Sarah Stansell of Copperas Cove, 3, climbs through an opening as she plays Saturday on an inflatable booth during the 12th annual Bloomin’ Fest in historic downtown Lampasas.

LAMPASAS — There was no shortage of fun in the sun Saturday as large numbers of people turned out for the 12th annual Bloomin’ Fest on the historic downtown square.

Just a few blocks away, competitors of the “Iron Chef” Chuck Wagon Cooking Challenge served more than 300 authentic cowboy meals to a hungry crowd.

Along with arts and crafts booths, festival food and children’s activities, a host of talent was on hand with musical performances. The Fort Hood 1st Cavalry Detachment put on a demonstration of skilled horsemanship.

City of Lampasas Chamber Director Jill Carroll said the Bloomin’ Fest celebration is a great community experience for both the visitors and retailers who participate.

“With a free event like this, it’s difficult to measure how many people turned out, but I’d say we’ve had more than a couple thousand people walk through here,” Carroll said. “We have a lot of repeat vendors, and this festival is a companion event to our Herb & Art Festival in the fall, so a lot of people come out to get their spring planting needs.”

The “Iron Chef” Chuck Wagon Cook Off was more than a challenge to see who can create the best tasting food, said cowboy chef Rick Verde of Hawk’s Nest Ranch. Contestants are given food and ingredients used on trail rides in the late 1800s and must use authentic cooking methods to prepare frontier-style meals.

As teams prepared their original recipes, Verde said he and a representative from each of the chuck wagons were asked to participate in another unique challenge — a mule harnessing contest.

“I work with and ride my own horses, but it was hard, and that’s what I like about the cook-off in Lampasas — the curveballs they throw your way,” Verde said. “I also like how many people show up at this event. We all serve out the food we make and don’t have to throw anything in the creek.”

Announcer Patrick Newman with the 1st Cavalry team said his group is always eager to join festivals like Bloomin’ Fest to help support local communities.

“We try to keep the traditions of the cavalry alive,” Newman said. “It’s kind of a unique job and there’s just a small group of us that do this, but we love it and feel very lucky to be members of the detachment in being able to participate in events like this.”

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