Monday, November 7, 2011

Totally Texas -- Henderson: syrup, hijinks & barbecue

Heritage Syrup Festival
Depot Museum
514 N. High St., Henderson


Once upon a time parents didn’t worry about their children ingesting high fructose corn syrup -- it didn’t exist. Once upon a time children knew the thrill of gnawing lengths of cane, peel and all, on the way to school, covering the school bus with sweet juice. It was a simpler, if stickier time, and it’s back again at Henderson’s annual Heritage Syrup Festival this Saturday, November 12.

The cane in question was ribbon cane, a subtropical version of sugar cane that used to be widely grown in the South. The juice was extracted, within my experience, by mule-powered mills and a team at Henderson’s Depot Museum will demonstrate syrup making this way from 9 a.m. to 4:30 p.m. Saturday.

But syrup making is only an excuse for the entire town to hold an all-day and late into the night festival. The focal point is the Depot Museum at 514 N. High St. The museum complex’s four-acre sight near downtown includes a 1901 Missouri-Pacific railway depot, caboose, and 1841 log cabin, among other historical buildings.

This year’s activities include storytelling, arts and crafts, and children’s activities, and conclude with a 5 p.m. until midnight street dance in Heritage Square downtown.

The syrup festival is held every second Saturday in November, but the Depot Museum is open year-round except on state holidays. Its mission is preserving the heritage of surrounding Rusk County, with emphasis on folk arts. The museum opened in 1979 with the depot itself and has since expanded to include the Republic of Texas-era Walling Cabin and numerous other exhibits. The museum also sponsors a Folk Art Day each May.

For additional information and a complete schedule of the Syrup Festival activities, see

The Syrup Festival is one great reason to visit Henderson, which happens to be my home town. Another reason is Bob’s Bar-B-Que, 1205 Pope St., on the east side of U.S. 259. Robert Allen, whose picture accompanies this post, has owned and run it for more than thirty years, and it’s where my daughter and I eat when we visit Henderson. Some web reviews say it’s take-out only, but Bob’s actually added a sit-down eating room a few years ago. And when I was there in October, it also sold ribbon cane syrup.

Bob’s can be a little hard to find. If you miss it, call 903-657-8301 for directions.

(Note to readers looking for a source of ribbon cane syrup in Dallas -- I don't know of one, but local farmers' markets may have it.)

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