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Scenic Kerrville: A Popular Destination and a Place to Call Home

June 23, 2023 Texas, Texas History, Member Spotlight

Kerrville’s picturesque Hill Country setting along the scenic Guadalupe River makes it both a great place to live as well as a sought-after weekend destination.

“Kerrville offers not only a small-town relaxed pace of life with a close-knit community but also features the amenities of a growing city along with a myriad of outdoor activities to enjoy,” said Kerrville interim city manager Kim Meismer.

Kerrville’s history, dating back to the 19th century, is full of colorful stories of German pioneers and cowboys beginning major cattle drives on the Great Western Cattle Trail.

Today, the city of approximately 25,000 about 62 miles northwest of San Antonio on I-10 swells when it hosts popular events such as the Kerrville Folk Festival and the Official Texas State Arts and Crafts Fair – events that can draw almost 30,000 people.

Kerrville Was Founded Along the Guadalupe River Bluffs

The original settlement of Kerrville – named for James Kerr who was one of the first settlers in Stephen F. Austin’s first colony in Texas and served as a major in the army of the Texas Republic – was situated on a bluff north of the Guadalupe River.

While Kerrville did not incorporate until 1889, the area was an important hub from the 1850s when German millers started a large grist and sawmill on the bluff.

“This mill, with a permanent source of power and protection from floods, became the most extensive operation of its kind in the Hill Country west of New Braunfels and San Antonio,” says the Texas State Historical Association. “Related mercantile and freighting enterprises led to the foundation of the Charles A. Schreiner family empire of retail, wholesale, banking, ranching, marketing, and brokering operations-which during the next five decades became the catalyst of Kerrville's and the area's early prosperity and growth.”

The 1880s and 1890s saw the cattle drives put the focus on Kerrville and with the San Antonio and Aransas Pass Railway arriving in 1887, incorporation followed two years later.

Founded on an aldermanic form of city government, Kerrville has evolved over the years to a commission form of city government (1917) then a city-manager form (1928), and then a home rule charter with a city manager (1942) to today’s council-manager form of city government.

By the 1990s, steady growth and a bountiful business climate had the Wall Street Journal calling Kerrville “one of the wealthiest small towns in America.”

Kerrville Folk Festival: Entertaining All Ages for 50+ Years

Since 1972, the Kerrville Folk Festival has been entertaining people of all ages from around the world with 18 straight days and nights of concerts and activities in the late spring/early summer.

The festival is held at Quiet Valley Ranch, just about nine miles south of Kerrville.

“The festival is celebrated by a community that considers itself a family and is always delighted to welcome new folks!  When gathered, it becomes the second largest community in Kerr County,” says the festival organizers.

Over 1,500 outstanding singer-songwriters have been presented on festival stages, including the likes of:

  • David Crosby
  • Dixie Chicks
  • Steve Earle
  • Emmylou Harris
  • Vince Gill
  • The Indigo Girls
  • Nanci Griffith
  • Robert Earl Keen
  • Lyle Lovett
  • Willie Nelson
  • Peter Paul & Mary
  • Townes Van Zandt

The nearly 3-week long event includes children’s concerts, a songwriters competition, new folk competition (winners chosen from a field of 800 promising new singer-songwriters), songwriters school, workshops in ukulele, harmonica, and guitar, as well as Hill Country bike rides, canoe trips on the Guadalupe River, guided nature walks, Texas wine, and beer seminars, and evening live music.

“The Kerrville Folk Festival is a magical, transformative experience,” says Travel Mag.

Plenty to Do on a Road Trip to Kerrville

There is no shortage of activities and things to do on a road trip to Kerrville with the Travel Addicts publication calling the city “one of the gems of the Hill Country” with “lots of shopping, art galleries, and theaters, and several riverfront parks.”

Travel Addicts says to not miss out on:

  • James Avery Headquarters: The world-famous jeweler, founded in 1954 in a two-car garage in Kerrville by World War II bomber pilot James Avery, welcomes visitors to stop by its 20-acre Kerrville Retail Store and Visitor Center. Visitors can view various videos about the company, design inspirations, and the jewelry-making process. Open Monday to Saturday from 9 to 6 and noon to 6 on Sunday.
  • Riverside Nature Center: Located in downtown Kerrville at the confluence of Guadalupe River and Town Creek, this nature center is open to the public at no charge. There is a visitor center with exhibits, displays, a gift shop, a resource library, and meeting rooms. There is also a garden that features a natural trail that showcases more than 100 species of native trees and shrubs plus 200+ species of wildflowers, grasses, and ferns. A butterfly garden and Monarch Waystation have been home to 90 species of butterflies.
  • Schreiner Mansion: The Schreiner Mansion Historic Site and Event Center is listed on the National Register of Historic Places and was built in 1879 in downtown Kerrville. The mansion, which looks like a castle, overlooks Peterson Plaza. Tours begin on the half-hour Tuesdays and Thursdays, starting at 10 am with the last tour at 1:30 p.m. Admission fee is $7 for adults and $5 for students.
  • Louise Hays Park: This riverside 64-acre park with a peaceful 2.4 River Loop trail, which includes a 7-acre island with Cypress trees, is just one of the many recreational facilities in Kerrville. In addition to this river trailhead, Kerrville has eight more trailheads for walkers and joggers to enjoy.
  • Kerrville-Schreiner Park: The city’s marquee park is a massive 517 acres and offers a variety of fun camping options such as 30 and 50-amp RV sites, tent camping, cabins, and even a Ranch House. Facilities include a playground, butterfly garden, sand volleyball, 10+ miles of hike and bike trails as well as Guadalupe River access with a river trailhead, kayak, and canoe rentals.

  • Museum of Western Art: Since 1983 this museum has been dedicated to preserving and promoting Western heritage. More than 1.6 million visitors have walked the museum galleries that have exhibits featuring the hardworking cowboys, Native Americans, women of the West, mountain men, settlers, and others. The architecture of the 14,000-square-foot facility, designed by Texas architect O’Neil Ford, is worth a visit alone. Open Tuesday to Saturday, 10 am to 4 pm with adults $7, ages 9 to 17 $5, and 8 and under are free.

  • Kerr Arts & Cultural Center: Founded in 1995 by a group of community artists with a mission to provide a showplace for local artists and advance the arts and cultural education of the Kerrville community. Some 20,000 visitors annually check out the three distinct galleries which house as many as 40 exhibits each year.

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