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2019 East Texas Taco Fest kicks off Saturday in downtown Marshall

The hottest festival around is going down this Saturday as Marshall News Messenger, along with main sponsor Patterson Chrysler Dodge Jeep Ram, present the 2019 East Texas Taco Fest on the downtown square.

“It’s our pleasure to bring the East Texas Taco Festival back for the second year,” said News Messenger Publisher Jerry Pye.

The family-friendly event kicks off at 11 and ends at 10 p.m., offering free contests, hot performances, salsa dancing, children’s activities and more.

“It is our wish that the festival provides good entertainment for the community — for adults and children, alike,” said Pye.

Deemed “the most intense speed race on the ground,” the Choice Dental Chihuahua race is set for 3:10 p.m., and is open to any dog of Chihuahua descent.

“This is one of the cutest competitions you will ever witness,” said Gai Bennett, events manager for M. Roberts Media, owner of the Marshall News Messenger.

Set for 4:30 p.m., the Jucys Taco jalapeno eating contest is a competition one can really sink their teeth into — if brave enough, organizers teased. Winner of the timed eating contest will leave with “bragging rights,” a trophy and a Jucys Taco gift card.

“It’s the hottest competition of the weekend,” said Bennett.

The colorful flare of Lucha Libre Mexican-style wrestling is also returning to the festival, featuring Big Daddy Yum Yum’s Lucha Libre All Stars. The matches are sponsored by the city of Marshall.

Live professional wrestling matches will take place at noon, 1:30 p.m., 3 p.m. and 4:15 p.m.

“It’s pretty exciting,” said Heavyweight Champion Byron “Big Daddy Yum Yum” Wilcott. “I was really happy the newspaper brought us back to entertain Marshall.”

The Gecko Pest Control Kids Zone LLC will open from 11 a.m. to 7 p.m. for all youth to enjoy.

“We will have a duel obstacle course slide from Fun Brothers Bounce Houses, button making with Marshall Public Library, crafts with Michelson Museum of Art; and sack races, hopscotch and Tick-Tac-Toe with Healthcare Express,” said Bennett.

Century 21-A Select Group and Burris Property Management will present salsa dancing lessons with instructor, Sal Landeros, at 4:15 p.m. The tantalizing contest begins at 6:15 p.m.

“He’s a professional ballroom dancer and teaches ballroom dancing for 20 years,” Bennett said of Landeros, owner of All About Dance Studio in Tyler. “It’s going to be a best.”

The Margarita Villa, sponsored by Davis Chemical/Jim L & Winnie Davis, will be open for adults throughout the day. The VIP Tent, sponsored by Christus Good Shepherd Health Systems, will also be open all day with a VIP pass.

Live music will hit the Vera Bank Stage, featuring a variety of performances for the occasion.

“We’ve got something for everyone — rock, country, blues, funk, jazz; and of course, a little Latin style to go with the tacos,” said Bennett.

Like last year, civic organizations will assist in the community event for a chance to raise funds for their missions as proceeds from the event will be split to benefit each.

“It is our wish that this festival provides good economic impact for the community — both for the nonprofits that work with us and the local downtown businesses,” said Pye, sharing how the event provides new tax dollars for the city.

“This is another step in providing value for the community and builds on our heritage of the Wonderland of Lights and the FireAnt Festival,” said Pye, sharing the News Messenger’s history in playing a founding role in both.

“We urge all to come out, enjoy the festival and the food and the activities and ‘pass a good time,’” said Pye.

Tickets are currently on sale at the website, General admission tickets are $10 for a wrist band. VIP tickets, which include entry to a VIP section, two drink coupons, snacks and hors d’oeuvres are $40. Admission for kids ages 12 and younger is free.

9/11 Heroes Fun Run remembers heroes of tragic day


The Travis Manion Foundation’s annual 9/11 Heroes Fun Run had a great turn out on Saturday in downtown Marshall, despite blazing hot summer temperatures throughout East Texas.

The annual 5K, Ruck and 1-mile fun run serves to remember those who died in the Sept. 11, 2001 terrorist attacks on America and honor the veterans, military, and first responders who continue to serve.

Several community members, as well as travelers from Louisiana and south Texas, East Texas Baptist University softball players,

“We had a very successful turnout today, with folks coming from as far as Austin, Shreveport and Texarkana,” Marshall race director, Travis Manion Foundation Ambassador and veteran Travis Keeney said on Saturday. “We have had wonderful support from the community and I’d also like to thank Marshall Ford, Maverick Chevrolet, the Marshall Fire Department and the ETBU softball team.”

Keeney said the point of the run is to honor 9/11 victims, survivors and first responders, as well as our local heroes.

“It’s really about remembering 9/11 and the folks that gave their lives and continue to support us in our communities today,” Keeney said.

The Travis Manion Foundation is named after US Marine 1st Lt. Travis Manion, who was killed by an enemy sniper in 2007 in Iraq as he pulled wounded members of his battalion to safety following an ambush.

“He was a friend of mine,” Keeney said. “We graduated the Naval Academy together and both commissioned in the Marine Corps together.”

Before his final deployment, Manion visited Rescue One in New York City, which lost almost all its men on 9/11, and returned home with a deeper passion about why he was fighting in Iraq.

Manion’s parents and sister started the 9/11 Heroes Run in his honor after his death. The first race was held in Manion’s hometown of Doylestown, Pennsylvania.

The 12th Annual 9/11 Heroes Run national series will be held in more than 90 locations across the country and the world this year.

Funds raised from the event go to support first responders, veterans and the nonprofit foundation’s character-building programs, which are geared to empower youth.

President George W. Bush to speak in Longview in early December

LONGVIEW — Former President George W. Bush is set to speak in early December in Longview as the inaugural program in a regional speaker series being launched by leading institutions across East Texas.

The East Texas Speakers Forum, a new nonprofit organization, will present “An Evening with President George W. Bush” on Dec. 3 at the Belcher Center at LeTourneau University.

Tickets go on sale at 10 a.m. Monday through the Belcher Center box office. Seat prices are $65 and $100. For more information or to buy tickets, visit, call 903-233-3080 or visit the box office.

“We were inspired by enthusiasm in our communities after other recent speaker events, by hearing President Bush at another Texas fundraiser, and especially by the possibility of furthering a sense of regionalism and encouraging East Texas communities and organizations to pull together on this project,” said Ric Brack, president of the Speakers Forum.

Representatives of presenting sponsors Christus Health, LeTourneau University, Longview News-Journal, Texas Bank and Trust, Tyler Morning Telegraph and the University of Texas at Tyler have been working together on the effort since early this year.

According to a mission statement developed by the regional partners, other goals include increasing civic engagement and community education by “providing a platform for interesting people to talk about topics that inspire, challenge and concern our communities.”

Bush, who served as the 43rd president of the United States from 2001 to 2009 and was the 46th governor of Texas from 1995 to 2000, will share stories from his life in business and politics in a Q-and-A format.

The board-led nonprofit has commitments of financial support from individuals and corporations across East Texas and fundraising efforts are underway, said Sam Forester, a founding director of the Speakers Forum.

“Our initial focus is to gain participation from Gregg, Harrison, Panola, Rusk, Smith, Titus and Upshur counties, which will include fundraising and future events in all these counties,” he said, adding that state and local officials also are pledging support. Future efforts would include other East Texas communities.

Forester said that any individual or business interested in being a founding sponsor may contact the Speakers Forum via email to or by calling 903-237-7755.

Along with Forester and Brack, who is editor of the Longview News-Journal, other founding directors are: Mary Elizabeth Jackson, vice president, government affairs at Christus Health; Cynthia Hellen, senior director of the Belcher Center at LeTourneau University; Jennifer Harris, senior vice president at Texas Bank and Trust; Gai Bennett, director of events at Tyler Morning Telegraph; Laura Jackson, assistant vice president at The University of Texas at Tyler, and Amy McHaney of News-Journal parent company M. Roberts Media.

Visit for more information.

Harrison County Farmers Market transitions into fall

The Harrison County Farmers Market is packing away most of its summer offerings and preparing to offer its new fall selection of locally grown fresh vegetables and other products.

The summer season of the market wrapped up in downtown Marshall on Saturday and will now be open from about 7 a.m. to noon every Saturday at downtown Marshall’s Telegraph Park.

“Today is the last day of the farmers market being here three days a week,” Master Gardener Billy Earl Pool said on Saturday. “After today and throughout the fall, we will be here on Saturdays only.”

Customers coming to the market during the fall season beginning next Saturday can expect to see fresh and locally grown vegetables, as well as arts and crafts vendor booths selling raw honey, leather made products, handmade soap made of goats milk, fresh flowers, jewelry, clothing and much more.

“Some of the fall vegetables you can expect to see will be okra, zucchini, what we call winter squash, some hangover tomatoes from summer, ursula artichoke and then we have our vendor booths with honey, jams, soap and chili peppers,” Pool said. “We have a lot of vendor booths, we even had one sign up today.”

Vendors pay just $20 a year to participate in the farmers market, Pool said. Those interested in hosting a booth at the market can contact him at 254-722-8778.

This was the first season of the Harrison County Farmers Market at its new location at Telegraph Park, just in front of the Historic Harrison County Courthouse in downtown Marshall and Pool said the new location has been fantastic for the market.

“It’s been great. This is a great location and we’ve had a lot of customers this year from all over. Here, we are close to the restrooms, have some shade and anyone who comes to downtown can see us,” Pool said.

The market also joined the Greater Marshall Area Chamber of Commerce and partners with Marshall Main Street, the city of Marshall and Harrison County.

“We get a lot of people that come through on Saturdays to see downtown or see the courthouse and they come see us,” Pool said. “They’ll ask me where to eat or what to do and I have this table of menus from local restaurants and brochures from businesses that I tell them about and give them.

“I’m Marshall Main Street when the Marshall Main Street office is closed.”

The Harrison County Farmers Market is open three days a week from May through September, and open each Saturday throughout the fall, at Telegraph Park in downtown Marshall.

Marion County budget hearing draws one public comment calling for 'meritocracy'

JEFFERSON — The Marion County Commissioners Court heard from only one resident during the court’s first public hearing last week concerning the proposed tax rate and $6 million budget for the new fiscal year.

The resident, Bruce Ockrassa, suggested that the county run as a meritocracy, and voiced his dissension on the proposed tax rate increase and $300 across the board raise for all county employees.

He said he’s embarrassed by how little law enforcement officers — “people that actually go out and put their rear ends on the line and provide a service” — get paid compared to other county employees.

“I’m 15 minutes from town, but if I call the sheriff they’re usually there in 15, 20 minutes,” said Ockrassa. “I appreciate what they do; but we need to run the county as a meritocracy.

When it comes to certain budget line items, he said his property values are declining due to increasingly poor road conditions.

“Over the last decade, the roads that lead to my house have gone from poorly maintained asphalt blacktop to a poorly maintained gravel top road,” said Ockrassa.

“Property values are declining and now they’re asking to give a tax increase to pay the people that aren’t keeping the roads maintained now,” he said. “I think when I bought the property, there were three road commissioners. Now we have four to not get the job done.”

Ockrassa called on the court to look at each budget line item and examine if it’s actually a benefit to a county.

“I’m sure there are good people that work for this county that probably deserve much more than we’re giving them,” he said.

But right now, the “sheep” are mixed in with the “goats,” Ockrassa said.

“We have people that aren’t performing; and yet you’re now saying, by the way, give them a raise,” he said.

The proposed tax rate is 0.578067 per $100 valuation, which is an increase of 3.75 cents or 7.92 percent above the effective rate, which is 0.540567. It’s a little more than 2 cents above the current tax rate, which is 0.554933 per $100 valuation.

The proposed salary increase will give employees and elected officials a $300 raise, which totals about $1.13 per working day, County Judge Leward LaFleur noted following the meeting.

The proposed Marion County budget for the new fiscal year — starting Jan 1. 2020 to Dec. 31, 2020 — will raise more revenue from property taxes than last year’s budget by an amount of $213,160, which is a 7.12 percent increase from last year’s budget, the county judge said.

Changes in the proposed budget include an increase of $19,839 to the general fund and an increase in general expenditures by $24,640.04 for salary/benefit adjustments making the general fund deficit $40,180.

“I want to thank the County Auditor Shanna Solomon and County Tax Assessor Karen Jones for helping me immensely come up with my very first (budget) as county judge,” said LaFleur. “Without their knowledge and leadership I wouldn’t have been able to get it done in the amount of time that we got it done.”

The second public hearing for the proposed tax rate will be 9 a.m. Monday, Sept. 9 in the County Courthouse Annex, 114 W. Austin St., on the second floor. The adoption of the tax rate and budget is set for 9 a.m. Monday, Sept. 16.

Judge LaFleur reminded all that it’s not the intent of the Marion County Commissioners Court to provide the public forum for demeaning of any individual or group, neither it is the intention of the court to allow a member or members of the public to insult the honesty and/or integrity of the court, as a body or as a member.

“Accordingly, profane, insulting, threatening language directed towards the court or a person on the court in the court’s presence or the use of any racial, ethnic, or gender slurs will not be tolerated,” he said.

He warned that violation of these rules may result in the following sanctions: cancellation of the speaker’s remaining time, removal from the commissioners courtroom, a contempt citation and/or such other civil or criminal sanctions as may be authorized under the Constitution, statutes and code of the state of Texas.