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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


This content is accurate and true to the best of the author’s knowledge and is not meant to substitute for formal and individualized advice from a qualified professional.

© 2010 Peggy Woods

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