Texas Folklore Society marks 104th Annual Meeting

Texas Folklore Society
By Texas Folklore Society
Posted April 10, 2023 to .

Tags: 2023 Events, Elizabeth Duncan, Hermes Nye, Hootenanny Award, Jean Granberry Schnitz, Jim Harris, Mary Harris, Richard Orton, Robert Jack Duncan, TFS, Tarleton State University, Texas Folklore Society, folkore, Kaitlyn Culliton, Justin Swink, Gayle Modrall, MaryAnn Blue, John Pelham, Blaine Williams, Kay Reed Arnold, Bernadette Nason, Linda Spetter, Dina Lopez, Kristina Downs

Following a three-year hiatus, Texas Folklore Society members recently returned to what they do best—gathering to share in folklore, fun, and fellowship. The statewide organization’s 104th Annual Meeting was held April 6–8 at the Hilton Waco. The event marked the first since 2019, the first since the 114-year-old organization moved its home office to Stephenville, and the first under the leadership of Secretary-Editor/Executive Director Kristina Downs, Ph.D. “While our leaders and members have worked hard to stay connected over the past three years, being able to finally gather in person is incredibly rewarding,” said Downs. “Personal connection is at the heart of folklore and meetings like this are a great place to build those connections. This meeting also allowed us to showcase the support we’ve received from our new partner, Tarleton State, and the exciting opportunities that partnership has created.”

Members from across the Lone Star State and beyond were joined by institutional partners from the College of Liberal of Fine Arts (COLFA) at Tarleton State University and a slew of newcomers, including community folklorists and scholars. Texas Folklore Society (TFS) has a mission of collecting, preserving, and sharing folklore, and the annual event put members’ dedication to the objective on display. Thirteen presenters shared their research, traditions, and experiences, with topics ranging from roadside memorials to accordions in Texas culture to the odd stories behind Texas town names to the culture shock experienced by an English woman visiting the Lone Star State for the first time. Filmmaker, journalist, and author John Phillip Santos spoke about how the history and understanding of South Texas Folklore were impacted by the quarrel between folklorist Américo Paredes, the “Texas Man of Letters” J. Frank Dobie, and historian Walter Prescott Webb.

”Someone once told me that TFS meetings are the only ones you’ll go to where every presentation is interesting. That was certainly true this year,” said Downs, “The variety of subjects covered really highlights the incredible diversity of Texas folklore.”

Lee Haile and Chuck Smith

In addition to presentations, the meeting also included celebratory meals. COLFA sponsored the president’s reception, and a lineup of entertainers shared their talents while picking guitars, playing a fiddle or dulcimer, and belting out well-known tunes during the Hootenanny. At a celebration luncheon, sponsored by the TFS Past Presidents Club, longtime members Jean Schnitz, Jim Harris, and Mary Harris were inducted as esteemed fellows of the society. Lee Haile, who has spearheaded the music and merriment of the annual Hootenanny for decades, was presented with the inaugural Hermes Nye Hootenanny Award. The award’s namesake was an attorney, folklorist, and TFS member who organized the first-ever TFS Hootenanny.

During the annual business meeting, Past President Kay Reed Arnold (Austin), as well as outgoing board members Mary Harris (Hobbs, NM), Jim Bridges (San Antonio), and Steve Davis (Castroville) were recognized for their contributions. Members confirmed the nominations of new board members. Existing directors John Pelham (Granbury), Richard Orton (Nacogdoches), Dina Lopez (Lubbock), Lucy Fischer West (El Paso), Blaine Williams (Dripping Springs), and Linda Spetter (Eastland), were joined by newcomers Bernadette Nason (Austin), Gayle Modrall (Lubbock), Kaitlyn Culliton (Laredo), and Justin Swink (Watauga). MaryAnn Blue (San Antonio) was elected vice president. 

Carol Boland, Herb Boland, and Chuck Smith

While the closing ceremony included the traditional passing of the gavel from outgoing president Donna Ingham (Bertram) to 2023–2024 president Meredith Abarca (El Paso), the new TFS tradition of passing the gavel through the hands of the 18 past presidents in attendance—beginning with 1979 president Jack Duncan—until it reached the incoming president. The idea was proposed by Kay Reed Arnold, 2021–2022 president, who said that a new leader should always know who came before them—and that past presidents will always stand behind them.

Finally, TFS members approved the nominations of the 2023 Fellows of the Texas Folklore Society, Elizabeth Duncan (McKinney), Lee Haile (Tarpley), and Robert “Jack” Duncan (McKinney). They will be inducted into the esteemed group of TFS leaders at the 105th Annual Meeting of the Texas Folklore Society, which will be held March 28–30 in San Antonio.

For more information about TFS, follow the organization on Facebook or visit

Eighteen past presidents lined up to pass the gavel to incoming president Meredith Abaraca.
 Photos courtesy of Richard Orton