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‘We’re still here:’ First Kingwood Annual Festival broadcasts message of revival

April 4, 2019

Those brief episodes of showers were futile in damping the #KingwoodAF atmosphere.

That hashtag would be a reference to Kingwood Annual Festival, whose first iteration kicked off from noon to 7 p.m. last Saturday in Town Center Park. Three local businesses owned by two people hosted the event — Jay Chappell of Truwin Windows & Doors and Mike Wemberly of Framestead as well as The Bath Program.

Of course Chappell knew the more widespread meaning of “AF.” For this occasion, though, he repurposed the initials to suggest a more communal notion.

“Take your mind out of the gutter,” he said, a slight chuckle followed. The first people he revealed the double-entendre name to were his two teenage daughters, who responded positively to it.

But exiting dark places was also the message the event wanted to convey. On the day before, Chappell and event planner Tammy Spijkerman, whom he noted was a godsend, were tying green bands on most of the venue’s trees, both as reminder of the devastation Harvey caused and a sign of how much has been recovered since.

“Kingwood needed something that will say, ‘Hey, we’re alive. We’re still here — this place still exists, and we all are happy,’” Chappell said. “For the most part, everybody’s back in their homes and businesses are back where they’re supposed to be.”

There were plenty of attractions to keep the forest’s heart beating on the day: special T-shirts, local vendors, flavorful foods and live music from various performers. One among the latter was Kingwood High School alum Gary Kyle.

“We like to support the local community,” said area resident Rhonda Ellis, attending the festival with her daughter Kathryn Brooks and the family’s dog Kona. “It’s better than it was before because people appreciate it more now. We went without it for so long — all of this was closed down. It was really sad.”

“I’m really happy we have something like this,” Brooks added. “I thought that in a way (Kingwood) came back with a bang (after Harvey). Seeing all these new local businesses opening up in Kingwood afterward has been really enlightening.”

Portion of the proceeds from vendors will go toward FamilyTime Crisis and Counseling Center in Humble, specifically its operating costs.

“It was a little bit out of the blue,” said Jennifer Summer Green, the center’s publicity chair, on being chosen as the festival’s beneficiary. “We’re just excited. We really want to showcase everything that we can do to help other people in our community.”