BOLIVAR — Ready the red petticoats — the Jane Long Festival is coming Oct. 12, honoring the gritty Bolivar pioneer who outwitted attacking Indians, charmed Sam Houston and dined with pirates.
This is the fourth year for the event on Bolivar Peninsula begun by Hurricane Ike survivors well versed in the tales of Jane Long.
“We started this after the storm, and it was a time we needed to pull on some strength,” said Margo Johnson, one of the founders of the festival and event co-chairman with Charlotte Stirling. “We felt she just personified that strength.
Johnson, a longtime peninsula resident and retired salon owner, was among many struggling to recover after hurricane winds and storm surge devastated the community in 2008.
They made Jane Long a rallying cry, and designed a festival in 2010 to celebrate Long and survival.
“It’s given us strength to build back,” said Johnson, who will dress as a Texas freedom fighter for the festival, with large hat and uniform. “We feel like we have accomplished something she’d be proud of, too.”
Helen Mooty, director of the Galveston County Museum, will be dressed in bonnet, long dress and apron, appearing as Jane Long for the festival.
She often depicts Long in presentations and will speak in character at a lecture on Tuesday in Crystal Beach.
“She is just a fascinating character,” said Mooty, author of the text for Long’s historical marker on Bolivar Peninsula. “She was one of the most politically powerful women in Texas at a time when women in Texas were expected to merely give birth.”
Linda Elissalde of Crystal Beach plays the role of the storyteller for “Pirates and Petticoats,” the lighthearted play she created based on Jane Long. Elissalde will wear a red petticoat, shirt and apron for the festival production.
“The original intent of the play was about survival,” Elissalde said.
This year, she added new characters and music to reflect a more upbeat festival.
“Now we’ve survived and now we thrive, so this is kind of a push into a new idea,” she said.
The retired schoolteacher will be among many women sporting red petticoats at the festival, in honor of Long’s courage and ingenuity. Threatened by Karankawa Indians, Long reportedly put on a soldier’s uniform, hoisted a red petticoat flag, and fired a cannon daily to trick the Karankawas into thinking her Bolivar compound was still occupied by troops.
“She’s young — very, very young — yet has all this strength of character to survive,” Elissalde said. “She becomes this lesson of ‘Hey, buck up.’”
Mooty, who lives in the Clear Lake area, extensively researched Long for the historical marker and for re-enactments of the pioneer.
“I fell in love with the story,” she said. “We celebrate Jane Long, but she exemplifies all the women of that time period …. They all had children who died young. Their husbands who went off to war and never came back.
“There was a strength in the women of that time that few people today are forced to find in themselves.”
At a glance
WHAT: The fourth annual Jane Long Festival
WHEN: 11 a.m. to 4 p.m. Oct. 12; “Pirates and Petticoats” at 1:30 p.m.
WHERE: Fort Travis Seashore Park, on the western end of Bolivar Peninsula, close to the ferry landing
COST: Admission and parking are free. Proceeds from booths and concessions benefit the Bolivar Peninsula Cultural Foundation’s projects.
DETAILS: The festival honors the Bolivar Peninsula pioneer known as the Mother of Texas for her role supporting freedom fighters, and featuring live music by Three Way Switch, the “Petticoats and Pirates” play, crafts and food booths, silent auction, a children’s pavilion and western shootouts by the Orange County Regulators. Tours of the historic bunker and a battery also will be offered — guided by docents. Bring lawn chairs and ice chests. Come dressed in period costumes and enter the Best Dressed contest.
New this year
- New Jane Long-related developments this year include:
- Jane Long’s portrait hung in the State Capitol in Austin.
- State Highway 87 on Bolivar Peninsula was renamed the Jane Long Memorial Highway.
- Improvements at Fort Travis, which now includes a Jane Long Pavilion, with flag poles flying the U.S. Flag, Texas flag and the red Jane Long Flag and new benches installed by Eagle Scout Jay Robert Kennedy, grandson of Joyce Kennedy of Crystal Beach.
- Festival tours, guided by docents, inside Fort Travis Seashore Park’s historic World War I and II fortifications.
- Festival Children’s Pavilion, sponsored by Samson Energy Co., featuring games with prizes, face painting and flavor-your-own snow cones. The First Baptist Church’s youth group will man the area.
- Festival play, “Pirates and Petticoats,” adding a new “hussy-like lady,” a dancing cowgirl, a flamenco dancer and the Ballad of Jane Long performed by Three Way Switch. Melanie Wallace, a retired college professor, will return in her role as Jane Long.
Details to note
- The fourth annual Jane Long Lecture Series continues at the new Crystal Beach Fire Station, 930 Noble Carl Drive, in Crystal Beach — the second building behind the Joe Faggard Community Center — with two more lectures. Tuesday, Galveston County Museum Director Helen Mooty will appear as Jane Long to speak on “Jane Long, Mississippi to Bolivar.” Joyce McLean, Galveston entrepreneur and historian, will speak on “Pirates! Legends of the Gulf Coast” on Oct. 8. Doors open at 6:30 p.m. for refreshments and fellowship. The program starts at 7 p.m. Lectures are $5 each, payable at the door.
- A new oleander named in honor of Jane Long will be displayed in pictures at this year’s festival Oct. 12. The pink bloom was hybridized by the Oleander Society’s Robert Newding in a joint project of the Galveston-based International Oleander Society and the Jane Long Society, a committee of the Bolivar Peninsula Cultural Foundation. The Jane Long Oleander features a white stripe down the center and six petals on many of the flowers. Most oleander flowers have five petals.
- Plants will be available next year with starter plants on sale at the Galveston Home and Garden Show and the Oleander Festival.
Jane Long facts
What most of us don’t know about Jane Long:
- Jane was the one who dined — without her husband — with the pirate Jean Lafitte in an attempt to entice him to finance her husband’s campaign for freedom for Texas settlers.
- Jane designed a flag featuring what she called the “lone star” for her husband to carry — perhaps the first Texas Lone Star Flag. The lone star referred to her husband.
- After her husband died, Jane was reportedly courted by many of the revolutionary leaders — including Stephen F. Austin and Sam Houston — but she never remarried.
- Jane organized a ball at her Brazoria-area hotel when Stephen F. Austin was freed from a Mexican prison. At the ball, Austin gave his first speech calling for Texas’ independence from Mexico.
SOURCE: The Jane Long Society, Bolivar Peninsula Cultural Foundation, http://bolivarfoundation.com