Celebrate the Season 3

Another Mayfest means great times for families along the Trinity River.

On May 4th through 7th, children and adults alike can rejoice. Fort Worth’s premier family event, Mayfest, once again enlivens Trinity Park with its effervescent mixture of fun, food, and music. To learn a little more about this event’s rich history, we spoke to Elizabeth Basham, executive director of Mayfest, and Emily Allison, Mayfest’s marketing manager.

What can you tell me about the history of Mayfest, and how it’s grown over the years?

Elizabeth: The idea of Mayfest was conceived in the late 60s. Back in the 40s there was a big flood, and the Army Corps of Engineers came in and dammed up the Trinity River. They did what was necessary, but beauty was not a consideration, and the river became a refuse area. Fast-forward to the late 60s, and the Junior League of Fort Worth decided they wanted to enact a positive community program. With the help of business leaders, the city council, and community support, the league was able to get a good portion of the river cleaned up.

In true Junior League fashion, they wanted to celebrate, and held the first Mayfest, which was called the Trinity River Festival, in 1973. In the 1980s, the group decided to incorporate the festival, so Mayfest Inc. was born. In 1987, Mayfest was incorporated as a nonprofit 501 (c)3 organization. Today, we’re proud to continue the traditions that were started by the Junior League, and are celebrating our 45th anniversary.

What unique role do you see Mayfest fulfilling in the community?

Elizabeth: When we look at Mayfest, we think about it fulfilling two specific missions. One that’s really important is that it’s a family festival, a safe community event where people can bring their kids. We take care to ensure our patrons’ comfort, and work with all first responders to guarantee a safe event. The other mission is that Mayfest wants to give back to the community. It’s a four-day event, but we give back 365 days a year. You’re having fun and building memories, but you’re also giving back to the city that you love.

In what ways does Mayfest appeal to different age groups?

Emily: I think that that’s one thing that sets Mayfest apart. We have the Tom Thumb/Albertson’s children’s area designed for kids aged 3 to 12. From there, you move all the way up to an older audience with the beer garden, which is new this year. Our stages with live entertainment appeal to people of all ages, and we also have the community stages where kids can dance. On top of all that, we have the art and gift market for shopping, and the carnival to appeal to older kids.

What about Mayfest may surprise first-time attendees? What’s new this year?

Elizabeth: First time attendees will definitely be surprised by how big it is. We encompass 33 acres in Trinity park, so people need to put on their walking shoes. We also work hard to preserve the beauty of the park. Even with Mayfest and all the rides and vendors, you’re still able to sit underneath a tree and enjoy the day.

As for what’s new this year, to celebrate our 45th anniversary, we’re going to be offering a free Thursday entry. That’s free admittance on Thursday, and on Friday, the first 45 people who are in line at the North Gate will receive a party pass for free admission for the rest of the festival. We’re also excited to offer a new drop-off parking option.

How does Mayfest give back to the community, and how does a person’s attendance benefit the city? 

Elizabeth: The beneficiaries of the festival are The City of Fort Worth Parks and Recreation Department, the Junior League, and Streams & Valleys. These groups submit grant proposals that go before our finance committee and are voted on by our board of directors. We are usually are able to give back between $200,000 to $300,000.

Emily: Over our 45 year history, we’ve given back 7.1 million dollars to the community. Mayfest benefits the public through better pathways, upgraded bathrooms for Trinity Park, and upgrades of the playgrounds. The people of Fort Worth can be thankful to Mayfest and its founding organizations for continuing to make these improvements.

Be sure to come out for the 45th Mayfest, May 4th through 7th, and check the organization’s website — www.mayfest.org — for the most up-to-date information.