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Port Mansfield is known as a sportsman’s paradise, but the tiny fishing village on the Laguna Madre is also a paradise for wildlife … and wildlife watchers. That’s evident in the herds of white-tailed deer that roam the main drag and residential streets, slipping between boat-storage buildings and parked cars. Other deer stand as motionless as yard ornaments at street corners. Plump, bronze turkeys gobble up insects in front of the Port Mansfield Sunset House motel, while short, sturdy javelina trot from scrub brush to corn feeders, which are as commonplace here as bird feeders. And that’s just the land animals.


It just isn’t Christmas without observing that time-honored custom—driving around to look at the lights. You say the bigger the display, the better? Well, I have a “must-see” tree for you.

Ornette Coleman, courtsey of Big HassleBy Reggie Ugwu     


In the 1950s and 1960s, when most jazz artists were producing smooth and danceable tunes that entered the mainstream, pioneer saxophonist Ornette Coleman revitalized and challenged the genre with an innovative and improvisational approach known as free jazz.


He was born in Fort Worth in 1930, a time when there were few opportunities for African-Americans. But Coleman, whose was raised by his widowed mother, bought his first alto saxophone at the age of 14 and taught himself to play.


The budding musician soon began playing in local rhythm and blues bands, and he developed an unorthodox style early on, so much so that he had difficulty finding like-minded musicians who were comfortable with his loose treatment of harmony and chord progression.


It was his six-week gig at the legendary Five Spot nightclub in New York, that announced Coleman as one of the genre’s most exciting and original forces.


Coleman’s 1960 release Free Jazz: A Collective Improvisation, made his most lasting impact on jazz culture. Ornette fortified a new genre that would adopt the album title as its own. At nearly 40 minutes long, the Free Jazz session was the longest recorded continuous session by any ensemble to date.


Coleman and his band continue to tour today. See Ornette Coleman online for tour dates, a discography, and more information.


Also, check out more information on Jazz festivals in Texas.

Jazz festivals abound in Texas this fall. Tune in, and turn on.


On September 20-21, thousands of jazz fans convene at downtown San Antonio’s Travis Park to enjoy the 25th anniversary of the popular (and free) Jazz’SAlive festival. Six national acts play two stages on Saturday and Sunday nights, while local acts fill slots during the day. Bring a picnic blanket or a lawn chair, and settle in for showtime. Call 210/212-8423;


From September 26-28, the 11th Annual Jazz Festival in Kemah brings in dozens of national and local acts to play outdoor sets on the festive Kemah Boardwalk. Shop, eat, listen to music, and repeat. Admission is free. Call 877/ATKEMAH;


From October 9-12, the Brownsville Society for the Performing Arts hosts the annual Latin Jazz Festival, a four-day event that includes free performances by local acts on Thursday, national performers playing paid shows on Friday and Saturday, and an all-day street festival in the downtown historic district on Sunday. Call 956/831-7818;


From October 17-19, the Texas Jazz Festival in Corpus Christi attracts 50,000 jazz fans to Heritage Park and the downtown and water-front areas. More than 50 local, national, and international acts showcase jazz styles from all over the world. Admission is free. Call 361/883-4500;


Looking ahead: Mark your 2009 calendar for the annual Jazz Festival in Addison (April 16-18, 2009) and the annual Houston International Jazz Festival (July 29-August 2, 2009) in Houston.

By: Sheryl Smith-Rodgers


Like a true Texan, Lyndon Baines Johnson often drawled “y’all come see us, heah” to friends and strangers alike. One invitation in particular strengthened diplomatic ties between the United States and Pakistan and created a media flurry.


While on a goodwill tour of Asia in spring 1961, Johnson—then vice president—shook hands with cheering crowds, handed out pens, and offhandedly invited spectators to visit him in the United States. In Pakistan, on his way from the airport into Karachi, Johnson got out of his car, jogged alongside the motorcade, and started his customary handshaking. Spotting a barefoot man next to a camel, Johnson chatted with him through an interpreter. Naturally, the conversation ended with one of Johnson’s open-ended invitations.


The next day, Dawn, Karachi’s English-language newspaper, headlined the encounter and praised Johnson for reaching out to camel driver Bashir Ahmad, “the man with no shirt on his back.” U.S. Embassy officials urged Johnson to make the trip happen or else he’d look like a fool.


That fall, Ahmad flew to New York. Johnson whisked him away to Texas, where he stayed at the LBJ Ranch near Stonewall. During his three-day visit, the vice president showed him around the ranch, took him horseback riding, and hosted a barbecue in his honor. Ahmad charmed Americans with his eloquence and grace. “Smoother than a camel,” he remarked of his horse ride. After learning about Texas history and culture from folklorist J. Frank Dobie and historian Walter Prescott Webb, Ahmad responded: “Well-said words are like golden plums in silver bowls.”


On their final day together, Johnson escorted Ahmad to the Texas State Fair in Dallas, then Ahmad toured parts of Missouri before returning to Pakistan. After Ahmad returned home, Pakistani and United States officials heralded the trip as a diplomatic victory.



By Nola McKey


While Lubbock is a relatively new city—the High Plains hub celebrates its centennial this year—the area has surprisingly strong connections to late-medieval Europe. A major exhibition highlighting these connections, The Medieval Southwest: Manifestations of the Old World in the New, opened at Texas Tech University’s Southwest Collection on Aug. 25 and runs through April 4, 2009. Among the items displayed: a chain mail gauntlet, a horseshoe, and two coins from the 1480s, which were left behind by members of Vásquez de Coronado’s expedition in the 1600s as they passed through nearby Blanco Canyon looking for the Lost City of Gold.


The exhibit also includes items from the 18th-Century Mission and Presidio San Sabá sites near Menard, which Texas Tech researchers have been excavating since 2000. The sites have yielded such treasures as a gunstock, knives, mouth harps, dice, glass beads, and kitchen items. Texas Tech scholars at the university’s campus in Seville, Spain, have simultaneously searched the Archive of the Indies in an effort to fill in historical gaps and have found maps, orders for equipment, and other documents related to the San Sabá venture.


Medieval Southwest gives visitors a glimpse of the Southwest as it was at the end of the European Middle Ages and reveals how Old World themes and technologies have carried forward. One example: The Texas Tech campus itself, with its original Spanish Renaissance architectural theme, was inspired by the University of Alcalá de Henares near Madrid, Spain, whose main building dates to Coronado’s times.


For more information, call 806/742-3749. 


By Lori Moffatt


It’s time for the state fair! If it has been awhile since you’ve tasted fried peach cobbler-on-a stick, held hands on a Ferris wheel, admired the mirror-like finish on an automobile-of-the-future, caressed the silken coat of a goat, or simply joined the throngs of Texans who make the country’s largest state fair such a rollicking spectacle, we have one simple word for you: Go. It’s your duty as a Texan. Truly, the State Fair of Texas (Sep. 26-Oct. 19), which has focused attention on the state’s agriculture, industry, technology, and traditions since 1886, is an institution unlike any other.


And thanks to independent Texas filmmakers Allen Mondell and Cynthia Salzman Mondell, the fair’s appeal and history have been captured for posterity. The Mondells’ hour-long documentary A Fair to Remember features narration by über-Texan Barry Corbin, whose soothing drawl fits the tale like funnel-cake dough takes to hot oil. To create the visual aspects of the movie, Allen and Cynthia dug through thousands of images chronicling the fair from its inception, as well as years of archival and newsreel footage. They interviewed dozens of key personalities, such as Skip Fletcher, whose relatives introduced the corny dog in 1942, as well as historians knowledgeable about topics ranging from architecture and art to city planning. In documenting the fair, the film also captures the changing social mores of Texas, and of the country.


“We were astounded by the impact the fair has had on families and their traditions,” says Allen. “People told us—again and again—how they came to the fair as little ones with their parents and grandparents, and then eventually took their own kids and grandchildren.”


The film is available through the Mondells’ company Media Projects.

Learn more about the State Fair of Texas at



By Lauren Oakley


Sporting poodle skirts and saddle shoes, and occasionally demonstrating their Hula-hoop finesse, the four members of the oldies group Shake Rattle & Roll take audiences back to the ’50s and ’60s with their spirited rock-n-roll and doo-wop melodies. Lead singer Tavie Spivey of Gilmer created Shake Rattle & Roll—an all-women cover group—to perform at a party a few years ago. The performance was a blast for the group and received so many accolades that Spivey put together a regular line-up: herself, her sister LeAnne Bemis from Longview, Kathy Sutton from Tyler, and Brenda Spencer from Henderson. “Once I heard these ladies sing, I knew right off the bat that they had the voices for Shake Rattle & Roll,” Spivey says.


In November 2007, the group competed in an amateur doo-wop contest in Las Vegas. Their performance of the 1957 hit by The Rays, “Silhouettes on the Shade,” earned them first place, and today, XM radio subscribers can hear the song on the Cool Bobby B Show. The group has more than 50 performances scheduled in the next year, and they’re even working on a CD.


Shake Rattle & Roll will perform at the State Fair of Texas on September 27 and October 18. Along with their big hit, they’ll perform such classic cover tunes as “Lollipop” by The Chordettes, “Lipstick On Your Collar” by Connie Francis, and “Soldier Boy” by The Shirelles.


To see Shake Rattle & Roll’s scheduled performances and times for 2008-2009, check out


By Marty Lange


A county fair represents small-town Texana at its very best. Texas is chock-full of these classics throughout the calendar year, and the month of September is particularly rich. Cotton candy, carnival midways, live country music, corn-on-the-cob, community parades, queen pageants, snow cones, 4-H and FFA livestock shows, and rodeos only begin to account for the many entertaining possibilities. We think it’s fair to say you won’t be disappointed. Here’s a September sampling of longstanding favorites to get you on your way to a delightful day of Ferris wheels, funnel cakes, bingo, and community spirit.


Gregg County Fair,

Longview, September 9-13; 903/753-4478;


Colorado County Fair,

Columbus, September 11-14; 979/732-9266;


Washington County Fair (140 years strong),

Brenham, September 16-20; 979/836-4112;


Howard County Fair,

Big Spring, September 24-27; 432/268-9335;


Titus County Fair,

Mount Pleasant, September 24-27; 903/577-8117;


Comal County Fair,

New Braunfels, September 24-28; 830/625-1505;     


By Marty Lange


While having lunch at the popular comfort-food restaurant Threadgill’s last year during the Austin City Limits Music Festival, I met a group of 50- and 60-something Canadians who had come all the way to Austin for the event.


Not only were they attending the festival, but they were also going to various Austin clubs to see as many Texas acts as they could. They shared their joy of interacting with fans, musicians, music-industry people, other festival participants, and the community at large. I marveled at their passion for the music of such Texas artists as Willie Nelson, ZZ Top, Joe Ely, Asleep at the Wheel, Robert Earl Keen, Spoon, Kelly Willis, Old 97’s, Marcia Ball, Ruthie Foster, Charlie Robison, Steve Earle, Miranda Lambert, Pat Green, Reckless Kelly, Doyle Bramhall II, Dale Watson, Grupo Fantasma, Beto y los Fairlanes, Jimmie Dale Gilmore, Lyle Lovett, ad infinitum. This encounter made abundantly clear the appeal and extensive reach of both Austin and Texas music.


Festival curmudgeons may claim that the heat, crowds, parking, traffic, and accommodations can be problematic. But the thrill of experiencing so many diverse artists in a communal setting clearly trumps any hardships. More than 100 acts will perform this year. Join the fun September 26-28 in Austin's Zilker Park. 


For more information visit Austin’s Zilker Park or call 888/512-SHOW.

Nestled in downtown Dallas’ burgeoning arts district, the Nasher Sculpture Center marks its fifth anniversary in October. To celebrate that landmark, the center mounts an exhibition called  In Pursuit of the Masters: Stories from the Raymond and Patsy Nasher Collection . The exhibition runs September 20 through January 4, 2009

“This exhibition is all about the backstory of the collection, about Ray and Patsy’s passion for collecting,” says acting chief curator Jed Morse. “We’re telling the story of their warm relationships with artists like Henry Moore, Andy Warhol, Beverly Pepper, and Mark di Suvero; and what it was like for the Nashers to live with some of those incredible works of art.”


Some of the pieces, such as Jean Arp’s sculpture Torso With Buds (1961), which Patsy bought for Ray as a birthday present, have never before been shown at the Nasher Sculpture Center. “The main thing that comes through,” says Morse, “is that the collection was a labor a love. They started off collecting very modestly, things they could afford.”


For more details visit The Nasher Sculpture Center or call 214/242-5177. 



Trainers at Sea World use positive reinforcement. Photo compliments of Sea World San AntonioSea World San Antonio celebrates its 20th anniversary this year, and with the season lasting until December 31, you have plenty of time to plan your own wild adventure.  The shows, animal exhibits, and rides make for a special experience anytime, but for an unforgettable adventure, make plans to participate in one of the park’s numerous interaction programs.  Take your turn as an amateur trainer for the park’s curious sea lions and beluga whales, or go behind-the-scenes of the penguin habitat and zoological support area, where you’ll feed stingrays and learn about conservation efforts for such species as Attwater’s prairie chickens.  Or look into the Resident Camp programs (offered for kids and adults), where you can work alongside animal trainers and marine biologists.  See  —L.M.
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