With the arrival of April, the days become longer, temperatures get warmer and the cold sting of winter begins to fade. It’s during this time of year that Ennis morphs into a bounty of beautiful blue thanks to Texas’ state flower — the bluebonnet. Each year, Ennis welcomes over 100,000 visitors during bluebonnet season, which is celebrated the entire month of April.
Whether visitors roam the 45-mile long trail featuring acres of blue perfection or spend the weekend in downtown Ennis enjoying the Bluebonnet Festival, it’s almost a guarantee they will have a most memorable time, and none of the beauty they experience would be possible if not for the Ennis Garden Club and its continued efforts. “Ennis Bluebonnet Trails has been an Ennis Garden Club project since it began 65 years ago. The club was incorporated in 1947, and the first trail — Kachina Prairie — was mapped out in Main Street by Pierce Park.”
In the years since, there have been anywhere between 75 and 100 venders who participate during the three-day weekend, catering to roughly 30,000 visitors. The Ennis Convention & Visitors Bureau came on board in 1992, providing hotel/motel tax in order to advertise outside the city limits of Ennis for all events. Throughout the year, the ECVB receives calls that pertain to the Bluebonnet Trails and Festival. Tour guides are also available for those who want to ride the trails with an experienced person from the Garden Club, and the visitor’s center sets up the reservations.
The Bluebonnet Trails and Festival is a year-round project for the bureau and the Ennis Garden Club members. “We constantly worry if the bluebonnets will look good for the festival,” admitted Chris, Master Naturalist and former chairman of the Bluebonnet Trails. “Calls start coming in as early as January, but we won’t know anything until mid-March.” Once the bluebonnets start to bloom, the Garden Club volunteers will ride the trails each week, giving updates to the ECVB on where the best flowers are located. Although weather greatly contributes to the amount of bluebonnets each year, there are places in Ennis where the Garden Club plants seeds. Last year, after their September meeting, the Garden Club re-seeded Bluebonnet Park and seeded Memorial Park for the first time.
Both parks received 70 pounds of seed. “We’re so excited about Bluebonnet Park and Memorial Park because it’s nice to have places within Ennis where we can go and enjoy the bluebonnets,” Sandy stated with enthusiasm. Landowners on the 45 miles of trails will sometimes toss a few seeds on their land. However, the abundance of bluebonnets are natural to this area. There are a few places where the owners leave their land unfenced, so visitors may walk among the flowers. Sandy and her husband, Bryce, own 13 acres along the trails, left open so visitors can fully experience the wonders of the bluebonnet up close and personal. “The bluebonnets are only here for three to four weeks out of the year,” Sandy said.
Landowners who allowed people on their land to take family photos and photos of the vast fields of bluebonnets are how Ennis earned the No. 16 ranking out of the top 30 best places to visit on Pinterest in last year’s poll. On the third weekend in April, unless it falls on Easter, Ennis celebrates the Bluebonnet Trails Festival, and this year marks its 65th anniversary. In early April, before the festival, Garden Club members begin volunteering at the ECVB, handing out trail maps and printed instructions to visitors on where to drive to view the best bluebonnets in Ennis.
During festival weekend, all members volunteer at the Garden Club’s tent or assist in making seed balls at the Garden Club’s Earth Day children’s tent. “You can find us at the giant white tent. Our volunteers are available for information on the trails and bluebonnets,” Julie stated. “We also have beaucoups of souvenirs.” The proceeds from souvenir sales go directly back into Garden Club projects, such as Kachina Prairie preservation and the bluebonnet re-seeding projects. The festivities this year will begin a day earlier. On Friday, April 15, at 2:00 p.m., city officials will cordon off the streets to allow vendors the time to set up their booths. By 6:00 p.m., the festival will be open to the public. Friday night’s entertainment features a street dance, and with this added entertainment, the Ennis Bluebonnet Trails Festival can officially advertise as a three-day festival.
This expansion will, hopefully, open more opportunities for television station publicity. “Every year that we have had a station do a piece on the bluebonnets, we were inundated with people, and everyone did well,” Sandy explained. Bluebonnet month in Ennis is perfect for the serious nature lover and for those who just love to go outside and look at pretty flowers. It also allows visitors and natives alike the opportunity to enjoy the sights and scent of the Texas state flower. From the Bluebonnet Trails and Kachina Prairie to the Bluebonnet Festival, there is something for everyone.
Written by Donnielle Tyner.