Bluebonnet Festival co-chairs Suzanne Brown (left) and Angela Moore (right) surprised longtime festival committee member Sherri Wisener at the Burnet Chamber of Commerce awards banquet in February when they announced she would be this year’s grand parade marshal. The parade is at noon Saturday, April 8. 'We knew she wouldn’t do it if we didn’t surprise her in public,' Moore and Brown said. Photo by Martelle Luedecke/Luedecke Photography
Riding in one of the first five cars of the Bluebonnet Festival grand parade, just behind the Fort Hood color guard, will be parade marshal Sherri Wisener, one of the founders of the three-day festival. The event celebrates its 40th year April 7-9 in downtown Burnet.
“She is the longest-serving member of the Bluebonnet Festival Committee board and the longest-serving committee member,” said Suzanne Brown, this year’s committee co-chair with Angela Moore. “It’s a way for us to recognize her. She’s always behind the scenes. We really wanted to show our appreciation for all her hard work over the years.”
The 2023 Bluebonnet Festival is Easter weekend and will cover an eight-block area of downtown, including the Burnet County Courthouse square. Along with the grand parade, events include a pet parade, a fun run, children’s activities, vendors, a food court, a carnival, a gunfighter shootout, and live music. A full schedule of events can be found at bluebonnetfestival.org.
The grand parade, which added Best Bluebonnet Theme as an award category this year, begins at noon on Saturday, April 8. It has always been a highlight for the newly named parade marshal.
“When the Mounted 1st Cavalry comes marching around the square on their horses, it gets me every year,” Wisener said.
Since the first Bluebonnet Festival in 1983, the event has grown each year. Wisener, who is also an officer on the Burnet Chamber of Commerce Board of Directors, cited its Highland Lakes location and dynamic qualities as reasons.
“Every year is a new experience,” she said. “Every year, there is something different. Vendors get larger, everything gets larger, there’s more participation. When you see success, well, everybody wants to be part of something successful.”
New this year, Flights Gastropub will serve cocktails and food in what was a whiskey garden in 2022. Flights will be open from noon to 8 p.m. Saturday on Jackson Street.
“People can enjoy good food and drinks while listening to the (bands play on the) Jackson Street Stage,” said Allison McKee, executive director of the Burnet Chamber of Commerce.
Speaking of stages, Casey Donahew headlines the Saturday night concert on the main stage. The show begins at 8:15 p.m. with opener Chris Colston. Donahew takes the stage at 9:45 p.m. Tickets are $25 with a cooler; $20 without a cooler.
Not all events are downtown. Another new addition, a 42 dominoes tournament is from 9 a.m.-3 p.m. Saturday in the Houston Clinton meeting room on the rodeo grounds, 1301 Houston Clinton Drive.
Also on the rodeo grounds, the 30th annual Demolition Derby starts its engines at 5:30 p.m. Saturday.
Bill’s Burgers, 306 W. Polk St., is hosting the YMCA cornhole tournament from 3-6 p.m. Saturday, and the Mounted 1st Cavalry demonstration takes place at 1:30 p.m. in Wallace Riddell Park that day. So, Sherri, if you don’t get to see them in the parade because you’ll be leading the whole thing, head over to the park right after the parade ends.
Returning after a few years’ hiatus is the Native Wildflower Show presented by the Highland Lakes Birding and Wildflower Society. Members will be on hand to answer questions at the display from 2-5 p.m. Friday and 9 a.m.-4 p.m. Saturday in the Herman Brown Free Library, 100 E. Washington St. on the courthouse square.
The annual Bluebonnet Festival was nowhere near this big when it began in 1983. According to Wisener, the first festival covered only one side of the square and consisted of a small parade, a beauty pageant, a fun run, and a street dance.
“We didn’t have vendors or a carnival, but it was a success,” she said. “It was so much of a success that we knew we would do it again and that it would grow.”
The hard work of all of the volunteers has a lot to do with the festival’s continued ability to draw a big crowd. About 35,000 people came to last year’s event, one of the biggest ever.
“It’s hard work, but we have so much support from the community,” Wisener said. “That’s where I think most of its success comes from: More people keep getting involved. It’s not me. It’s the community and the committee. They work really hard all year long.”