Sideglances
by SARAH GREENE
Oct 18, 2013 | 922 views | 0 0 comments | 19 19 recommendations | email to a friend | print
“Gilmer Yamboree is an annual festival in Gilmer, Texas that entices crowds from all over East Texas.”

THAT IS the start of a Yamboree page on the World Wide Web that can only be described as under statement. It continues:

“Gilmer, Texas is situated quietly in the midst of deeply wooded East Texas. For most of the year, the town of 5,000 is quiet, with little activity stirring among residents. However, once a year since 1935, usually the second week of October, the town comes alive with music, parades, carnival rides and exhibits honoring the famous Gilmer yams.”

Nothing to argue with there, except to note that “third week of October” would be the more accurate date, and there is plenty of “activity” among our residents the year round.

“The East Texas Yamboree began in 1935 when several non-profit organizations in the Gilmer area organized a festival to coincide with the Texas Centennial Celebration. Per the festival’s name, this area of East Texas flourished with yams in the early twentieth century. The community takes pride in the yearly event, with volunteers sustaining most of the organizational and maintenance duties involved with the festival’s preparation.”

Again, it’s all true.

Th following paragraphs summarize Yamboree history:

“Each year the Yamboree hosts a queen that is chosen from a selection of about seven girls. The queen becomes part of an elaborate coronation ceremony that is the official start of the Yamboree festivities. Each year’s queen is selected from a panel of young ladies from the Gilmer area that compete by selling tickets to the Grand Coronation and yearly Barn Dance.

“The contestant that sells the most tickets and raises the most money is granted the honor of the Yam Queen Elect, a title that changes to Yam Queen at the queen’s coronation ceremony.

“Each year, the queen participates in a special ‘Queen’s Parade’ through the main thoroughfare of the town. Aside from the queen’s float, other floats enter the parade as contestants to be judged. Awards are given to the best floats.

“The annual Barn Dance is a major part of the Yamboree that features live music from both local and national bands. The music invokes a southern feel that brings dance attendants out of their seats and onto the dance floor.

“The Yamboree also features a full livestock show, bandstand, canning and quilting competitions, and a yam pie competition. In addition to these events, the Yamboree is famous for its full midway carnival rides, locally made foods, and vast number of indoor exhibits.

“Most Yamboree events are free to the public, with special attractions costing a fee. As of 2009, the Queen’s Coronation is located in the Gilmer Civic Center . . .

“The East Texas Yamboree draws people from all around East Texas and beyond. Tradition and East Texas charm keep the more than 100,000 yearly Yamboree visitors coming back again and again.”

THIS 76TH YAMBOREE is so numbered because there were three years in World War II—1943,1944 and 1945—when just about everything except the war effort had to be suspended. If you just blew into town and wondered “what’s a Yamboree?” your best bet would be to visit the Gilmer Area Chamber of Commerce office to pick up one of the attractive catalogues for this year’s big event.

That’s assuming there are some left.
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