HALLETTSVILLE – KarlyAnne Lowery-Brown came to Hallettsville’s annual Kolache Fest ready to eat.
But, the 11-year-old said, she wasn’t just there to enjoy the famous Czech pastry as a treat. She wanted to win.
KarlyAnne competed in the festival’s kolache-eating contest for years before she finally mastered her technique and won the event Saturday. KarlyAnne ate two kolaches faster than anyone else in the 10- to 15-year-old age group, including her twin brother.
“I finally won!” she said Saturday with a big grin on her face.
For KarlyAnne, competitive kolache-eating is a family affair. Along with her twin brother, Jared, KarlyAnne’s dad, Alton Brown, also competed Saturday. Brown took the top prize in the adult category.
KarlyAnne said she was able to win this year after five years of competing thanks to practice at home with her dad and brother.
Her secret? Dipping the cream cheese-flavored kolaches in water.
“You dunk the whole thing (in water) and you just take a giant bite, and it just dissolves,” she said.
KarlyAnne said she would return to next year’s Kolache Fest to defend her title.
KarlyAnne’s focus Saturday was on the heart of Hallettsville’s annual Kolache Fest: the tasty pastry that represents the Czech and German culture that produced it. The Hallettsville Chamber of Commerce hosts Kolache Fest annually, and organizers celebrated the 24th annual festival this year. The event brings together hundreds of people from Hallettsville and throughout Texas who attend the event to dance, shop, play and, of course, eat kolaches, all while celebrating the area’s robust Czech and German heritage.
More than 7,000 of the pastries were made for this year’s Kolache Fest, said Glenna Brown Sims, the administrative assistant of the Hallettsville Chamber of Commerce, which hosts the event. Kolaches are pastries with a fruit filling – or sometimes cream cheese or meat – in the middle with added sugar on top. The kolaches at Kolache Fest are all made by the Hallettsville staple Kountry Bakery, which first opened in 1979.
Brown Sims didn’t have an estimate for how many people were expected at Saturday’s event but said she expected the crowds to be as robust as ever. This year, Brown Sims said, there was an increase in vendors looking to sell art and other collectibles at the festival thanks to its growing popularity.
Although an exact estimate of the massive crowds was not yet available, the event drew visitors from across Texas. One couple who made the trip were Sharon and Norman Blackmon, who came to Hallettsville from Austin. Although the Blackmons were eager to try some kolaches, they said their primary motivation for their trip was the polka dancing.
The Blackmons spent much of Saturday gracefully stepping across the dance floor while the popular band The Red Ravens played onstage. The Blackmons aren’t just casual polka dancers, though: Saturday’s dance at Kolache Fest was the 57th polka dance they’ve traveled to so far this year, Norman Blackmon said. They said they spend almost every weekend on the road in search of good music and a dance floor.
“We love the music, we love the people, and it’s good exercise,” Sharon Blackmon said.