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Sulphur Springs, Texas: Our beloved hometown and what makes it great

Sulphur Springs, Texas: Our beloved hometown and what makes it great
  • PublishedApril 7, 2022

Sulphur Springs, Texas goes by many names: Celebration City, the Gem of East Texas, and the seat of Hopkins County. Residents are proud to announce Sulphur Springs as their hometown. Here are just a few of the things that make the city unique.

Glass bathrooms– Sulphur Springs is home to the world’s only free-standing, outdoor, permanent and see-through glass bathrooms. Inspired by a Czech art exhibit, the city installed the two bathrooms on their downtown square in 2012 under city manager Marc Maxwell. Those using the bathroom can look out across the downtown plaza, but those on the plaza only see a mirrored box. Residents and visitors alike delight in its oddity. 

Construction work on glass bathrooms, January 2021

Celebration City– The city’s moniker is not just a random name– Sulphur Springs has over 300 individual events per year and climbing. This includes– but is not limited to– crawfish boils, wine festivals, handicrafts markets, parades, steak cook-offs, and more. There’s almost one major event for every day of the year. 

One of Celebration CIty’s many events– the downtown sip n’ stroll– in 2021

Downtown plaza– Also known as Celebration Square, Sulphur Springs downtown is quaint and charming for all ages. An interactive fountain in the shape of the Texas star, illuminated by a light show is a favorite for kids, especially during hot summer days. Children also enjoy a giant chess and checkers set installed into the sidewalk. 

The square also boasts a green area where musical acts perform, and an extensive veterans memorial. The surrounding district features a general store, sports pub, pizza, burgers, sandwich shop, coffee shops, winery, popcorn and candy store, spa, gym, live theater, book store, gallery, antiques, jewelry shop, painting and framing shops, music store, boutiques and more.

Hopkins County Courthouse– Part of the downtown square, the Hopkins County Courthouse is an emblematic symbol of the county and its drive to persevere. Built in 1894 and designed by renowned Texas architect James Riely Gordon, the red granite and pink sandstone five-story Romanesque revival structure towers over the surrounding landscape.

Hopkins County Courthouse looking festive for Christmas in 2021

It is one of the few James Reily Gordon courthouses that survives to present day, and has unique architectural features such as a double helix staircase and a lack of clock in its tower. 

Hopkins County Stew Festival in 2021

Hopkins County Stew Festival– New York has pizza, Philly has cheesesteak, and Sulphur Springs has stew. To be more specific, Hopkins County Stew. A recipe that dates back to pioneer days, every family has their own individual recipe which contains some variation of corn, potatoes and chicken or beef in a tomato broth. 

Purists insist that the meat be neither poultry nor bovine, but instead grey squirrel, which was more likely an available source of protein during the late 1800s when the stew originated. However, the Hopkins County Chamber of Commerce, who judges the stew contest, has decreed squirrel meat must not be used. 

Cooks stay up all night over wood fires at Buford Park, tending their 50-gallon kettles of stew for the honor of being named best in beef or best in chicken. As winners are announced, the whole town digs in to eat a heaping helping of their fall favorite. In all, over 7,000 attendees to the festival enjoyed Hopkins County Stew in 2022. 

Fall festival carnival in 2021

Fall Festival– Running concurrent with the Stew Festival is the Fall Festival, which celebrates all things autumn and agriculture in Hopkins County. Events include a Fall Festival parade, hay bale decorating contest, carnival, handicrafts market, creative arts contest, live music and more. 

Dairy Festival– Hopkins County spent many years as Texas’ top dairy producer, at one point churning out 118 million pounds of milk per year. Although dairy is no longer the county’s main industry, it’s still an industry we hold dear. Visitors can year-round enjoy the Hopkins County Dairy Museum and sample local ice cream, and every June the county gathers for the week-long Dairy Festival. The festival includes a hot air balloon show, parade, carnivalpageant, cooking exhibition and milking contest.

Friday Night Lights– Like any Texas town, Sulphur Springs loves their hometown football team on a Friday night. Most citizens gather at the state-of-the-art Gerald Prim Stadium (aka “The Prim”) to cheer on the Wildcat football team during crisp fall nights.

Indian Summer Days in 2021

Indian Summer Days– Hopkins County folks love history, and they celebrate the past during Indian Summer Days in early fall. Participants gather dressed in old-time pioneer costumes at Heritage Park, a collection of refurbished late 1800s buildings in order to take part in pastimes of a bygone era. This includes hoop & stick, jump rope, axe throwing, foot races and culminates in a dutch oven cook-off. 

Ribeye Roundup– Around here it’s cattle country, underscored by the annual Ribeye Roundup steak cook-off competition. Competitors turn in cooked steak and make extra portions to feed a hungry crowd. The yearly event draws hundreds who love our local cooks grilling, plus all the fixings. The title is just for bragging rights, but boy is bragging worth it. 

Senior night at The Prim in 2021- cheering on Wildcat football

Agriculture- Sulphur Springs and Hopkins County have a long history of supporting agriculture, and Hopkins County was Texas’s dairy capitol until 1997. Nowadays, agriculture and agricultural education plays a large role in what citizens find important. This includes the yearly Northeast Texas Livestock Association (NETLA) county show, which brings in half a million dollars yearly to the area.

NETLA 2021

Sulphur Springs Dog/ Dodge Dog– Any city worth its salt has a specific style of hotdog, right? A Sulphur Springs-style hotdog is slathered in pimento cheese and topped with chopped bacon and green onions. Dodge Jeep dealership Scott Nottingham’s hands the hotdogs out at home football games on Friday nights, which is where it earns its nickname the Dodge Dog. 

North Pole of Texas– The north pole this far south? Just outside of Sulphur Springs in the small Hopkins County community of Como is a winter wonderland called the North Pole of Texas. Open during the yuletide, it features light displays, Santa’s workshop, staff dressed in costume, a living nativity, train rides and a hot cocoa bar. Visitors are encouraged to arrive early as long lines can form. 

Parades– Hopkins County loves pomp and circumstance! Nearly a dozen parades pass through town annually, including (but not limited to): Veteran’s Day, 9/11 Remembrance, Lion’s Lighted Christmas Parade, two classic car shows, fall festival and more.

Food Sports competitors– Sulphur Springs happens to be home to some mean cooks– so much so that they’ve completed nationwide and worldwide titles for their cooking prowess. Just to name a few: Slaughter’s BBQ’s David Slaughter, local newsman Logan Vaughan, banker Brandon “Woody” Williams, and engineer Steve Littlefield have all participated in cooking competitions all over the US– and often, they’ve won. 

Down a country road in Hopkins County, Texas, summer 2021

Ghosts of Hopkins County– For a small county, Hopkins has a surprisingly large number of haunted locations. Spooky stories include the phantom railroad at Century Lake, mysterious sonic booms over the southwest of the county, an alleged Bigfoot spotting and a haunting ghostly bride at Stout’s Creek Cemetery. Hopkins County has been featured on the Ghosts of America website and the Creeping It Real podcast. 

Veteran’s Day Parade 2021

Pacific Park Fitness Center– In 2022, the city became part of the world’s largest outdoor gym network at Pacific Park. The fitness gyms, installed outdoors with help from the National Fitness campaign, are now in over 10,000 cities across the U.S. The outdoor gym features seven areas with seven different types of exercise to target all aspects of the body needed for general conditioning.

Pacific Park fitness center grand opening/ Chamber of Commerce

Ham scramble– Sulphur Springs is home to what may be the largest game of musical chairs in the state of Texas– and local residents call it the Ham Scramble. The Ham Scramble dates back to the late 1980s when SSMS teacher Johnny Wells founded the event to benefit the gifted and talented program. 

Wells was given a whole pig and instructed to use it for fundraising– and thus, came up with the idea and the name for the Ham Scramble. Over the years, more than 100 participants have gathered every April on the downtown lawn to play musical chairs. Research seems to suggest there is no other Texas city with a large-scale game of musical chairs. 

Historical photo of Chamberlain Cafe/ June Tuck collection

Historical markers– Hopkins County folk love their history, and have the documentation to prove it. The county is home to over 40 historical markers which indicate the area’s transition from pioneer past in the 1840s to thriving commerce in the 1900s and its present as an ever-growing destination to live, work and play. 

Work at KSLR airport

Award-winning city– The city of Sulphur Springs has won numerous awards for its forward-thinking urban planning. Major awards include:

Of course, each individual citizen finds the city unique and special in different ways. What do you love about Sulphur Springs?

Sulphur Springs & Hopkins County Fast Facts:

  • Population of Sulphur Springs: 16,014 (2019)
  • Population of Hopkins County: 37,084 (2019)
  • Sulphur Springs schools: 4,400 students enrolled in five elementary schools, a middle school and high school. There are three private school campuses in the community and a center for higher education
  • Hopkins County schools: Seven districts- Como-Pickton, Cumby, Miller Grove, North Hopkins, Saltillo, Sulphur Bluff, and Sulphur Springs.
  • Services: 100-bed hospital facility, a police and sheriff department, five banks, and over 115 churches
  • Recreation: 40,000 square foot livestock pavilion, 66,000 square feet Civic Center, a public library, 3,000 acres of parks, a municipal airport, eight hotels, more than 50 food service establishments

By Taylor Nye. Photos by Taylor Nye and Chad Kopal unless otherwise noted. John Sellers contributed to this report. 

Written By
Taylor Nye

Taylor Nye is the editor of Front Porch News. She has degrees from the University of Wisconsin in human biology, Latin American studies, and public health. She has previously worked at the Wisconsin State Journal, Tucson Weekly and Sulphur Springs News-Telegram. As a sixth generation Hopkins County resident, she loves celebrating our heritage and history.