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Celebrating Popeye the Sailor Man With Spinach Festival in Crystal City, TX

I live in Houston and have worked as a nurse. I have a lifelong passion for traveling, nature, and photography (preferably all together!).

Popeye and Olive Oyl in "A Date to Skate" (1938)

Popeye and Olive Oyl in "A Date to Skate" (1938)

Crystal City, Texas

What do Popeye the Sailor Man and an annual spinach festival have to do with Crystal City, Texas? The answer is everything! The folks who live in Crystal City have proclaimed themselves to be the "Spinach Capital of the World." The spinach festival dates back to 1936!

This small town in Texas celebrates all things Popeye and all things spinach every year during their annual spinach festival. The dates set for the festival are always the second weekend in November of each year. The picture below is the Popeye monument in Crystal City erected on March 26, 1937. It sits in the center of the town.

If attending this annual festival, be prepared to taste all sorts of recipes using this healthy ingredient. One can exit this spinach festival sated with tasty food in one's stomach as well as lots of information that one might never have previously known. I have driven through this small town but never during the festival, which attracts tourists from distant locations for several days of fun.

Popeye the Sailor Man is an apt symbol of the South Texas town near which huge spinach farms thrive. Crystal City, Texas

Popeye the Sailor Man is an apt symbol of the South Texas town near which huge spinach farms thrive. Crystal City, Texas

Fictional Hero

Is there anyone alive today who is unfamiliar with the fictional hero Popeye the Sailor Man? Created by Elzie Crisler Segar, this middle-aged sailor man with the large tattooed forearms and his famous corncob pipe has been gracing comic strips since January 17, 1929. Popeye was first in a comic strip called the Thimble Theater, and as his popularity rapidly grew, the strip became solely known as Popeye.

No matter what kind of trouble Popeye encountered (and that was comically often), he could always get out of the latest scrape by ingesting his can of spinach, which was conveniently nearby. Fortuitously, he often had a can of spinach hidden in his clothing. After consuming the spinach, which gave him superhuman strength, he could whip around and, in a whirl of activity, remedy the dire situation which was at hand. Much of this occurred in a comical slap-stick manner.

Olive Oyl

This slim lady with the long legs was Popeye's sweetheart. He often had to contend with the corpulent Bluto or other characters to maintain Olive Oyl's affection.
Many an episode either written for the strip comics or scripted for television shows or even cartoon shorts for Paramount Pictures in the 1930s used this love triangle to best advantage for the subject matter.

I am old enough to remember when there were cartoons and also news shorts. Those were short little episodes of various subjects between the main features in movie theaters. I'm dating myself here. Haha!

Popeye Meets Ali Baba's Forty Thieves (1937)

Popeye Meets Ali Baba's Forty Thieves (1937)

Spinach Capital of the World

Alma, Arkansas, also claims this title of being the "Spinach Capital of the World," and with some good reason. Allen Canning is the home and marketing company for the numerous cans of Popeye spinach produced here. The squinty-eyed old sailor man graces each can, and I have personally consumed many of them in my years.

Compared to canned, fresh spinach, if lightly cooked, has a better flavor, in my opinion. Eating spinach raw in salads is also good, and it is highly nutritious.

An interesting statistic gathered from Wikipedia is that spinach consumption increased 33% in the years 1931 to 1936 when Popeye became widely known. Just how many mothers used Popeye the Sailor Man as an example to encourage their children to eat more spinach? We will never know, but we can only speculate. Something helped increase consumption, and it is as good a reason as any!

Funny Song

Somehow, along the way, the Popeye song became distorted into a silly ditty that I remember singing as a kid. I do not know the author. It went like this:

"I'm Popeye the Sailor Man
I live in a garbage can
I like to go swimmin'
with beautiful women
I'm Popeye the Sailor Man."

Do any of you remember singing this when you were kids? My husband also remembers this from his childhood.


Eating spinach, raw or lightly cooked, is almost like taking a multi-vitamin pill insofar as getting a variety of vitamins and minerals when one reads what this vegetable contains.

Spinach has good antioxidants, Vitamins A, C, E, and K, and several of the B vitamins in addition to elements such as calcium, iron, zinc, magnesium, phosphorus, and so forth. The list is long as to what is in this vegetable except for calories. One cup of raw spinach has a mere seven calories! However, not all of those nutrients are easily absorbed.

Spinach also contains oxalic acid, which blocks some of the health benefits of the body being able to utilize the iron. This oxalic acid can be avoided by pairing spinach with another food containing Vitamin C. Think of that Vitamin C as a ninja warrior unleashing the power of the beneficial iron from the spinach. Go, ninja warrior! Oxalic acid can be a problem for people who tend to develop kidney stones or gout. So people should limit their consumption of spinach if prone to developing those maladies.

The use of pesticides in the mass production of spinach is another concern. Buying organic or growing your spinach is one way to avoid the pesticides on this food source.

The vast majority of the spinach grown in the United States comes from California, with other states also contributing to a lesser extent. I vividly remember driving through the central valley of California with a girlfriend years ago while on vacation.
Those fields of produce seemingly stretched out forever on either side of the road with the endless rows of cultivated fields meeting the horizon.


Popeye lives on through the continued use of various forms of advertising. There was even a live-action film in 1980 starring Robin Williams as Popeye and Shelley Duvall playing the role of Olive Oyl.

Whether spotting that statue in Crystal City, Texas, or attending their annual spinach festival, Popeye the Sailor Man forever remains an iconic spokesman for the value of eating spinach in comics, films, games, and more.

When thinking of interesting Texas sites to see, Crystal City would be a fun place to visit during their spinach festival each year.

Crystal City, Texas


© 2010 Peggy Woods

Comments are welcomed.

Peggy Woods (author) from Houston, Texas on March 08, 2020:

Hi Marshall,

Popeye is definitely a classic old cartoon figure and one that I well remember from my youth. Thanks for your comment.

Marshall Fish on March 08, 2020:


What a fun hub about Popeye and spinach. I recently wrote a hub/review here on a Popeye 1948-1949 Blu-ray release, so it's good to see another hub on this classic cartoon/comic strip character. Also, it was nice to learn about the Spinach Festival, the nutritional value of the vegetable, and more.


Peggy Woods (author) from Houston, Texas on September 20, 2018:

Hi Patty,

Robin Williams did such a great job portraying Popeye. Your student who could imitate him must have been a lot of fun to be around.

Patty Inglish MS from USA and Asgardia, the First Space Nation on September 18, 2018:

I tutored a student who could do an imitation of Robin Williams doing Popeye. Too much laughing to get much done!

Thanks for this article - I loved Robin as Popeye and Ray Walston as Poopdeck Pappy.

Peggy Woods (author) from Houston, Texas on September 18, 2018:

Hi Ethel,

I think that most kids who grew up when the Popeye cartoons were being shown liked them. We also like our spinach. It must have been amazing to visit that Popeye Village and see it in person. Sounds like fun!

Ethel Smith from Kingston-Upon-Hull on September 18, 2018:

Loved Popeye as a kid and as an adult love Spinach. We visited Malta in the late 1990s and visited Popeye Village. The set of the Robin Williams movie has been turned into a theme park.

Thanks Peggy

Robert Sacchi on March 19, 2018:

Yes, on TV they were showing several generations of Popeye cartoons.

Peggy Woods (author) from Houston, Texas on March 18, 2018:

Hi Robert,

Those Popeye cartoons were all the rage when I was young and I am sure more spinach was eaten by kids because of that influence. They really celebrate spinach and Popeye in Crystal City, Texas.

Robert Sacchi on March 14, 2018:

I loved reading this article. Popeye was my favorite back in the day. I enjoyed watching the cartoon in your article. I heard of Crystal City, TX but I wasn't aware of the Spinach Festival. I was in San Antonio when Popeye the movie came out. It was a box office bust but the movie was popular in San Antonio.

Peggy Woods (author) from Houston, Texas on June 01, 2016:

Hi NBYomi,

I think that many of us were encouraged to eat spinach because of those old Popeye cartoons. My favorite way to eat spinach today is fresh or lightly sauteed although I can still enjoy canned on occasion. My mother used to crumble some saltine crackers in it and put a poached egg on top. Made for a good and inexpensive meal.

N B Yomi from Dallas, TX on May 31, 2016:

Right, I keep forgetting how big Texas is. And given that Crystal City is a six hour drive from Dallas, I'm putting a trip to The Spinach Festival on my bucket list. It'd be a good reason to travel out of town. Not to mention I'm curious on how the festival operates. Not to mention I'm curious to see if I'm not the only person who eats Spinach because he used to watch Popeye cartoons as a kid.

I have a hunch that trend might have transcended generations.

Peggy Woods (author) from Houston, Texas on May 31, 2016:

Hello NBYomi,

Texas is such a large state that it would take a lifetime to learn about everything happening in this state...particularly seasonal things like recurring festivals. Will you be planning a trip to the next Spinach Festival? :)

N B Yomi from Dallas, TX on May 30, 2016:

I've lived in Texas for 19 years, this article is five years old.... How did I not know about this festival until today?

Peggy Woods (author) from Houston, Texas on March 28, 2013:

Hi Vinaya,

Popeye the Sailor Man was a very popular cartoon character that was not only in comic book form but also on television when I was a child growing up. It was a cute series. Glad that you found it interesting. Thanks for your comment.

Vinaya Ghimire from Nepal on March 28, 2013:

As someone living on the another part of the globe,I knew nothing about this. I found this very interesting.

Peggy Woods (author) from Houston, Texas on March 21, 2013:

Hi Indian Chef,

I think that the Popeye cartoons encouraged many a child to start eating spinach. :))

Peggy Woods (author) from Houston, Texas on March 21, 2013:

Hi moonlake,

That Popeye statue is in Crystal City, Texas instead of the canning facility in Arkansas. We loved watching those Popeye cartoons also when we were young. Ha! Thanks for your comment, vote and the share. :)

Indian Chef from New Delhi India on March 21, 2013:

Popyee the sailor man when it started to air in India , i was too old for cartoons about 13 or so but i still watched cartoons. I didn't eat spinach before but then after seeing him, i started to eat too and later came to know that spinach was full of iron so mr popyee was right.

moonlake from America on March 17, 2013:

When we were kids on Saturday morning Popeye was our favorite cartoon. Allen Canning Company is based in Siloam Springs, Arkansas were my family members live. I've been to Alma but never noticed Popeye will have to look for him next time. Interesting hub voted up and shared.

Peggy Woods (author) from Houston, Texas on December 11, 2012:

Hi Rajan,

All of the many Popeye films take me back to my childhood days also when I used to watch them with my younger brothers. They are cute even today. I have been to Crystal City, but not during the spinach festival. I would imagine that would be a fun time to visit. Appreciate your votes and the share. Thanks!

Rajan Singh Jolly from From Mumbai, presently in Jalandhar, INDIA. on December 10, 2012:

Hi Peggy, reading this hub was like going back in time and remembering reading the comics of one of my favorite cartoon characters. Later on, I did see many of Popeye's animated films and I enjoy watching them to this day.

Very interesting to learn that a spinach festival is dedicated to this famous cartoon character. It surely would be great fun to visit Crystal city during the celebrations. I can only envision it.

Many thanks for sharing such interesting information.

Voting this up, interesting and sharing it too.

Peggy Woods (author) from Houston, Texas on February 15, 2012:

Hello ishwaryaa22,

I also loved those Popeye cartoons when I was young and to this day love eating spinach. Glad to be able to share this information with you about Crystal City and its relevance to spinach. Thanks for your comment.

Ishwaryaa Dhandapani from Chennai, India on February 15, 2012:

Entertaining hub! As a kid,I watched Popeye cartoons on Cartoon Network-it is still viewed by newer generations! I like spinach and its recipes. I am surprised to hear now that Crystal city called itself "Spinach Capitol" and even enacted Popeye giant statue as a tribute to a legendary comic & cartoon hero. I see why the spinach consumption was higher in the 1930s-that time Popeye was extremely well-known.

I enjoyed reading this wonderful hub. Thank u for sharing. Awesome and Interesting. Vote up.

Peggy Woods (author) from Houston, Texas on October 04, 2011:

Hi lori,

You've got the wrong Peggy but glad that you have such happy memories of your time spent with the one you remember. Did the show originate in Crystal City, Texas?

lori on October 04, 2011:

hi peggy...i was on your show waaaaay back in the 70"s would love to see that just for old time sake. it was from peter switch church of the nazarene..i was only 10 then...46 now..geeez..just thought it would be fun to see...wish channel 4 had re-runs ..lol i love stuff like that!!!

Peggy Woods (author) from Houston, Texas on December 04, 2010:

Hello travel_man1971,

It sounds as though you lead an interesting life. Like you and your shipmates, I prefer fresh spinach to canned. Popeye the Sailor Man undoubtedly encouraged many a child to eat their spinach! So you see Texas...at least the port cities. Do you get a chance to do any exploring of those regions? Thanks for the comment.

Ireno Alcala from Bicol, Philippines on December 04, 2010:

I began loving spinach when I read the comic strip featuring Popeye..and the song "Popeye the sailor man ..and the movie, too (starring Robin Williams). On board ship I usually prepared sauteed fresh spinach (not canned) with parboiled rice, thickened with egg and sprinkled with white cheese crumble for the Greek officers. They eat lots of spinach (they prefer fresh), in spinakopita (baked spinach-cheese mix in phyllo leaves), boiled spinach leaves, among others. And the nutritional value of spinach for sailors (to prevent scurvy ^-^). Thanks for raising awareness regarding our 'cartoon hero'. We frequent Texas ports (Houston, Texas City, Galveston and Corpus Christi) for the past five years and often receive fresh and frozen provisions there, with lots of Spinach, minus Popeye. ;)

Peggy Woods (author) from Houston, Texas on November 26, 2010:

Hi Cheryl,

Glad that you enjoyed this hub about Popeye the Sailor Man. I was humming it for days after writing this hub. Ha! Thanks for the comment.

Cheryl J. from Houston, TX on November 26, 2010:

I loved Popeye the sailor man. Many kids loved the fact that eating spinach made their muscles bigger. Great hub.

Peggy Woods (author) from Houston, Texas on November 18, 2010:

Hi Micky,

I also love spinach and who doesn't like Popeye the Sailor Man! I can relate to that statement..."I yam whut I yam!" Haha! Thanks!

Micky Dee on November 18, 2010:

I love spinach and Popeye! Thank you Peggy! I yam whut I yam!

Peggy Woods (author) from Houston, Texas on November 17, 2010:

Hi Prasetio,

So very nice of you to compliment me so on this Popeye the Sailor Man hub. Yes...he surely loved his spinach and encouraged children all across the world to eat their spinach. Amazing when you think of what cartoon figures can accomplish!

prasetio30 from malang-indonesia on November 17, 2010:

WOW..WOW..WOW. You did a great job, Peggy. No wonder, kids love spinach by seeing their cartoon hero also eat spinach. It's remind me again how my mother always turn on my television to raise my appetite while watching Popeye. I love your presentation. This hub absolutely great and beautiful. Good work, my friend. I give my Vote up special for you. Cheers......


Peggy Woods (author) from Houston, Texas on November 17, 2010:

Hi Sally's Trove,

So happy to hear that this hub about Popeye the Sailor Man had you smiling with pleasant memories. I find myself humming that tune every now and then since writing this hub. Haha! Thanks for the comment.

Sherri from Southeastern Pennsylvania on November 17, 2010:

Maybe Segar was way ahead of his time in pairing Popeye's spinach with Olive Oyle...good, nutritious foods! LOL

Like Stephanie, I remember the line, "I'm good to the finach 'cause I eats me spinach" (taking liberties with how I remember the voice).

Thanks for this wonderful Hub that kept me smiling with pleasant memories from beginning to end.

Peggy Woods (author) from Houston, Texas on November 16, 2010:

Hi Hello, hello,

While the spinach festival in Crystal City, Texas may not be familiar to many people across the globe, Popeye the Sailor Man seems to have gotten world-wide attention. Oh those sailor men! Haha! Glad you liked this!

Hello, hello, from London, UK on November 16, 2010:

It was and still lovely. Thank you for the trip down memory lane.

Peggy Woods (author) from Houston, Texas on November 15, 2010:

Hi daydreamer13,

You join droves of people world-wide who know and love Popeye the Sailor Man. Thanks for the comment!

daydreamer13 on November 15, 2010:

I love Popeye! So glad I got to read this!

Peggy Woods (author) from Houston, Texas on November 15, 2010:

Hi Pamela,

Just seeing these old cartoons of Popeye the Sailor Man also reminded me of my childhood. Spinach consumption went way up because of Popeye and mothers using him as an example. :-)

Peggy Woods (author) from Houston, Texas on November 15, 2010:

Hello agusfanani,

It would seem that Popeye the Sailor Man is known for encouraging people to eat their spinach all around many parts of the world. Popeye was a friendly rascal of a character and provided much good entertainment as you noted. I liked seeing these old cartoons again. Happy to hear that you did also.

Pamela Oglesby from Sunny Florida on November 15, 2010:

Peggy, This reminded me of my childhood also. Eating your spinach was quite a big deal and we all loved Popeye.

agusfanani from Indonesia on November 14, 2010:

All my family like Popeye and I used to watch its cartoon movie in at my teen age, he also helped my mom persuade her children to consume spinach. Besides encouraging children to like spinach, Popeye also taught other positive lessons.

Peggy Woods (author) from Houston, Texas on November 14, 2010:

Hi Stephanie,

I think that song of Popeye the Spinach Man was used by many mothers all across America when trying to get their kids to eat more spinach. Haha! Even though I MUCH prefer fresh spinach, I can still eat canned. It is a totally different taste! So you have actually seen the Popeye statue in Crystal City, Texas! It is unusual but fun. Thanks for the comment.

Peggy Woods (author) from Houston, Texas on November 14, 2010:

Hello Charlu,

I'm like you in so far as not having seen these cartoons of Popeye the Sailor Man in a long time. Was fun reviewing each video! As to attending the spinach festival in Crystal City, Texas...bet that is fun also. Thanks for the comment.

Stephanie Henkel from USA on November 14, 2010:

I loved this hub because it brought back memories of my mother singing the song while trying to get us kids to eat CANNED spinach!

The line I remember is, "I'm strong to the finish 'cause I eat my spinach, I'm Popeye the Sailor Man!"

But, oh, that canned spinach was awful! I do love it fresh, now.

It would be fun to go to the Spinach Festival. We saw the statue of Popeye once in Crystal City and thought it was pretty funny.

Charlu from Florida on November 14, 2010:

Thank you I love Popeye and haven't watched him in I can't tell you how long Nice job

Peggy Woods (author) from Houston, Texas on November 14, 2010:

Hi dahoglund,

I also enjoyed watching the many different Popeye the Sailor Man cartoons when I was young. Doing this hub took me back to my childhood days in memory. Guess I remain just a kid at heart. Haha! Thanks for the first comment.

Don A. Hoglund from Wisconsin Rapids on November 14, 2010:

Up and beautiful.Popeye at the Saturday matinee was always good. Very lively cartoons. I'm not crazy about the ones my grandchildren watch, but that goes with every generation, i guess.

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