JENNIFER FIERRO • PICAYUNE STAFF
LLANO — Organizers of Llano’s annual Blue Bell and Bluegrass Festival are following one of the oldest rules of entertainment – the show must go on — despite knowing it won’t be serving Blue Bell ice cream, which has been a sponsor of the event since the festival debuted five years ago.
The festival, which also includes Taste of Llano, is May 22-24 on the Llano County Courthouse square.
Blue Bell Creameries has pulled its ice cream off store shelves since listeria, a bacteria that causes food poisoning, was discovered in its Oklahoma plant, according to reports.
As a result, Llano Main Street business owners, who organize the bluegrass festival, are putting on the first-ever Texas Title Cobbler Championship, a year after a cobbler contest was held during the festival.
The contest is divided into three categories:
• traditional fruit cobblers
• non-traditional fruit cobblers such as mango, wild berry and grape
• other cobblers such as pecan, chocolate or sweet potato
Entries are due 9:30-11 a.m. May 23 at the Llano County Courthouse, 801 Ford St.
Festival coordinators are requesting bakers make their favorite cobblers and at least 12 ice cream makers create a bucket of their favorite flavor to give to attendees.
“They’ll have an auction for the top cobblers,” said Briley Mitchell, the executive director of the Llano Chamber of Commerce.
And though Blue Bell won’t take part this year, Mitchell said the reason for hosting the festival hasn’t changed.
“What we wanted to do was something different,” said Mitchell, who sat on the festival’s first board of directors. “We have fiddlers, banjo players, guitar players. It gets bigger every year.”
Blue Bell representatives have again committed to being an active sponsor of the festival in the future, he said.
The festival begins with Taste of Llano from 6-8 p.m. May 22 at the American Legion Hall, 200 Legion Drive. It has drawn almost 25 Llano County restaurants, caterers and food servers. Usually, about 18 sign up, Mitchell said. Attendees pick up samples from each participating food vendor.
“We had 200 people attend last year,” he said. “We only had seats for a hundred. That’s why we moved it to the American Legion Hall. This will make it easier to seat everyone.”
Musicians will participate in a jam session without formally preparing to play together. Mitchell said it was designed with the thought of a bunch of friends having a meal at someone’s home and then sharing their musical talents with each other.
“It’s a lot of fun,” the director said. “The music starts at 6 and will go until people get tired, go home or are told to go home.”
Five musical acts will perform May 23 from noon to 7 p.m., while four take the stage 10 a.m.-2:30 p.m. May 24. Featured entertainers include the Wooden Wine Acoustic Band, The Sieker Band, Highway 16 Band and The Lost Pines, a gospel group that will play at this festival for the third time.
Admission to the concerts is $10. The charge to sample foods at Taste of Llano is $5, which benefits Meals on Wheels, or five non-perishable food items, which go to local food pantries. Wristbands are $15 and cover the cost of Taste of Llano and the concerts May 23.
Rain has accompanied the festival the past two years. That’s one of the reasons why organizers moved the festival inside the LanTex Theater, 113 W. Main St.
“Rain is always good; we never gripe about it,” Mitchell said. “We’re going to keep everybody dry.”
Food vendors will be set up outside around the square, and there will be a large tent set up for people to sit and eat.
“This has gotten so big, we didn’t have room (inside),” Mitchell said.