A movie producer craving quintessential small-town atmosphere could have found it Saturday in the community of Crawford, west of Waco, where old-timers, the smell of roasting corn, a washer-tossing contest and the laughter of youngsters contributed to a spirit of friendliness as genuine as a handshake or a front-porch wave to a stranger.
Crawford, population 717, celebrated the 150th anniversary of its founding with touches that included a parade with plenty of horses, a classic car rally, “The Best Little Ag Show in Texas,” live music and a dance.
Visitors from all over Central Texas descended on the community tucked away in rolling farmland about a six-minute drive from McGregor. It is a town once primarily known for President George W. Bush’s nearby ranch, and a photo of the Bushes, George W. and former First Lady Laura, appears on a sign near Crawford’s downtown.
By midafternoon Saturday, the festival had welcomed between 3,000 and 4,000 visitors, and still had hours left on the schedule, said Van Massirer, a lifelong Crawford resident and a member of the planning committee.
“We’ve had a lot more than we expected, I’ll put it that way,” Massirer said. “Our car show attracted 44 entries, maybe more, despite competing with an established event in Clifton and a show in Moody. We had folks here from all over Central Texas, from around the state and even outside the state. I’ve talked with three ladies from Kentucky, all former schoolteachers, and a couple from Michigan.”
He said vendor sales, like the size of attendance, will exceed predictions.
“We will have to talk about how we want to spend the extra at our final meeting,” Massirer said. “We’ve already had multiple suggestions.”
Meanwhile, on the grounds, visitors had plenty to do and say.
“I like them old tractors because I worked on some like that when I was in high school. I like old things,” said Robert Murphree, 72, a Waco High School graduate and China Spring resident who stopped to chat while walking near a display of new and vintage farm equipment, many pieces carrying the green-and-yellow markings of John Deere.
Nearby, a band called The Cotton Pickers held court on a stage decorated with red, white and blue balloons. Playing fiddles, a banjo and guitars, members paid homage to classics including Hank Williams’ “I’m So Lonesome I Could Cry” and to the hymn “Amazing Grace,” written by John Newton.
“This is a first for the community, and it is wonderful, a great way to celebrate our heritage. It seems like the whole town is here,” said Heather Milam, whose family lives just outside Crawford near Hog Creek.
She has two daughters who are cheerleaders, a son on the varsity football team and a 10-year-old, all attending Crawford schools.
“There is nothing like a football game here on Friday night,” Milam said, watching youngsters of all ages sign their names and leave a message on a whitewashed wall near The Red Bull Gift & Gallery.
Justin Stanford, 35, was pushing daughter Jordan in a covered stroller. The yawning infant will turn 3 weeks old Sunday.
“This is pretty neat, the biggest thing I’ve seen around here,” Stanford said.
Cars, trucks and livestock trailers seemingly jammed into every space available along Crawford’s main street, Lone Star Parkway, and businesses fronting the thoroughfare saw their lots jammed with vehicles and retirees who brought lawn chairs to witness the parade.
Towering above the action were five grain silos hard against the railroad tracks and sporting a weigh-in station with blinking red numerals. Teens wore black head scarves marked with menacing the Crawford Pirates mascot; booths sold vintage hubcaps, jewelry, holiday decorations and doodads of every description; and signs pointed the way to a model train display.
“It’s all quite fun,” said Christi Walker, 64, a longtime math teacher at Crawford High School as she entered Chaney Bros. Coffee Co. downtown. “I’m very impressed with the amount of participation I’m seeing, and this is something I would like us to have every year.”
Walker mentioned with obvious pride that three former students at Crawford now teach math at Baylor University.
“We needed something like this, and turnout is better than I expected,” said Andy Rivas, 33, a longtime resident of Crawford. “I’m told we used to have street dances, but those were a long time ago.”
Wesley Brown, 74, was among the more than 40 entrants in the classic car show. His 1966 Ford Mustang turned a lot of heads.
“I bought it from a lady in Killeen who told me it had been parked for 31 years,” Brown said. “I’ve spent more than $30,000 to restore it, including putting $8,000 under the hood. I wouldn’t take less than that for it.”
Jimmy Grimes, 80, from Waco, displayed his “banana yellow” 1973 Dodge Challenger, which he has owned since 1995.
“I only drive it to shows like this,” Grimes said. “It gets 6 or 7 miles to the gallon, and I’ve gotta use high-test gas. It knocks like hell if I don’t.”
Jason Buie, 42, who teaches anatomy and physiology at Crawford High School, pointed to a ’58 Plymouth Savoy and said, “That’s my favorite.”
“This is a big community family, and the turnout has been huge,” he said.