Rice farming made a significant contribution to the Katy area economy and the Tri County Optimists wanted to honor that Katy legacy. They put together an event in 1978 held at the VFW Park and named it “Sellabration”. In 1980 they determined Sellabration outgrew them and a nucleus of Katy folks joined together to plan an event that would continue the legacy and be unique to Katy.
Bringing the community together to educate people about rice and let the farmers showcase what they do, combined with the idea of holding an art show by artists both local and statewide continued to be the discussion for local people . The Westside Art Guild was excited about giving artists another avenue to show their work, the Katy Area Chamber of Commerce was excited about promoting the Katy area and the City of Katy was very receptive to the idea of a festival.
The Westside Art Guild, headed by Brad Hays, Sam Scardino President of the Greater Katy Area Chamber of Commerce and Lynn Cardiff, executive Director of the Chamber acted on the idea, teamed up to adopt Sellabration, renamed it the Katy Rice Harvest Festival and moved it to the streets of Katy’s town square.
A bargain price of $35 for a 12x12 booth, the 1981 Festival sported 73 booths selling antiques, jewelry, stained glass, stitchery, paintings and drawings. Additionally, ten food booths sold nachos, burritos, barbecue, sausage and Chinese food. A flat bed trailer provided the stage for the entertainment. Saturday highlights featured a blue grass band that played until 4 pm. Sunday’s entertainment was KILT’s country and western band.
Alice Weinman, Katy Area Chamber of Commerce and Brad Hays, president of Westside Art Guild both reported the town and surrounding area supported the festival very well. They claimed attendance at the event doubled in the first two years, growing to 10,000 visitors in 1982. In those first years, commercially produced items were not allowed.
Several demonstrations brought a local touch to this new festival. Charles Cardiff, local rice farmer and major figure in the Texas rice industry demonstrated rice threshing on a 1920 rice threshing machine. The vintage machine is now on exhibit in the Katy Heritage Museum.
The Katy Volunteer Fire Department demonstrated a high rise rescue and rappelled off the Katy water tower.
Carol Minze, wife of rice farmer David Minze, chaired the rice cook-off. Emily Welch was the first overall winner with her main dish entry. She won $100.00.
Today, the Rice Harvest Festival has over 300 craft and food booths and 45,000 to 50,000 visitors.