Friday, November 9, 2012

Totally Texas -- Raising cane in East Texas

Heritage Syrup Festival

Depot Museum

514 N. High St., Henderson


For everybody who’s asked where to find ribbon cane syrup -- here’s your chance to get it. This Saturday, November 10, mule teams like the pair whose picture adorns this post will crush out cane juice the old fashioned way in my East Texas hometown of Henderson.

The Heritage Syrup Festival is a one-day annual event honoring the humble ribbon cane, whose syrup was once a staple food across the South. And although the historical exhibits (and syrup making) take place at the Depot Museum on North High Street, the festival is also an excuse for the whole town -- make that, whole county -- to throw an all-day street party.

Entertainments proceed at both the museum and downtown (a National Register Historic District) . For a $2 donation , the local 4-H club provides hay ride shuttle service from museum to downtown from 9 a.m. to 5 p.m.

Events on the museum grounds include demonstrations by a syrup making team until 4:30 p.m. Demonstrations of saw mills, another East Texas industry -- this is the Piney Woods, after all -- occur on the hour. Folk art and folk life demonstrations include woodcarving, blacksmithing, spinning, weaving, and more.

The nucleus of the Depot Museum is the 1901 depot of the Missouri-Pacific Railroad, the early twentieth-century lifeline of the town. The railroad’s gone, but its restored depot remains, as does a 1942-era caboose. Since the museum opened in 1979, it’s added a variety of other structures, from a Republic of Texas-era log cabin to late nineteenth century homes and businesses, all open for viewing during the festival.

Saturday’s musical entertainment on the four-acre museum complex reflects history, with dulcimers, jug players, and bluegrass. Downtown’s musicians, on two stages, incline to twenty-first century rock and roll, with the party continuing well past the museum’s closing time. For a complete schedule of events at both sites, additional information, including civic theater melodrama performances, and the museum’s regular schedule, see

Henderson is located on U.S. Highway 259, approximately two hours drive from Dallas. Take I-20 east to Kilgore, then south on 259. Or detour through nearby Tyler on your way east to enjoy vistas of the rolling, timbered hills. Then get out and enjoy the great fall weather!

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