Four years ago, a Heritage Tourism class took me to Burton, a small rural German community of 300 people, an hour’s drive outside of College Station, halfway between Houston and Austin on Highway 290. It is the home to Texas Cotton Gin Museum
, where the historic 1914 Burton Farmers Gin is located. As Aggies we care about it a lot. This is an important piece of agricultural and mechanical landmark in Texas, and it is also the oldest operating gin in America. Ever since I got to know this place, I spent much time looking into its history and culture, and tried my best to attend as many events as this museum and small town could offer. The Texas Cotton Gin Festival is the largest annual gathering held every April, and this year, on April 20-21, I hope those of you who are interested can join me to support our local agricultural and mechanical heritage.
The festival usually starts on Friday evening with an all-you-can-eat buffet (last year the main course was shrimp boil), for which you will need to reserve your ticket. On Saturday morning, there will be a parade in Burton, going through the major streets with a showcase of local business and organizations. Meanwhile, there will be several outdoor contests and country music concerts going on, which you can participate in and watch for free. The star event of the entire festival is the annual ginning of historic cotton bales. This is when the over-a-century-old Burton Farmers Gin will be up running. The giant machine, operated by professional mechanics, will process an entire 500-pound bale of cotton by the end of the festival. During this time, staff will lead public tours into the gin building to see the engine, the saw blades, the weight and scale, and the compressor. It is a truly exciting and unforgettable experience, no matter how (un)familiar you are with agriculture and mechanical engineering. Also on Saturday, the museum exhibitions and tractors in their collection will be open to the public, and the staff will answer questions about cotton-related industries in this part of Texas dated back to the early to mid-20th
The festival offers children and family friendly activities that people of all ages can attend. You can also bring your four-pawed friends. Weather is usually nice at this time of the year. The most important thing is that you can learn more about this small Texan town of Burton, its history, culture, folklore, and contemporary life. Fund raised by the festival will largely go back to the local economy and the protection of the gin. This is a great opportunity for us to get involved, give back to our community, and support the protection and promotion of our local heritage. I hope to see you there on April 20-21, 2018! :)
Mingqian Liu | Architecture
Mingqian Liu is a fourth-year doctoral student in the Department of Architecture