All aboard for celebration of train’s role in Mineola history


Get ready for the year’s largest festival in Mineola Friday, Sept. 27 and Saturday, Sept. 28. Like the county fairs of old, the Iron Horse Festival is full of family fun and country competitions.

The entertaining weekend kicks off with the Hobo Stew Fundraiser at 5 p.m. For only $10 get your belly filled with Mark Spanko’s hearty beef stew, cornbread, dessert and a drink while visiting neighbors under the Farmers Market Pavilion beside the train depot.

“Funds from this will go towards Landmark Commission projects that include a scholarship to a Mineola High School senior plus Iron Horse Square and several other things that preserve our town’s history,” said Doris Newman, Main Street Director and Historic Preservation Officer.

Saturday is a full day starting with the Iron Horse Rhythm Run 5K fun run and 1K kids’ run. Registration is on-site at the Mineola Nature Preserve starting at 8:30 a.m. Get your name in the hat for valuable drawings and pick up a goody bag. Prizes will be awarded on all levels. Proceeds benefit the Rhythm Teams of Dance Dimensions with a portion donated to the Mineola Nature Preserve and other community organizations.

Then make your way to downtown Mineola where the streets are lined with food, art and craft vendors. Cowburners BBQ & Taproom and Silver Lake Winery will have a beer and wine garden for you to refresh your weary soul. If you’re wanting something more kid friendly, jump on the life-size hamster wheel to make your own snow cone.

Bring your chairs to sit out by the gazebo and enjoy a full lineup of entertainment including the Blue Blazes jump rope team, East Texas Twisters, Dance Dimensions and live music. The Creature Teacher is back again this year with a petting zoo from 10-12 and 1-3. Make sure you stop by to pet the adorable baby kangaroo. 

Sign up to participate in any and all of the competitions on Commerce St. New this year is the jams and jellies contest. Individuals can drop off their entry at the chamber tent near the gazebo by noon. Each entry is $5 and winners will receive tea towels and ribbons. The pie contest is also $5 per entry with winners being awarded a customized apron and ribbon. Purchase your ticket to be a pie taster for $3 at Between Friends or the chamber. Judging for both events begins at 12:30 and winners will be announced at the gazebo at 1.

The Weenie Dog Races are always a crowd favorite. Cheer on your favorite dachshund beginning at 3:30. Entry is $10 per dog and each dog will compete in two races. Up to date shot records are required.

Nothing is better than watermelon on a hot day. Register for the watermelon eating contest starting at 4. There are two divisions – 12 or under and 13 and up. Eat your way through a quarter of a watermelon with your hands behind your back for $5. No seed spitting allowed! Winners get t-shirts and ribbons.

Don’t be alarmed if you hear a shootout by the old caboose. Cowboys will be reenacting a train robbery at 12 and 2. Stay out of the line of fire while watching the show.

When your kids are ready to blow off some steam, cross over the tracks to the new T&P Kiddie Playground. Run and play while waiting your turn on the Harry W. Meredith miniature Iron Horse Train running from 10-4.

Inside the depot, the East Texas T-Trak Club will have an N scale model train exhibit and a scaled display of Mineola in the 1930s. Members of the city’s advisory boards will also have tables set up at the Iron Horse Festival to discuss the organizations’ activities and projects. Anyone interested in learning more about volunteer groups that contribute to the city’s activities is encouraged to stop by. Mineola-oriented items will also be for sale.

Find more information and contest entry forms at