Since its beginning, the Lonesome Dove Fest has grown from a gathering of dove hunters in a Coy City hay patch to an event recently described as the “South Texas Expo” by Texas Parks & Wildlife Department’s Education Coordinator Steve Hall.
The annual festival combines education, outdoors activities and entertainment for nearly 10,000 visitors and begins on Friday, with Youth Day.
Youth Day presents educational mini-seminars on a variety of different topics to more than 300 high school students from area schools.
The success of Lonesome Dove Fest has allowed the Rotary to award 12 scholarships to seniors from each of Karnes County’s four high schools, including two scholarships specifically dedicated to vocational students.
The Lonesome Dove Fest Parade will kick off at 10 a.m. Saturday. Musical entertainment is always a big part of Lonesome Dove Fest. The stage will come alive Friday evening with singer Richie Allbright, Gabe Garcia and John Wayne Shultz, who will provide part of the weekend’s music. Karnes County’s Sean O’Brien & Ignition will perform on the stage Saturday evening.
This year’s headlining act will be the Texas Outlaw, Ray Wylie Hubbard. Known for his hit songs “Up Against the Wall, Redneck Mother,” and “Snake Farm,” Ray Wylie will take the stage at 10 p.m. Saturday.
Just before that, the live auction will take place under the tent at 9 p.m.
Plenty of other entertainment will be available as well. For the youngsters there will be a stick horse rodeo, laser tag, miniature train rides, face painting and clowns.
As part of the continued focus on youngsters, the first day of the festival will be dedicated to students. Outdoor skills, game laws and wildlife identification, hunters’ education and shooting safety instruction are just a few of the learning opportunities that are presented to the students during a variety of open-air seminars conducted by volunteers.
The A&J Snake Handlers, who have been featured at past Lonesome Dove Fests, will present live rattlesnake shows in the tent between noon and 6 p.m.
Shows will be presented by the South Texas Gunfighters at 1, 2:30 and 4:30 p.m.
Trick roper Doug Whitaker will perform shows at noon, 3 and 5 p.m.
Among the featured events at this year’s festival will be an appearance by retired Brig. Gen. Charles Duke, who is the youngest of the dozen people who have walked on the moon; Gabe Garcia and other musical performers; the Birds of Prey show, featuring hawks and other raptors; and the Kid Camo Contest. There will be inflatables, clowns, train rides, miniature horses and much, much more.
The team shoot provides an opportunity for shooting teams to compete for prizes and bragging rights and, for those interested in hunting, a day hunt with area landowners. Team shoot results will be announced Saturday at 5:30 p.m.
The traditional Celebrity Shoot will take place Saturday at 2 p.m.
This year, there will be a cook-off. Prizes will be awarded for best dishes and side dishes. Awards will be presented at 6 p.m. Saturday.
At 3 p.m. there will be the Boy Scouts vs. 4-H Youth Shoot.
“This is not just for hunters,” Rotarian Randy Witte emphasized, “but for families – for everybody!”
Organizers say they rely on some fantastic sponsors to have a festival on this scale. When sponsors come to the grounds and see entire families being entertained, they get interested.
Admission is free on Friday, and $5 on Saturday ($10 after 8 p.m. Saturday), and kids under 12 get in free.
For more information on the 18th Lonesome Dove Fest, including schedules and applications for the team shoot and cook-off, go to www.lonesomedovefest.com or call 830-780-3314 or 830-780-2670.