Free festival April 13-14 celebrates the lives of early Texans

There’s a festival in New Braunfels that’s been known to transport visitors back in time.

Folkfest, happening April 13-14 at Heritage Village, has that effect on people. With demonstrations of 1800s-era survival skills, crafts, and livelihoods, along with traditional German dancing and singing, you’ll feel like you’ve wandered nearly 200 years back in time, when a wave of immigrants from Germany moved to the Texas frontier.

“It’s a great place for families to come out and get a taste of what it would have been like to live here in the mid-1800s,” said Alina Ball, operations manager at the Heritage Society of New Braunfels.

The festival celebrates the lives of early Texans against the backdrop of Heritage Village, a wooded 11-acre site that is home to a collection of original New Braunfels buildings, furnishings, and artifacts dating back to the 1840s. Visitors will experience living history demonstrations, from black powder-fired cannons to broom making and cow-milking, along with plenty of live entertainment, an artisan marketplace, food, and locally produced beer and wine.

“The festival plays an important role in keeping New Braunfels history alive,” said Justin Ball, executive director of the Heritage Society of New Braunfels, which operates Heritage Village and the Museum of Texas Handmade Furniture. “New Braunfels is such a fascinating place and in so many ways was a confluence of all of these different cultures and people that came together here,” he said. “Folkfest is an opportunity for us to not only celebrate them, but also to keep their memory alive through these living history demonstrations.”

Local experts will bring the past to life with demonstrations of traditional crafts such as blacksmithing from the Balcones Forge Central Texas Blacksmiths and 18th-century black-powder musket firing by the Granaderos y Damas de Galvez, a Spanish colonial living history group.

Folkfest also highlights some of the less well-known parts of Texas history, such as the U.S. Army Camel Experiment, which tested the use of camels as pack animals for the military in the

Southwestern states from 1856 to 1866. Although the Army didn’t end up using them, camel expert Doug Baum will be on hand (with a camel, of course) to talk about their history here.

There will be twice as much entertainment this year, with the addition of a second stage for music and other performances. “The neat thing with Folkfest is that we combine a little bit of modern flair in with the living history,” Ball said.

More than 20 acts are scheduled to perform at Folkfest, including a blend of bands, singer-songwriters, local favorites, and traditional entertainment. Popular acts like Jomo & The Possum Posse and Nicky Diamonds will perform, along with entertainers that pay tribute to the city’s heritage. Cultural dance performances include Die Froehliche Tanzgruppe, Kinder Tanzer, and Compañía de Danza Folklórica. German-language choral groups Gemischter Chor Harmonie and Edelweiss Kinderchor will also perform.


The festival includes opportunities to shop the wares of local artisans. One new addition to the Folkfest marketplace this year is New Braunfels Glassblowing, which will offer demonstrations, on-site experience workshops, and one-of-a-kind art pieces for sale.

Food and beverages will be available for purchase, including locally crafted beer from 5 Stones Artisan Brewery and wine from Blue Lotus Winery.

Admission to Folkfest is free, but donations are encouraged. The festival raises funds for the operation of Heritage Village and the Museum of Texas Handmade Furniture, which houses a collection of furnishings and artifacts crafted by some of the area’s earliest German immigrants.

“You come onto this site and it’s like traveling back in time,” Justin Ball said. “It’s a beautiful, natural little piece of history that we are doing our darndest to maintain.”

Folkfest takes place at Heritage Village, 1370 Church Hill Road in New Braunfels, April 13-14 from 10 a.m. to 5 p.m. each day. For more information, go to New Braunfels boasts an array of cultural and historical activities, including museums, galleries, and self-guided historic walks through downtown and Gruene. Plan a heritage weekend in #InNewBraunfels, visit to find lodging, restaurants, shopping, and other attractions.