EARLY — City of Early workers will spend much of the week putting the final preparations in at McDonald Park in preparation for the first-ever Early Texas Showcase.

Formerly know as Early Pioneer Days, the Early Texas Showcase celebrates its new name and a new tradition moving forward beginning at 5 p.m. Thursday with the Pride of Texas Carnival.

Thursday’s kickoff is six months in the making, after Early Tourism and Convention Bureau Coordinator Denise Hudson announced in March the name change and the headlining acts, which include Sam Riggs on the Circle B Bar Ranch Stage at 8 p.m. Saturday, followed by Roger Creager at 10 p.m.

“We got into the horse-drawn wagons and that sort of stuff,” said Hudson during her March announcement. “We are trying to market it and tell people about the event to people outside of this area. When you say ‘Early Pioneer Days’ the first thing that come to their minds is they are coming to an event that is horse-drawn wagons back from the older days. We did that in the first four years of it.”

While making a dramatic shift in its overall presentation, the festival maintains annual mainstays such as itscarnival, concert, vendor’s row, Connelly Softball Tournament and Texas Showdown Competition (a strength and conditioning competition). A few new events this year include Mills County State Bank Baseball Tournament, the Chocolate Run 5K and the first phase of the recently announced McDonald Park Sound Garden will also be on display. 

This week, city workers installed the first elements of the sound garden, which is part of a project through the Early High School Leadership Team through the Texas Midwest Community Network Group.  A sound garden is small space in a park with elements where children can manipulate them to produce sounds, which is helpful to children diagnosed with autism and other sensory related conditions. The nearest sound garden is more than 100 miles north in Seymour and, given the exponential growth of the Aldersgate Special Needs Easter Egg Hunt, it serves a community that goes unrecognized in many other cities. On display will be the product of more than $35,000 donated by the City of Early as well as individuals and businesses.

Along with seeing  all of the sights, sounds and tastes Central Texas has to offer, Hudson said the most important part of the Early Texas Showcase is showcasing the talents of local artists. Whether competing in a cooking competition, taking the main stage or selling their wares on vendor’s row, Hudson said area artists have a unique opportunity at the Early Texas Showcase.

“This is right out in the middle – prime time,” Hudson said. “It gives them a chance to get rid of their stage fright and a great opportunity for people in the community and from other communities to be able to see them perform. Maybe they will be interested in having them at their event.”

For a complete list of this weekend’s events, go to www.visitearly.com.