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The 65-foot-tall Eiffel Tower replica in Paris, Texas. By Stan WilliamsOn July 5, Thousands of multinational cyclists begin the arduous 3,500-kilometer race from Brest to Paris, France, in the 95th Tour de France.  In Paris, Texas, however, most cyclists like their pedal-pushing a little more leisurely: The 24thAnnual Tour de Paris Bike Rally kicksoff July 19 with distances ranging from 15 to 100 kilometers.  Also in Paris, the grounds surrounding the 65-foot tall Eiffel Tower replica make a nice spot for a picnic, perhaps on July 14 in honor of Bastille Day.  Mais oui! Three area sandwich shops—24th Street Café, Sandwich, Etc., and the Texas Belle—can set you up with everything from croissants to baguette sandwiches. Remember: This repast is BYOB—Bring Your Own Blanket.  See  —L.M.

A shimmery sunset over Corpus Christi Bay.  By Lance Varnell

City by the Sea

One of the state’s most exciting Fourth of July celebrations takes place this year in Corpus Christi, where pyrotechnics will launch from the flight deck of the USS Lexington, the hulking World War II-era aircraft carrier now retired to calmer digs in Corpus Christi Bay. But fireworks aren’t the only things making Corpus Christi exciting these days.Here’s a rough plan for a four-day vacation…

Town and Country

If ever an event was aptly named, it's the 48th annual Moulton Town & Country Jamboree. The four-day festival, set for July 24-27 in the Lavaca County community of Moulton, is jam-packed with dozens of activities, from polka-dancing to barbecue cookoffs. (There are also chili cookoffs, a pie-baking contest, and a belt-busting feast lauded as “Moulton’s Famous Fried Chicken Dinner,” not to mention the usual festival fare like turkey legs and sausage-on-a-stick.)

Big D and Beyond

With gasoline prices so high, nationwide travel trend-spotters forecast more weekend getaways and vacations spent close to home. In most parts of Texas, thank goodness, you don’t have to journey far to immerse yourself in new adventure. Take North Texas, for example: Within a few hours’ drive of the Dallas-Fort Worth Metroplex, you can find everything from tranquil wildlife sanctuaries to earsplitting NASCAR raceways.

Hot Ticket in Frisco

The hottest ticket in Texas this summer may be a poolside ticket to a RoughRiders baseball game at Frisco’s one-of-a-kind Dr Pepper Ballpark, which boasts a three-tiered swimming pool overlooking the playing field, complete with a waterfall and an attendant to cater to guests’ every whim. If you can’t wrangle one of these sought-after poolside seats for this season, here’s a plan: Put your name on the list for next year, and settle in for an old-fashioned regular seat in the park, where you’ll enjoy such all-American baseball perks as popcorn, hotdogs, and perhaps the finest diversion of all: people-watching.

A Whole New TEXASDriving into Palo Duro Canyon State Park via Texas 217, visitors drop 800 feet in just over a mile. This overlook is near the park entrance. By Stan Williams

With the golden striations of Palo Duro Canyon as a natural backdrop, the outdoor musical drama TEXAS—written by Pulitzer-winning playwright Paul Green in the early 1960s—has thrilled audiences for four decades. The play tells thestory of the Panhandle’s settlement in the 1800s through the eyes of ranchers, farmers, and Native Americans. But it needed some modernizing. “It ran a littlelong, for one,” says director Dave Yirak. “So, last year, we took Green’s script, shortened it some, and updated it. We also added some interesting special effects, including a dramatic prairie fire, with real flames, lights, smoke, and all kinds of fun things. 

By Lori Moffatt

Amid talk of hostages in Iran, boycotting the summer Olympics in Moscow, and the eruption of Mt. St. Helens, Americans in 1980 also indulged in less weighty topics of discussion thanks to the March cliffhanger of CBS’ primetime television series Dallas. All around the water cooler, people speculated, “Who shot J.R.?”

Dallas, which glorified big hair, big oil, big intrigue, and big betrayal, endured 14 seasons and aired in more than 130 countries. And this summer, the Bob Bullock Texas State History Museum in Austin, which continues the audience-expanding mission it accomplished with screenings of the recent U2 and Rolling Stones concert films, brings us Dallas: Power and Passion on Primetime TV, a tongue-in-cheek tribute to the series that launched a million stereotypes. Along with props, artifacts, costumes, scripts, television clips, and even a re-created set, the exhibition also includes viewings of the short film Southfork Pilgrims, in which viewers from around the world share their stories (and songs!) about Dallas and what the show meant to them. Dallas runs through September 14. Call 512/936-8746;

By Lori Moffatt

Since 1954, when the Marion Koogler McNay Art Institute (now the McNay Art Museum) opened in an elaborately tiled Spanish Colonial Revival mansion a few miles north of downtown San Antonio, art-lovers have relished the opportunity to view the works collected by one of Texas’ most influential philanthropists, the late Marion Koogler McNay. Beginning in the 1920s, McNay collected modern art—pieces by Gauguin, van Gogh, Cassatt, Matisse, and others—before these artists’ works became widely popular, and thus amassed a collection that was cutting-edge then and seems preternaturally foresighted now.

On June 7, the McNay Art Museum hosts a weekend-long celebration of its new Jane and Arthur Stieren Center for Exhibitions, a sleek, low-slung, light-filled building designed by European urbanist Jean-Paul Viguier, whose contemporary aesthetic is responsible for some of the most stunning aspects of modern-day Paris. The Stieren Center nearly doubles the museum’s size. Outside, a new sculpture garden, set off by gray-green stone walls, offers surprise glimpses of the McNay’s art and architecture, and unites exterior and interior spaces.

The center’s inaugural exhibition, American Art Since 1945: In a New Light (June 7-August 24), marks the first time the McNay has been able to showcase the extent of its contemporary artworks. With more than 100 paintings, sculptures, and photographs on view, American Art Since 1945 picks up chronologically where Marion Koogler McNay’s collection left off. “Although she did not live to see the experimentation of the second half of the 20th Century,” says William J. Chiego, director of the McNay, “I believe she would appreciate and admire this exhibition, particularly in light of her preference for bold forms, strong color, and evidence of the artist’s touch.” Call 210/824-5368;

By Lori Moffatt

According to Dr. Malcolm Warner, the acting director of the Kimbell Art Museum in Fort Worth, the Impressionists—the renowned revolutionaries of the 19th-Century art world—were keen observers of modern life. So when we look at their paintings, it’s easy to construct stories based on what we observe. What are the people wearing and doing? How are they interacting? “This is why the works are so appealing to us now,” Dr. Warner says.

But you can evaluate this theory for yourself: From June 29 through November 2, the Kimbell hosts The Impressionists: Master Paintings From the Art Institute of Chicago, a collection of 92 masterworks by such painters as Cézanne, Degas, Gauguin, van Gogh, Manet, Monet, Renoir, and Toulouse-Lautrec. The Kimbell is the only place you can see this collection; the works are on loan while the Chicago Art Institute undergoes an expansion by architect Renzo Piano, who will coincidentally oversee the Kimbell’s own planned expansion.

Make your plans now, and visit during the week, if you can: Museum officials say that The Impressionists rivals the Kimbell’s Barnes Collection exhibition in 1994, which drew more than 400,000 visitors and topped all previous Texas art-show attendance records. Call 817/332-8451;

By Lori Moffatt


As the futuristic new home of the NFL’s Dallas Cowboys rises in Arlington, the days of Texas Stadium in Irving are numbered; after the 2008 season wraps up, the ‘Boys will move on. Until then, though, don’t miss a chance to check out a game at this hallowed 1971 sports arena, or to take an hour-long tour ($12) of the field, stands, and locker room (offered multiple times daily, except on game days). Standing in the middle of the field, with the sun beaming down through the open roof, it’s easy to imagine you’re an NFL superstar.


Nearby, Irving’s Cool River Café is the region’s top hangout for sports fans. It’s a big place with lots of options: Team up with other fans to watch football, soccer, NASCAR, baseball, or whatever’s hot at the moment on a big-screen TV in the party room, which also hosts live music; enjoy cognac and cigars in the lounge (which has deep, cozy leather sofas and its own ventilation system); or settle into the dining room, where a river-rock fireplace and handcrafted chandeliers create a sophisticated mood—perfect for savoring tasty prime rib, grilled salmon, and other upscale dishes. On a recent visit, our party raved about the succulent filet mignon served on a portobello mushroom cap, the bacon-wrapped shrimp, and the smoky-tender pork chop. For dessert, the seven-layer chocolate cake sent us to 7th heaven.


For information about the Dallas Cowboys or tours of Texas Stadium, see For details about Cool River Café (in Irving and in Austin), call 972/871-8881;

By Lori Moffatt

Beaumont rarely fails to amaze visitors. After all, it has museums galore (more than 20 at last count), nightclubs and live music, historic homes, luxurious and low-key lodgings, outdoors attractions such as alligator-viewing by airboat or kayak, and fine (and funky) restaurants too numerous to count. (If you want fantabulous Cajun food without going all the way to Louisiana, you’ll find your meal ticket in the Beaumont-Port Arthur area.) And while those of you with delicate constitutions may wither here in the steamy summer months, March is just about ideal for a Beaumont adventure.

If you come here partly for the eatin’, you’ll appreciate your smart thinking if you visit on March 7-8, during the National Soul Food Cookoff Competition, held in the Beaumont Civic Center. Five categories—meat, vegetable, dessert, bread, and miscellaneous—bring contestants from throughout the South, who vie for cash prizes. (Entry fees go toward college scholarships, a nice bonus.) Here’s your chance to sample scrumptious, soulful delicacies prepared by cooks who learned their skills from The Greats—generations of moms, pops, grandmas, and great-aunts. Think fried chicken, sweet potato pie, collards and ham hocks, hot-water cornbread, smothered pork chops, cheesy grits, and black-eyed peas and bacon. Heaven on a plate. Call 877/757-1055;

By Lori Moffatt

More than 500 species of birds and 300 species of butterflies have been spotted in Texas’ Rio Grande Valley, making the region one of the most popular ecotourism sites in the United States. On February 7-10, Laredo hosts its first annual Laredo Birding and Butterfly Festival.

The event features 10 field trips to topnotch birding sites in the area, 20 speakers whose topics range from butterflies of South Texas to birdwatching in Alaska, a banquet dinner, and a marketplace where you can purchase books, binoculars, and other birding necessities. “People come here from all over the world to go birding,” says speaker Jim Hailey. “The Laredo area is the place in the United States to see the white-collared seedeater, the Muscovy feral duck, and the red-billed pigeon.”

Call 800/361-3360; or

By Lori Moffatt

Maybe you don’t immediately think about gardening and birdwatching during February. But you should. Winter provides a great opportunity to lay the groundwork for a garden that provides for you—and the birds.

New outdoorsy books on our shelves: Doug Welsh’s Texas Garden Almanac (Texas A&M University Press; and Mark Lockwood’s Basic Texas Birds: a Field Guide (University of Texas Press; We especially like how Welsh gives us guidance for every month, including—for February—tips on pruning trees and shrubs, proper mulching, and getting a head start on spring planting. And in Basic Texas Birds, Lockwood, one of the state’s leading ornithologists, has produced an easy-to-use guide that combines photos, range maps, and concise, clear information about habitat, background, and identification.

So when that ruby-throated hummingbird discovers that intoxicating red salvia in your garden, you’ll be doubly proud.

By Charles Lohrmann

Since the Sculpture on Main program in Marble Falls installed 37 pieces of sculpture along Main Street in autumn 2007, travelers have a new reason to enjoy a stroll through this Hill Country town’s historic district. The three-dozen pieces stand along the three-block stretch of historic Main between Fourth and Yett streets, just a stone’s throw from US 281. The work comes from a diverse group of international artists and ranges from the strictly representational bronze of a horse’s head (Asde Oros) by José Antonio García Guerra of Saltillo, Mexico, to the Calderesque painted steel Wind Sail by James Hendricks of San Antonio.

All entries into this juried exhibit are for sale, and also are considered for several annual awards, including the Purchase Award, which wins the sculpture a place in Marble Falls’ permanent collection. Twenty-five percent of the purchase price from each sale returns to the Historic Main Street Association to fund expenses for the ongoing Sculpture on Main program.

The Sculpture on Main installation will remain on view in Marble Falls through October 1. To view a map and photographs of the installation, visit For details on the 2008-2009 installation, call 830/693-9544 or e-mail Pogue Studio and Foundry at This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it.. For more on planning a visit to Marble Falls, go to

Ely revisits songs from his extensive catalog on <I>Live Cactus!,</I> a thrilling new CD with accordionist Joel Guzman

By Lynne Margolis


Most musicians regard touring as a necessary evil, a mere means to the glorious end of standing up on stage and sharing their souls with an adoring crowd. You have to have a special constitution to endure a life ruled by flight delays, unforeseen traffic jams, bad directions, and other kinks that happen along the way. But if you’re smart, or restless, you learn to embrace the experience, to find the romance. If you’re Joe Ely, you craft indelible songs from it, with titles like “Time for Travelin’,” “Highways and Heartaches,” “Drivin’ Man,” or “I’m on the Run Again.” Or you borrow tunes of wanderlust from Butch Hancock (“Lord of the Highway”) and Jimmie Dale Gilmore (“Tonight I Think I’m Gonna Go Downtown”), your running buddies in the Flatlanders—a band named for the Lubbock vista you left, but never truly escaped.


Almost every one of Ely’s songs contains a location, a destination, a place to be going to or coming from. Methods of travel are often mentioned as well, from pickup trucks and Cadillacs to rusty freights and silver birds, on desolate roads, swollen rivers, or wide runways. Rain, wind, and dust often figure in his vivid stories. And the sky … that almost infinite Texas sky.


Even his paintings and digital renderings (he’s a visual artist, too) are filled with images of travel—telephone poles, tires, and cracked, dry earth—sights you might see from a tour-bus window. Or a DC-9 (though these days, he says he could do without seeing Dallas at night from inside any kind of plane). Ely also keeps journals—written in verse, punctuated by drawings—some of which were released last year as a book titled Bonfire of Roadmaps. The title has nothing to do with Tom Wolfe or Bonfire of the Vanities, except that, as a child of the ‘60s, he’s as informed by New Journalism and liberal politics as he is by Buddy Holly’s rockabilly and the Tex-Mex, country, rock, R&B, and blues he absorbed while parked in some West Texas cotton field, slugging beers and tuning in to the almost-scandalous sounds emanating from those powerful south-of-the-border radio stations.


Testing ground for cell-phone towers? Nope. You’re looking at many-splendored oil derricks in historic Kilgore. Some 200 pumping wells remain here, and tall titans like these number around 60, each lit with a star during the holidays.
By Helen Bryant

When oil roared skyward from the Lou Della Crim No. 1 well on December 28, 1930, Kilgore went a little crazy. Virtually overnight, the Depression-battered cotton town became the busiest anthill in East Texas. Men swarmed in by the thousands to look for oil and to work for those who had already found it. Eventually, more than 1,100 oil wells pumped away within the city limits, including a plot called the World’s Richest Acre because it had the greatest concentration of derricks in the world. Currently, one original and 12 restored derricks punctuate the tract of land.


Now, nearly eight decades after the boom, restored derricks looming over Kilgore testify that oil is still the center of the universe here. About 200 pumping wells remain in the town, sprinkled everywhere from golf courses to schoolyards. Most of the city’s jobs are still oil-related, as are the attractions that bring in visitors.

Oil built Kilgore College, the city’s centerpiece, and the college gave birth, with the help of the legendary Hunt family, to the East Texas Oil Museum, whose dioramas, films, and fascinating oral histories “capture a moment in time,” as director Joe White puts it.

The college also created the world-famous Kilgore Rangerettes, the best-known college high-kick team in the nation, along with a museum telling the team’s history. It’s also responsible for the popular summer Texas Shakespeare Festival, whose first production, 22 years ago, was about—what else?—the oil boom.

Oil is even the reason Kilgore can claim classical pianist Van Cliburn as a favorite son. Cliburn, who was born in Shreveport, Louisiana, moved to Kilgore as a child, because of his father’s job with Magnolia Petroleum.

About the only aspect of Kilgore’s history without an oil connection is its Elvis Presley sightings. The King came over from his Louisiana Hayride gigs in the mid-1950s to occasionally sing on KOCA radio, with local girls paid to scream in the background.

A modern-day visit to Kilgore should begin with a look at its skyline: restored oil derricks stand like sentries off Commerce Street near Kilgore’s 1872 rail depot. There are approximately 60 derricks scattered about town, each topped with a big star, lit during the holidays.

Kilgore’s oil story is illustrated at the East Texas Oil Museum, which tells how this area was changed forever in October 1930, starting with a gusher at the Daisy Bradford No. 3 well in Rusk County, 13 miles south of town. Two months later, the Lou Della Crim No. 1 came in.

Helen “Pudge” Griffin, who was a child living in nearby Longview at the time, heard all about the influx of men from her late husband, James H. Griffin, who grew up in Kilgore. “Everybody rented every spare room they had. They were living in boxes, anything they could find,” Griffin says. Kilgore’s population of some 800 people swelled to more than 10,000 within days. Oil rigs and derricks sprouted up everywhere there wasn’t a building.

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