Conroe festival marks 30 years of serving up great catfish, entertainment


When you come into this year’s Conroe Cajun Catfish Festival, which kicks off Oct. 11 in downtown Conroe, you’re sure to see some special displays.

“We created a mosaic of our logo, and it’s going to have 3,000 pictures on there that you’re going to see over the past 30 years of these collaborations (of different people who created the festival), ” said Stephen Naleway, President of the Friends of Conroe.

The Friends of Conroe organization was created immediately after the Catfish Festival started in 1990, to be the non-profit for the festival.

Naleway talked about some of the people who were behind the naming of the festival.

“They (creators of the festival) just liked it, they wanted catfish. I think that initially started with Vernon Bowers (Vernon’s Kuntry Catfish owner who passed away several years ago), and since he was doing catfish at the time, I think he was one of the originators,” Naleway said. “I think they just liked the Cajun because of people like Charles Tullis (one of the festival founders) who was into the Cajun music, and there was nothing around here that was Cajun, so they wanted to bring that Cajun here, that Louisiana feel.”

Naleway talked about the great entertainment lineup they have been able to get year after year, and some of the musicians who got their start playing at the festival.

“We have a merchandise shirt this year, and we went back 30 years and we pulled all the key headliners from all those years and put them on this shirt,” Naleway said. “An iconic name for us is Hunter Hayes. I think he was about 5 years old when he started here and he played until he was about 15 or 16. [He is a] national headliner and we feel like we gave him that boost to get there. Our headliner this year, Pat Green, has played here numerous times, I think five to ten times, and he always puts on a good show.”

Kevin Fowler is also a part of this year’s entertainment lineup.

You can expect another excellent lineup of food booths this year.

“We have Pacific Yardhouse, which is a local Conroe favorite and they’re going to be here with some of their current menu and then some new things that they’re going to push out,” Naleway said. “We have a lady that’s here and her company is Ice Cream Creations, but she doesn’t sell ice cream, believe it or not, but she’s been here for 30 years. She sells sausage on a stick, turkey legs, catfish, shrimp, everything.”

Other food you can enjoy this year includes fried catfish, gumbo, crawfish pie, corndogs, fried oreos, twinkies and alligator.

“Then we have a national act called Fried Goodness [that] was featured on Carnival Eats TV show,” Naleway said. “He attends the Houston Livestock Show and Rodeo and other ones, and he cooks for them. He’s just like his name, Fried – fried funnel cake, corn dogs, chicken tenders, and then he has other stuff like nachos, fries and sausage on a stick.”

Naleway said they expect about 30,000 people to attend the three-day festival this year, especially if the beautiful weather sticks around this weekend.

The Cajun Catfish Festival kicks off at six p.m. on Friday, Oct.11, and runs through midnight. It’s open from 11 a.m. to midnight on Oct. 12 and from noon to six p.m. on Oct. 13. Naleway said after the festival closes at 6 p.m. Sunday night, they will have Tejano music from 6 to 11 p.m. at Heritage Park.

The cost to get into the festival at the gate is $15; the price is $12 a ticket if you order online.

To order a ticket online, go to:

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