Photos by K2 Images
If I say the word “Crawfish,” that gets a lot of taste buds turning backflips in anticipation of a very important local event. Just hold that thought, and we’ll get right back to it!
Now, think of a tree. It starts out as a little seed, yet when fully mature, spreads its branches far and wide, showering its benevolence onto everything around. And there you have it—The Walker County Area Go Texan organization. It is comprised of only 15 members, yet sponsors one of the most well-known fundraisers in this area, providing scholarships to local students and supporting the Houston Livestock Show and Rodeo. This is a very busy group of 15! I enjoyed time with several members to learn more about this hardworking group and their objectives.
The Walker County Area Go Texan, a 501(c) (3) nonprofit organization, can trace its beginning back to 1973, when Buck Thomason served as the first Ambassador and started the local committee. In 1978, Sidney Grisham was asked to serve as Ambassador by Thomason, who was then serving on the Houston Livestock Show and Rodeo Board. Grisham has served not only as Ambassador, but also as the district chairman two separate times and is now on the Board of the Houston Livestock Show and Rodeo. The HLSR is the umbrella organization which presides over the Area Go Texan, developed to support the HLSR. In fact, the Area Go Texan Committee is a significant part of the continued success of the HLSR. The Area Go Texan is comprised of 68 local counties, encompassing an area from Nueces County to Comanche County, to Harrison County, and to Jefferson County. Each county involved has an Area Go Texan committee, which has the responsibility to support ticket sales and host various fundraisers which help fund the scholarships awarded at the Houston Livestock Show and Rodeo each year. The HLSR provides an $18,000 scholarship to a recipient in each of the 68 counties, as well as one $20,000 scholarship at the Show. According to Grisham, the HLSR has awarded over $400 million in scholarships since its beginning!
Teresa Ringo, Ambassador for the Committee, explained that there are 15 members who serve at any given time. In addition to the active committee members, there are Lifetime members and Senior Committeeman members. The present membership includes:
Ambassador: Teresa Ringo
Committee Members: Debbie Allen, Frank Belt, Roger Collins, Kelly Davis, Jennifer Gauntt, Sherry Hirsch, Julie Hoke, Ann Janes, Paul Ollie, Irma Dowden, Brandy Robbins, Kasey Shelton
Lifetime Members: Jamie Batten, Jana Certa, Alice Ellisor, Jerry Ellisor, David Shelton, Gary Christian, James Youngblood
Senior Committeeman: Sidney Grisham
The only position with a mandatory time requirement is that of Ambassador, which is a 3-year commitment. The Ambassador is responsible for promoting Show attendance and publicizing the Show in his or her assigned county. Counties may plan Go Texan events specifically to promote the Show or other promotional activities including the distribution of Show posters and scholarship applications. Each county is required to submit a portfolio demonstrating these events and activities that are held within the county.
Yes, money raised by the Walker County Area Go Texan fundraisers goes toward providing scholarships for local students from the Huntsville and New Waverly communities. Students must apply and meet certain criteria in order to be considered for scholarships. Last year, the organization awarded three local scholarships totaling $5,500. Scholarships may be used toward any four year public or private university or technical school. Funding will take place after a letter of acceptance has been received from the institution.
To be eligible for the scholarship, a student must:
It is not required to be involved in FFA, 4-H or the Houston Livestock Show & Rodeo (HLSR) to be considered for the Walker County Area Go Texan Scholarship.
(And now to our taste bud tingling word, Crawfish!) We are known for our annual Crawfish Boil! It has become our main fundraiser since its start in 1995 by Jerry Ellisor. It is slated this year for May 7, 2016, beginning at 5:00 pm at the Walker County Fairgrounds. The ticket price is $35 for “ALL YOU CAN EAT!” Tickets are available as pre-sale only, or individuals and groups may sponsor tables for this event. As Sherry Hirsch explains, “Your best experience is at the KING CRAWDADDY TABLES! Here you get personalized service from our students who keep the food coming!” Tickets are sold as follows:
Students applying for scholarships with WCAGT will help set up, serve, and clean up this event. On average, the Crawfish Boil serves 1,100 people who enjoy crawfish, fried catfish, and all the trimmings to the tune of some mighty fine foot stompin’ music. And again, ALL YOU CAN EAT!
When asked if the food products are donated for this event, Teresa indicated that in the past they have not been donated, but it sure would help. As she said, “That would be a wonderful way for a person or group to participate!”
All 68 counties are encouraged to participate in Area Go Texan events by the HLSR. The annual Katy Day Event is a full day of friendly competition between the counties. The WCAGT committee sponsors the dominoes, washers, and horseshoe contests, as well as the team pinning competition. Committee member Roger Collins encourages our Walker County folks to participate in these activities. He explains, “By helping the Houston Livestock Show and Rodeo, we are helping our local kids, so we encourage you all to come and get involved!” WCAGT also sponsors a booth at the HLSR BBQ Cook Off, which brings recognition to our local communities. HLSR honors the counties with a Salute Night. Each year, WCAGT sells tickets to the special night at the rodeo. This is one of the ways that they support the Show.
We had the honor to sponsor a quilt in this year’s HLSR Go Texan event that won the Blue Ribbon and Best of Show in the Walker County Fair for the 2015 season. “Route 66,” quilted by Huntsville’s Helen Belcher, won First Place in the Pictorial Quilt Division at this year’s HLSR. The quilt’s subject, Route 66, brings back fond memories for Helen, who grew up in the plains of Lubbock, not far from this landmark roadway. It is a design by artist and quilter Meg Hawkey of Crabapple Hill Studio, which Helen modified by incorporating into the design her own family memories. Texas license plates with family dates, Texaco Oil Cans, and other motifs portraying family memories were worked into the quilt design, which took her about 6 months to lovingly stitch together.
Over the past 15 years, Helen has produced almost 50 quilts, many of which have been donated for various causes or to people special to her family. As she shares her reasons for making this quilt, she reminds us that quilts were a necessity in the past. They provided warmth for babies, a wrapping for the deceased, and privacy between rooms in a house, to list a few. Today, for the most part, they are an avenue by which we keep our most cherished memories alive, or are made as gifts for those special to us. Helen is very active in the local quilting guild and was thrilled to be able to bring recognition to our WCAGT and Walker County.
As we have seen, the Walker County Area Go Texan committee is one very busy group of 15, who, throughout the year with hard work and dedication, support the Houston Livestock Show and Rodeo and help to provide local scholarships for deserving young people in our county. As Debbie Allen put it, “We believe that serving the community is important and that’s why we are involved in this fulfilling endeavor.” You can stay informed by going to the Walker County Area Go Texan Facebook page. Support WCAGT by attending the Crawfish Boil and supporting their other fundraisers in any way you can! GO TEXAN!
(936) 662-0211 (Teresa)