Written by Chad Cooper
The Neches River Festival was first envisioned in the spring of 1947 and two years later, the first Beaumont festival appeared in May of 1949. The first royal court consisted of 11 duchesses and six princesses and after the coronation, a dance was held in the street surrounding City Hall. The first Neches River Festival Regatta was held at Beaumont City Docks with 18 races and visiting yachts and hundreds of spectators lined up on the docks. The festival’s first parade, held in 1950, contained 28 commercial vehicles as well as a colorful array of bands. Over the past seven decades, the Niches River Festival has sought to emphasize Beaumont’s greatest natural resource, the Niches River and the region’s youth.
To kick off the festival season, which ends April 9 with the Coronation Ball, the Neches River Festival and Mardi Gras in southeast Texas will once again take part in the “Capes & Crowns 5K Run” on Saturday, February 26, at the Great Lawn Event Center at 700 Crockett St. In downtown Beaumont.
The free 1K race for kids will start at 8:30am followed by a 5km race at 9am. The race will be a timed race with overall winners and age group winners, and medals will be awarded to all winners. Registration is $25 for those 18 or younger, and $30 for 19 and older (registration for 1K kids is free). Fee includes a T-shirt, race bag, and ticket to get in and enjoy Mardi Gras in southeast Texas on race day, which is February 26.
To register, view runignup.com and then select “Find a Race”. Once selected, type NRF “Capes & Crowns” 5K, and you’re good to go.
Enjoy your 3.1 mile run or walk in beautiful downtown Beaumont, or stay or come back and take part in all the activities, shopping and live music that Mardi Gras SETX has to offer. Mardi Gras will open at 11 a.m. and the kids’ area will open after the race. Sponsorship opportunities are also available at nechesriverfestival.com.
According to NRF Head of Publicity Jenny Kaiser, NRF first organized a 5K race in 2019 to align with the 71st festival.
“Molly Moore (NRF CEO) wanted to create a community event that would kick-start our festival season, and with her love of the 5K, she knew racing would be the perfect choice,” Kaiser said.
The Capes & Crowns 5K got its name from Karen Babineaux, who named it after the historic king and queen crowns worn during the Neches River Festival coronation ceremony.
During the inaugural race, NFR Social President Michelle Smith led the race with her husband and 2019 King, Mitchell Smith, who wore fun crowns and capes.
“We encourage everyone to wear running clothes,” Kaiser added. “The 5K proceeds fund our nine awards that were awarded to the winners at the Coronation Ceremony on April 9.”
The festival is key to high school seniors. In the past 15 years, the Neshes River Festival has served over 1,750 princesses and hosted nearly 700 visiting dukes and their families. When escorts are included, more than 5,000 young people have participated in the activities of the Neches River Festival during this 15-year period. Because these young people are so important to the community, the Neshes River Festival has generously funded two scholarships at Lamar University, open specifically to the local young men and women who participate in the festival each year. This scholarship is named in honor of the memory of Otto Plummer, Jr., who was instrumental in both Lamar University and the Niches River Festival for many years. In addition, the Neches Festival Board Scholarship is a $1,000 scholarship awarded to multiple participants.
“Friends of Southeast Texas, it’s time to sign up for the Neches River Festival Capes and Crowns 5K,” said Capes & Crowns 5K President April Lindsay. Raise your heart rate while also supporting the NRF Scholarship Program. It’s a win!
The Neches River Festival is one of the oldest festivals in Texas and they have teamed up with Mardi Gras Southeast Texas. This is going to be a great day here in Beaumont. Don’t miss the fun! “
For more information, visit nechesriverfestival.com.
Chad Cooper is the entertainment editor. Contact Cooper@theexaminer.com