On the Fourth of July, sleepy Texas towns are roused by the promise of grand Independence Day celebrations, complete with a time-honored town parade and brilliant fireworks display at dusk. No one, not even teenagers — who have long been awaiting the day they can get their driver license and get the heck outta Dodge — can deny there’s something magical about the July Fourth festivities in their whistle-stop of a city. Below, we’ve ranked the top 10 small-town Texas Fourth of July gatherings, whose traditions range from endearing to eccentric and everything in between.
In Wimberley, residents start their July Fourth weekend off right with a shopping trip to Hill Country’s largest open-air market. There, they can snag some delicious produce for an all-American picnic or purchase arts and crafts with red, white and blue flare. The town also enjoys the “Best Little Parade in Texas,” an annual rodeo, Patriotic Concerts performed by the Community Chorus and the Big Scoop Ice Cream Festival. Yum.
Canyon starts its Independence Day bright and early at 7 a.m. with the Lions Club Pancake Breakfast. Yes, please. Afterward, residents can head to the Fair on the Square, where more than 150 vendors will be selling all kinds of goods from 9 a.m. to 3 p.m. Then at night, it’s a performance by Grammy-nominated country rock band Little Texas, followed by the fireworks show. Total perfection.
Plenty of Texans roast pigs on July Fourth, but in Rocksprings, they roast goats. That’s right, the town kicks off the holiday weekend on July 2 with the annual goat cook-off, judged on taste, looks, aroma and texture. Sounds competitive. Other events throughout the weekend include goat roping, bull riding, live music and dancing. Yee-haw.
Compared to Rocksprings, Ennis keeps it traditional. The city starts July Fourth weekend on Friday with an annual barbecue cook-off, offering the categories of best chicken, pork spare ribs and brisket. Mmm-mmm good. On Saturday, residents can enjoy the farmer’s market; the Red, White and Blue Bike Parade; live music; and of course, the fireworks.
Jefferson’s Fourth of July celebration has something for everyone. The Historic Jefferson Railroad offers steam train rides along the Big Cypress Bayou, which features feeding alligators at the Diamond Don Gator Pit and a canon that fires “dragon’s breath.” Curiosity piqued. More traditional activities include a homemade ice cream contest, cake and pie auction and children’s parade. Hip, hip, hooray.
Fredericksburg has perhaps the most beautiful setting for its Fourth of July festivities, which take place throughout the area’s many scenic vineyards. On Monday, the Pontotoc Vineyards Weingarten will host a parade viewing barbecue, while Becker Vineyards will put on a chili cook-off and Rancho Ponte Vineyards will sponsor its Burger Bash. So many eats. Residents can also stay busy throughout the long weekend with Fredericksburg’s First Friday Art Walk and the theater company’s production of Beauty and the Beast.
Lockhart is known as having the biggest fireworks display among small towns in Central Texas, and draws thousands to its annual celebration. This year’s festivities will take place early on Sunday, July 3 in City Park. The night kicks off at 5:30 p.m. with games for the kids and vendor booths for the adults. Throughout the day, families are welcome to bring a picnic or swim in the community pool while they wait for the real show — a performance by Sky Dive San Marcos at 8:45 p.m. When it gets dark, everyone heads back to their fold-up chairs and blankets to watch the fireworks. Ooh and ahh.
It’s known as the place “Where Texas History Lives,” but on July Fourth, Granbury commemorates American history with one of the top 10 fireworks shows in the Southwest, as named by AT&T and YellowPages.com. Other unique activities in Granbury this holiday weekend include Singin’ in the Rain at the Opera House, a chili cook-off and decorated bike contest. So many streamers.
2. Chappell Hill
The Independence Day Parade in Chappell Hill is unlike any other. That’s because it includes the “World Famous” Marching Kazoo Band. Anyone can join the troupe, which includes twirlers, cheerleaders and those “wanting to have a good time.” Additionally, residents can attend the Cool Rods Car Show or Summer Cowboy Event at the Museum, featuring “cow chip” tossing, steer roping and petting Buttercup the Pony. Adorable.
1. Round Top
In Round Top, Fourth of July is a 166-year-old tradition, and folks there like to say it’s the longest-running Independence Day celebration west of the Mississippi. At 10:30 a.m. sharp on the Fourth, a an antebellum cannon booms, announcing the town parade. Afterward, residents and visitors alike gather to feast on smoked brisket and German-style potatoes, followed by a dance at the Round Top Rifle Hall. Those who want to start the July Fourth festivities earlier in the weekend can head to the Round Top Inn on Saturday for a softball tournament and apple pie baking contest. Because what’s the nation’s birthday without some apple pie?