Rusk KOA Hosts South African Heritage Festival
Former South African residents came together Saturday (Sept. 5) in Rusk, Texas, for the 9th annual Texas Potjie Festival, where they celebrated their heritage through traditional food and activities.
The weekend-long event, held at the Kampgrounds of America (KOA) campground, drew people from around the country and allowed them to connect with friends as they use a potjie — a cast-iron cooking pot used by Dutch pioneers in South Africa.Organizers estimate about 500 people were at the festival compared to about 350 who came last year, according to the Tyler Morning Telegraph.
"It's actually earned itself the reputation for being one of the best weekends for former South Africans to come together and experience some of the culture of the old country," said Yvonne Reinhardt, who started the festival with her husband Fred. " It really has exploded. Each year we try to focus on something that will make it novel."
This year, she said they decided to do the Boerewors, or "farmer's sausage," contest as a group rather than having each participant cook the food at their own campsite.
Vivian Reynecke and her husband typically enter the Boerewors competition as the "Big 5" team, which represents elephants, rhinos, buffalo, leopards and lions found in South Africa.
"We like the competition. We take part in everything," she said, adding that their team even made aprons.
Other festival activities Saturday included touch rugby, a cricket match, a watermelon eating contest for children and a sokkie, where attendees could dance to traditional South African music.
Reynecke, who is originally from Richards Bay, South Africa, said it is the "spirit" of the Texas Potjie Festival that keeps bringing her back year after year.
That spirit was evident as attendees listened to music and displayed the flag of their former home.
Festus Redelinghuys said he comes to the festival every couple of years and enjoys the atmosphere and getting to see other former South Africans.
"We adopt the American culture, but it's always good to communicate with the previous culture," he said.
Maggie Cloete, who has been in America 16 years, was at the event for the first time and said she liked hearing people speak her own language.