By Stephen R. Farris
Special to the Navco Chronicle
I remember in the spring of 1976 playing soccer at the YMCA on a cool Saturday morning. I played fullback on the Tornadoes. Basically my last season to play YMCA soccer, as 12 was the age limit. I don’t remember exactly who we were playing that day, but I do remember after the game was over mom and I headed downtown to check out this new city wide festival called Derrick Days.
Events were spread around throughout downtown Corsicana. I’d never really been to a festival, except for the Watermelon Festival from my mom’s hometown of McDade.
Derrick Days was different. It was (and still is) based upon Corsicana’s rich oil history. Back in its beginning, there were many events (or competitions) related to the oil industry. Since I’ve not had the experience working as a roughneck, I won’t attempt to seem like I know some of the tools that are used in the trade. However, those early competition events were similar to the Highland games from Scotland, but without the kilts.
One of the primary events that is still presently held from the first Derrick Days, is the minithon. It used to be a 10 mile trek from Rice to Corsicana (if memory serves me correctly). Now it is a 2K and 5K event held in Community Park. Some of you may also remember the kayak races that were held on Richland Creek out at Love Bridge, or the “ironman” race featuring a tricycle, bicycle, kayak, running, and maybe one other thing, that would start in Corsicana then out to Lake Halbert, then back to Corsicana.
Music In the Park is another widely attended event. I remember when I was in high school this event was held at the Jester Park pavilion. Mom and I would grab some grub from the old Bill’s Fried Chicken (the old wood building) and sit out near the creek to listen to the music. Fond memories.
The chili cookoff is another event that has been a staple that continues from the early years of Derrick Days. Primarily, it was held next to the Corsicana Daily Sun up to the mid 2000s. It is still held downtown, paying homage to our Wolf Brand Chili history.
Over the past few years or so, former Corsicana Mayor Buster Brown, has taken folks on tours during Derrick Days to explore the early beginnings of the Corsicana oil boom. The tour includes places of interest in MIldred and Navarro, and to the site of where Tuckertown once stood.
I’m sure I’ve left quite a lot out, but if you want to get a taste of our oil history, make plans to add Derrick Days to your April calendar each year. This year’s event is scheduled for April 30th. To find out more information, check out the City of Corsicana website, or http://www.derrickdays.com.
Other places to visit while you’re in town (or even if you’re a local) are the Pearce Museum, which features western art and a huge display of Civil War artifacts and written letters. The museum is located on the campus of Navarro College.
Another site to take in is Petroleum Park, located on South 12th Street, about a block off of West 7th Avenue. There are a few artifacts related to early oil exploration here in Navarro County, as well as this site being the place where oil was first discovered in Corsicana, setting up the first oil boom for the county.
You’ll also want to check out Pioneer Village over on West Park Avenue, located on the southwest corner of Jester Park. Inside, you’ll find artifacts from the early pioneers of Navarro County, old homes and buildings, a Peace Officer’s Museum, the Lefty Frizzell Museum, an old cotton gin house, and an early gas station and pumps from the early 1920s.
Your visit to Corsicana and Derrick Days won’t be complete without stopping at the world famous Collin Street Bakery and picking up some delicious goodies.
If you’re looking for even more places to visit while you’re in the downtown area, stop in at the Corsicana Visitor’s Center and look through some of the brochures they have.
That’s all for this week folks, until next time!