Camp Ford Southern Heritage Event

Through the photographic grapevine (that being the East Texas Camera Club) I heard there was going to be a southern heritage event at a local park, so of course I decided to pack up the camera and head over. While this was not a protest per se, it was an opportunity for the group to speak out about how they feel their southern heritage is being dismissed in light of today’s politically correct climate. I went because I felt it was a photographic opportunity and didn’t want to miss the chance to see the historic costumes that would be on display. Of course, the fact that there would be cannon fire didn’t hurt either. As they say, explosions make everything better.

The first thing I noticed was this group takes their attention to detail pretty serious. Of course, I’m no Civil War scholar, but they looked pretty authentic to me.

The medals however, are not historic. I noticed one that said “Vietnam”, and I’m pretty sure the Confederate States did not have a detachment there during the war.

Some of the guys though, looked very appropriate for the time period.

This group was not just about flying the confederate flag. They had many different historic flags as well as the current American flag. No matter what people may say, they love their country. In that I have no doubt.

They even had a few southern belles present.

While the costumes did seem authentic, those glasses…I think they are a bit anachronistic for this time period. Or he is portraying a time traveler. I guess either is possible. Although I did not notice a sonic screwdriver.

Honor guard at the ready.

And of course, what most of the photographers were here to see, other than the cool costumes.

According to the Texas State Historical Society Online, during the war, the 14th Texas Calvary was made up of men from this area.

Preparing to fire. The anticipation builds…

The moment of truth! BOOM!!! Yes!!

Yes, it was loud.  🙂

The bugler played taps in memory of those who died in service to their country. As a former brass player myself, she was very good by the way.

As I said, this was not so much a protest as it was a gathering to show respect to their common southern heritage.

And show respect they did.

I hear they have actual battle reenactments here in the spring. I’ll have to try and make it back and maybe brush up on my Civil War history before I do.

Camp Ford is located just at the north-east corner of Tyler Texas at the intersection of highway 271 and loop 323  (map). You can learn more about Camp Ford and its role during the Civil War HERE, and HERE.

i hope you enjoyed the photos


Henderson Texas Syrup Festival

Every year in Henderson Texas, they hold a syrup festival. Last year we missed going, having just moved here, but this year we decided we wanted to know what this was all about, so we got up on Saturday morning and went, wondering what kind of festival could they design around syrup.

Well, it didn’t appear that anyone else had any doubt that it would be a blast because it looked like the entire town of Henderson turned out.  And while downtown was full of antique cars, we were headed to the depot museum where the main festival was taking place.

When we got there we found that they were having a classic tractor rally too. Old tractors of every make and model were present.

An old International Harvester appears to be having a good time, grinning through its grill.


And of course, you can’t have a tractor show without the old green and yellow making an appearance. This is a 1948 Model M and looks like it still runs.


Along with the farm tractors was also a 1928 American LaFrance tractor that was used as a fire truck.


They even allowed the little ones enjoy the driver’s seat so a good time was had by all.


Next to this was a old hay bailing machine and two guys showing how it works.


Of course, by the time I got around to taking their picture, they were done with the bailing and were just sitting back and taking a break. The old machines certainly don’t look like they were as easy a job as the new ones. We have it so good today.


But where is the syrup? Finally we get to the part where they are showing how it is made. They take cane sugar and using a press operated by a mule, squeeze the juice and pulp out of it into a big barrel.


Next, that goes into a big vat where it is heated and cooked down to the desired consistency. That looked like a hot job. You can see the steam coming up from the juice as the lady stirs it.


Okay, that question was answered. And of course there were plenty of booths where you could actually buy some of the syrup. But they have other artisans here showing how they apply their craft. There were a couple of blacksmiths.



A couple of broom makers…


Funny story here. While watching them work I heard a man in the audience say “My wife wants to know how high they will fly.” He was a pretty tall dude, but she still managed to put her boot up side his butt! Color me impressed.


And even a couple of ladies spinning yarn.


It was also nice to see that these ladies were interacting with young members of the audience letting them get up close and see how the machinery actually work.

And of course, what would be a festival without some good folk/gospel music from live bands?


As we were leaving we passed by a Native American exhibit with a teepee and a young man in character, showing other young ones how to play the ceremonial drum.


All in all, it was a good time. Plenty to eat (I had some of the best BBQ brisket I’ve had since moving here) and of course there were rides and plenty to keep the young ones entertained.

This was the 27th annual festival. Now I can’t wait for the 28th.

All photos copyright 2015 Michael Hampton/MHampton Photography

Great Texas Balloon Race

On Saturday, July 25th, Karen and I got up before daylight to be present for the morning flights of the Great Texas Balloon Race 2015. Considering the hot Texas summer days we have been having, the nice cool morning was a pleasant change and well worth the extra effort.

We started the day at the East Texas Regional Airport for the morning competition. This was to be a test of accuracy for the pilots with three targets. There were two streamers that had to be dropped/thrown from the balloon into two separate targets. And then each balloon had a small hoop that the pilot attempted to get around a tall pole in the middle of the field. There was a $5000 prize which was to be split between the pilots who were able to accomplish this feat. The fewer pilots that could get the ring on the pole, the larger each individual prize.

As the first balloons started to arrive, we were welcomed with a parade of color as they soon filled the sky. I have never seen so many balloons at one time in my life.

We had picked out great seats. Thanks to the direction of the wind, the balloons traveled a path that brought them directly over our heads. Further, thanks to the rather slow speed of the wind, it made for some great shots. The 100-400mm lens came in handy for some personal shots of the pilots, showing their faces as they tried for each target.

There were so many colors and designs that one could almost become dizzy looking at all of them. Stars, wavy patterns, lines, circles, diamonds, plaid. The plethora of geometric patterns gave each balloon its own unique style.


Here is a shot where you can see the determination on the face of the pilot as he wound up for his toss towards the target. Being my first balloon race, I was unfamiliar with the pilots and rules, but it was fun watching and learning as we went. As an aside note, this particular balloon was sponsored by my wife’s employer, Martin LP Gas out of Kilgore, TX.

As the morning continued, it seemed that the steady flow of balloons would never stop. They just kept appearing over the horizon. Each one showing different colors and designs. While some were plain, others were completely unique, yet none were boring.

This one had a design of a great dragon. No doubt this was intended to cast fear into the hearts of all competitors. I don’t know if it worked, but it was a truly impressive design. In fact, as the balloon got close, the pilot was good enough to spin the balloon so we were able to see the entire beast.

Dragon Balloon

A couple of times, the balloons got pretty close to each other. No doubt the slowness of the wind helped alleviate danger of any collisions as the balloons seems to just push each other out of the way when they did get into close proximity of each other.

Some pilots appeared to have a very laid back style throwing towards the targets. This guy seemed very relaxed and confident as he aimed and let his device fly.

Going for the Target

Others seemed unaffected by the height as they leaned out of their basket to engage the target. I guess it takes a certain amount of the “no fear” attitude to pilot an air ship which has such a small amount of directional control.

Careful Aim

Having just recently moved to the country, I really enjoyed the farm theme of this balloon. Complete with a barn, pond, and a person reading a book under a tree, this serene scene was one of my favorites.

Farm Balloon

Another amazing thing was the use of open flames, even when in such close proximity of another balloon. I’m sure the cooler morning air made for a more comfortable experience for the pilots than would have been found later in the day as the temperature reached the high 90s.

Close Quarters

Remember the ring and pole challenge? This pilot did and he was the only one who hit the target on this day!  You can see the excitement in his face after realizing that he had hit the target!



As the morning event came to a close and we headed back to our car, you could still see the balloons fill the sky as they continued on to the opposite horizon. Where they landed I have no idea, but they were back for the evening festivities later in the day.

Sky Full of Balloons

When we came back for the evening activities, the sun began to make its way lower in the sky. Karen was able to capture this shot of one of the balloons being back-lit by the diving sun.

Into the Sunset

Meanwhile, the special shape balloons were beginning to take shape for display. The evening events were much like a fair, with some rides for the kids and of course all sorts of food and other booths. This evening was also attended by a performance of the Oak Ridge Boys.

Sheriff Willy

I noticed the Wells Fargo Wagon balloon team as they were unloading their balloon and decided to spend some time with them to find out more about what they do. It was quite interesting and I learned a few things. For instance, the green sleeves they are wearing in this picture is to protect their arms from the flames. Even with those on however, I’m still sure I could smell melting hair as they were adding the hot air to the balloon!

Fire it Up

While I was with that team, Karen was getting some other shots, such as this shot of the astronaut balloon with the moon in the background. Very cool!

Spaceman and Moon

The highlight of the night was the balloon glow. That’s when the balloons are all anchored to the ground and at the countdown, they all fire their thrusters (is that even the right term?) and illuminate their balloon. It made quite a site with this field full of these giant light bulbs! Once again you can see all the different patterns and graphic designs of the balloons. I can only imagine that the uniqueness of each balloon is mirrored by the uniqueness of the pilots.Night Glow

So, that was my first balloon festival. What can I say other than I look forward to my next.

See you at the Great Texas Balloon Race in 2016!

Later Y’all!