Written by Texas Highways
The scene is wistfully familiar. As I pull off US 83 and into the stables at Elm Creek Ranch near Concan, there are a dozen or so horses saddled and tethered to the open-air barn where round bales of hay are stacked to the ceiling. A mess of chickens scratch around the yard, an old dog snoozes in the shade, and a frisky chestnut foal prances around the ring. Clayton Kessler, a strapping 27-year-old roper, is attempting to shoe an impatient cream-colored horse. His grandfather, George Streib, a veteran rancher who originated the trail rides and other offerings here, sits at a nearby picnic table, offering unsolicited advice. The horse paws at the dirt, irritated. George looks at me and winks; I smile in return, feeling the deep swell of happiness that comes from seeing an old friend.
Jefferson may be best known for its rich history as a 19th-Century steamboat river port, but the region’s railroad heritage takes center stage May 14-15 at Jefferson Train Days. The weekend includes a model train show with operating demos, clinics, vendors, and a play area for kids; guided tours of railroad tycoon Jay Gould’s private 1888 rail car, complete with plush couches, ice boxes, and a bathtub; rides and gunfighter reenactments on the Historic Jefferson Railway steam train; and the Jefferson Historical Museum’s expansive model of the Texas & Pacific Railway’s West Texas system circa 1950.
I know a museum has triumphed when I leave a bit stunned, new realizations having just taken hold. Before my recent visit to the National Museum of the Pacific War and Admiral Nimitz Museum in Fredericksburg, I had considered the site a destination solely for World War II history buffs. And while I was surprised to find the artifacts of war so intriguing, that realization is not the one that left me teary-eyed in the penultimate exhibition room. I was startled by how, in weaving together the complex threads of history, the museum tells the story of a whole generation— and in that telling, there is a story of my family, too.
Anyone who travels to a big city for vacation knows that apart from lodging, food, and shopping splurges, the other big expense—especially if you have a family—is admission to attractions. Those costs can be shaved by at least 40 percent in Dallas and Houston, thanks to a program called CityPASS.
Summer doesn’t officially start until late June, but Memorial Day weekend sure feels like the season’s debut as events across the state celebrate the three-day weekend and pay tribute to our nation’s war dead. In the cowboy country of Bandera, Funtier Days (May 28-29) features a Memorial Day parade with 90 entries, including veterans groups, and a bustling arts-and-crafts fair on the courthouse lawn. Local restaurants and bars hop with live music, and at 7:30 p.m. May 27-29, the Bandera ProRodeo Association hosts its annual PRCA Memorial Day Rodeo at Mansfield Park Arena, a classic outdoor venue.
A long the Texas Gulf Coast, a series of decommissioned ships navigate the nation’s maritime history. In Galveston, the 1877 tall ship Elissa recalls the waning days of international sailing ship commerce while the submarine USS Cavalla chronicles the deep-sea battlegrounds of World War II and the Cold War. In La Porte and Corpus Christi, respectively, the imposing Battleship Texas and aircraft carrier USS Lexington reflect the American Naval might of the 20th-Century world wars.
In these modern times, the words “music festival” make me think of Jumbotrons and multiple stages, $225 wristbands and the Foo Fighters. There’s none of that at the Tejano Conjunto Festival, a celebration of Tex-Mex accordion music that started in San Antonio in 1982 and maintains an old school feel as it enters its 35th year this May.
Since 1966, premiere jazz players from across the nation have made an annual pilgrimage to Odessa for the West Texas Jazz Party—a series of performances focused on traditional jazz and swing music. May 20–22, the West Texas Jazz Society hosts the 50th edition of the party at the MCM Eleganté Hotel. The event includes four-hour performances on Friday and Saturday nights and Sunday afternoon—broken into ensemble sets—as well as a Thursday swing dance and a Saturday brunch show. Twenty-three musicians are scheduled to attend, among them pianist Johnny Varro from Florida, and from New York, cornetist Ed Polcer and clarinetist Ken Peplowski.
Wildflower Days are upon us! Along with springtime’s burst of blooms across the state, the season heralds the annual Wildflower Days celebration at the University of Texas at Austin Lady Bird Johnson Wildflower Center (through May 31). Texas Highways is proud to participate with a fetching exhibit of wildflower photography. This year’s show, Wild Thing, runs April 30–May 30 at the center’s McDermott Learning Center and features images from Texas Highways’ April wildflower issue and expert shutterbug contributors Theresa DiMenno, Rob Greebon, and Joe Lowery.
Here in Wimberley, a town of less than 3,000 in the heart of the Hill Country, visitors and residents alike describe the scene as “bootiful.”
From a perch beyond the left-field fence, the mid-summer scene unfolds like a real-life Field of Dreams. An afternoon thunderstorm gives way to puffy clouds. Scores of youngsters stream onto the outfield turf with their mitts and new souvenir baseballs for a session of pitch-and-catch with their parents.
Many of you may find the thought of school in the summer somewhat, well, less than exciting. We get that. But our idea of summer school means learning how to have more fun. The kind of school where you pick up a skill—say cooking, sewing, or glassblowing—that lets you entertain or test your creativity. Classtime spent near the water, learning fun things—perhaps fly-fishing, sailing, kayaking, or sandcastle-building. Places to find a new activity you can enjoy over and over again, such as horseback riding or birding. Or, ones that offer the opportunity to explore and learn more about our natural world, the better to appreciate its amazingness and importance.