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Basin Buzz: Water Carnival on its 86th year, West Texas tradition continues

The Water Carnival is a special Fort Stockton tradition that brings performances, swimming, and reunions in one weekend.

FORT STOCKTON, Texas — It's a well-known West Texas tradition. The Water Carnival in Fort Stockton is heading on its 86th year.

When the natural spring-fed Comanche Springs poured life into Fort Stockton back in the 1930's, that was around the time the Water Carnival started. 

The Lion's Club wanted to celebrate the Texas Centennial and pay tribute to the springs since it had 45 to 65 million gallons of water pouring in a day.

It was a week-long event filled with everything you can expect of a carnival: Parades, swimming and diving contests, reunions, dances and of course the big pageants. 

"That lasted for four years but when the pool started to lose water west of town, Water Carnival took a break and whenever they built the in-ground pool now, it went to swimming, theatrical outdoor event we have now," said Rankin Mitchell, a member of the Water Carnival Board of Directors.

Even though the pool isn't how it once looked, that doesn't stop the show from going on. 

You can expect a lot from the theatrical production. Since the Water Carnival is about performances, every year the board picks a script sent in by anyone from the community. Then they base the show around that. This year's theme is tropical, and they're calling this "Port Stockton".

"The directors this year is Angela Harral and Kelli Harral Burns which is her daughter," said Mitchell. "They took the idea of The Little Mermaid, rewrote the script themselves, and added the swimming and dancing in between that."

Over 200 people help put the Water Carnival together. From the performers doing synchronized swimming to the dance performances, to the ones behind the scenes; bringing this show-stopping performance center-stage-or rather, center-pool-has been a lot of work.

"We build our own set designs, our own props, and some of them are Hollywood-style props," said Mitchell. "They're really spectacular. We glitter, paint them, they look great. We got our light crew who light our entire show and stage lights like a normal theater. With our spotlights, we make it very enthusiastic, very fun, we get kids and adults very involved and it's a fun event to come watch."

During Water Carnival, the spotlight is also on the contestants in the pageants. That includes Miss Fort Stockton on Saturday. Each girl puts on her best to win the crown.

Reunions also take place the same weekend. Whether it's native Fort Stocktons coming back or those who still live there, this also becomes a time for old friends to meet again.

"Of course, everyone in Fort Stockton is a big contributor," said Mitchell. "We look forward to Water Carnival every year. We are grateful we can get the pool in Precinct 2 because that's the only pool in Fort Stockton. People are still well-involved in our tradition. We're the longest-running tradition in Fort Stockton. You won't regret coming to the show, for sure."

You can call the Fort Stockton Chamber for tickets. Thursday and Friday tickets are $8. The Saturday ticket is $10. 

The show starts at dark. After the show, there will be fireworks. 

There will be a parade Saturday morning from the old Comanche school on Rio Street and that will end at downtown Zero Stone Park.

If you're interested in memberships or sponsorship, you can learn more by clicking on the Water Carnival's Facebook page here.

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