet Fun Run (registration is 6:30-7:30 a.m.)

9 a.m.-6 p.m. — arts and crafts vendors

9 a.m.-5 p.m. — Highland Lakes Birding and Wildflower Show (Herman Brown Free Library)

9 a.m.-2 p.m. — car show

9:30 a.m. — children’s activities

10 a.m. — Bluebonnet bicycle decorating contest

10:30 a.m. — Hill Country Flyer arrives

10:30 a.m. — Studio 29 Dance Centre performance

11 a.m. — grand parade

11 a.m.-11 p.m. — Mighty Thomas Carnival

12:30 a.m. — Rubber Ducky Race (YMCA of the Highland Lakes, 1601 Water St.)

12:30-1:45 p.m. live music by Hired Guns

12:30-2:30 p.m. — live music by Joelton Mayfield

1:45-2:15 p.m. — Clickety Cloggers Dance Club performs

2:15 p.m. — Burnet Gunfighters shoot-out (for Hill Country Flyer riders at Old West Town)

2:15-3:30 p.m. — live music by Dillon Havins

2:30-4 p.m. — live music by Light Horse Harry

3 p.m. — Hill Country Flyer departs

3:30 p.m. — Burnet Gunfighters shoot-out (Old West Town)

4-5:15 p.m. — live music by Bubba Clark

4:30-6 p.m. — live music Allen Ray and Southern Comfort

5-11:30 p.m. — Parent’s Night Out (First United Methodist on Vanderveer)

8:30-9:30 p.m. — live music by Chris Beall and Denny Herrin

9:45-11:15 p.m. — live music by Reckless Kelly


8 a.m.-2 p.m. — cowboy breakfast

10 a.m.-noon — contemporary praise and worship

11 a.m.-3 p.m. — arts and crafts

Noon-1:30 p.m. — doghouse race

Noon-2:15 p.m. — live music by Vintage Volume

Noon-5 p.m. — Mighty Thomas Carnival

1-4 p.m. — wiener dog race