The Festival Hill Gardens & Grounds committee has been hard at work restoring the spectacular outdoor environments at Round Top’s beloved Festival Hill Institute performance venue. The group’s volunteer service days have resulted in the successful beautification of several areas. And a slate of additional projects that aim to engage the local community in the preservation of this hidden gem are in the works. 

The Gardens & Grounds committee was spearheaded by late entrepreneur, humanitarian and creative genius Cisco Pinedo, who was also the founder and owner of sustainable furniture and design store Cisco Home, the Cisco Village shopping venue and lodging and events venue Oak Bones

Cisco referred to the Festival Hill grounds as the “Central Park of Texas” and was passionate about improving the 210-acre campus, which began in the early 1970s with the purchase of a six-acre plot by world renowned concert pianist and Round Top Festival Institute founder and artistic director James Dick. There are currently about 17 themed gardens placed throughout the property. The gardens feature everything from rare and unusual shrubs and trees to herbs and fruit trees. There’s even a garden dedicated to medicinal cacti. 

Cisco’s niece Paloma Pinedo worked alongside her uncle to plan, organize and fundraise for outdoor improvement projects at Festival Hill up until his unexpected death in February. She now carries the torch for the Festival Hill Gardens & Grounds team, whose stated goal is to “bring joy and inspiration through the beauty of nature, conservation and learning, while actively involving local support and cultivating a sense of togetherness.”

The Gardens & Grounds planning committee is led Paloma Pinedo, who is also the special projects manager for Cisco Village and Oak Bones. Other planning committee members include Fayette Community Foundation’s Public Initiatives program director Jamie Lee Manning, Festival Hill site horticulturalist Julia Johnson and Festival Hill associate curator Pat Johnson.

Together with generous sponsors and some very hands-on volunteers, the team began tackling outdoor projects at Festival Hill in November of 2022. Sponsors — including Superior Gloves, The Crown Bar, Round Top Lions Club, All Points Hauling & Equipment, The Stone Cellar, Jordan Geibel Creative, The Eklektik Peacock, 29 House Bakery, Lollitop Sweetshop, Champions Tree Preservation and Bodega Wine Market — have all provided funding and volunteers to help clear brush and trees, remove weeds, add new plants and spread tons of mulch. 

A project to restore the gardens adjacent to Festival Hill’s Menke House in May included the repainting of a pair of benches outside the circa 1902 Victorian. The Menke House serves as a dining hall and provides lodging, meeting and practice and rehearsal space for artists, faculty and staff. 

In June, the group spruced up the grounds in preparation for Festival Hill’s Summer Festival Institute. Renowned music educators and gifted students from all over the world delighted in the newly improved gardens during their six-week stay, but the Gardens & Grounds crew is far from finished with its work. 

Cisco, Paloma and Cisco’s daughter Maurishka Pinedo set their sights on improving the Festival Hill walking trails last summer after exploring them on foot. 

“We realized that there was so much potential for the walking trails on the property, and it looked like Festival Hill could use a hand to make that happen,” Paloma Pinedo tells “As we continued to walk, we started spit-balling ideas on how to engage with the community and be a part of this hidden gem which Cisco famously called The Central Park of Texas.”

The addition of a birding trail is the first of several projects planned for the walking trails. Other upcoming projects include the cleanup and restoration of the Shakespeare Garden, the installation of a pollinator garden and restoration of the Green House. 

Building community through volunteering with the Festival Hill Gardens & Grounds team

All are welcome to get their hands dirty for a good cause by signing up for upcoming service days. Remaining volunteer days for 2023 are September 9 and November 25. Volunteer days are also scheduled for February 3 and May 9, 2024. For more information on how to volunteer with The Festival Hill Gardens & Grounds team, contact Julia Johnson at (979) 249-3129 or email [email protected]

If you are unable to attend a service day at Festival Hill, but would like to make a charitable donation towards this significant project, click here. Be sure to note that gift is intended for the Gardens & Grounds project. If you are a first time donor, you will need to click here to register your email address.