The annual Gen. Sam Houston Folk Festival has come and gone and festival officials say this year’s was as good as ever. Official numbers on how many people came and how much money was raised are not in yet, but Sam Houston Memorial Museum curator of collections Mac Woodward is optimistic about what those figures will show.

“I was very pleased,” Woodward said of the festival turnout. “The weather was nice and everyone here seemed to really be enjoying themselves. I think the music and the entertainment was particularly good this year. We had some new groups from different cultures that got a really good reception.”

According to folk festival chairman Mike McManus, the layout of the exhibits, vendors and performers greatly helped keeping people moving all around the museum grounds.

“Because of the way we had physically spread everything out, and with multiple events going on all day at one time, it keeps the crowd pretty highly dispersed and it keeps them moving around frequently,” McManus said.

Woodward said he spent the majority of his time in the museum itself, where many festivalgoers got their first look at the new exhibit that chronicles the entire life of Houston.

“Everyone seemed to really, really appreciate the new exhibits,” Woodward said. “We finished our last two galleries in March, so now the whole upstairs of the Memorial museum is completed and it tells the whole life story of Sam Houston.”

To set up for the festival, museum staff, volunteers, vendors and TDCJ inmates spend the entire week before the festival opens preparing the grounds for the thousands expected to show up.

“We generally spend the week prior to that Friday setting up the tents and getting the grounds ready,” Woodward said. “Thursday’s the day that most of the vendors and exhibitors come in and they move out on Sunday. Almost all of them are gone by Sunday night, and we just kind of work the next day or two after that getting back to normal.”

In 2004, the festival was cancelled because of the rain. This year, the night before also brought some heavy rain, but McManus said he had no worries about what the rain would bring.

“I heard the reportas and it was pretty obvious that it was a front that was just going to come through and blow out,” McManus said. “If anything, it probably finished blowing out and clearing out a bit earlier than the forecast said.”

Woodward said there were some schools that did not arrive Friday for kids day, but most of that had to do with what the weather was like in their area.

“We were a little bit concerned that the rain might scare some people away, but it didn’t seem to make that much of a difference,” Woodward said. “I think we had some schools that were affected by it on Friday, and I know there were several schools that just didn’t get here because of weather in their area, moreso than weather here.”

Still, McManus said, the museum grounds soaked the moisture right up and Friday brought a bright, sunny day, allowing festival patrons young and old to have a great time.

“Even though it did rain Friday morning, I think all the schools who had signed up, except for one, came, so we had real good attendance,” McManus said. “I think the total schools that came is down from the year before, but I attribute that to the fuel. We do an exit survey, and I flipped through those, and those seemed to be real favorable.”

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