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Written by Erin Inks

Families enjoy the big sleigh at Lubbock's Winter Wonderland at Vintage Township. (Texas Highways photo/Kevin Stillman)

Tomorrow it will officially be December (though I could have sworn it came a few days earlier judging from how much Christmas music I've heard already), and cities across the state are ready to spread the holiday cheer with a huge weekend of Christmas festivals and parades. Check out the list below for a small selection of events—or you can find more using the event search tool.

Move over, Cowboys Stadium—Texas has a new premier sports facility.

I know, I know. It’s not a fair comparison. Football will always have a special place in many Texans’ hearts. But the opening race this weekend at the new Circuit of the Americas, just southeast of Austin, definitely put the state on the Formula One map.

Tearing up the floor at Wurstfest. If you can't polka or two-step, just wait for the next Chicken Dance.

It's become a yearly tradition for us to head down to Wurstfest in New Braunfels to share the joys of beer, sausage and polka with a few friends. Both the Longhorns and the Aggies had won football games when we went this Saturday, so the grounds were extra-packed with jovial fans--and a few in burnt orange even offering congratulations to those in maroon after their team beat No. 1 Alabama. Usually we'd park somewhere in town and trek on foot to the festival, but this time we caught the Wurst Wagen from the park-and-ride at the New Braunfels VFW, which was worth the money: $20 each for parking, admission, a ride to the front gate and some drink tickets, which saved us from standing in a couple of long lines at the event.

It's pretty rare that I'm drawn to an event on the strength of a poster alone, but then I saw this:

Lightning! A famous scientific rivalry! …Fictitious metal?

Last week I took some time off to host my dad while he visits from out of state, which means I got to play tour guide. In his previous visits, we already explored most of the sights around my home in Austin, so this time I made plans to get out and stretch our legs in the surrounding area.

I let dad rest up on his first evening here, but the next day, we were off to explore downtown Bastrop and Bastrop State Park. Among the downtown shops and eateries on Main Street, we especially enjoyed the sign to the right (which, naturally, points to a door that can’t be opened). In the park, the loblolly pine trees still bear scorch marks as a reminder of the Labor Day fires that burned the area more than a year ago, but the trails were all open. Newly built wood bridges span many of the creek beds. More sun gets through the sparse canopy than it used to, but there’s plenty of healthy, green growth underneath.

A friendly passerby offered to take our photo at last year's fair with Big Tex and (because of our woeful skill at midway games) the most expensive stuffed animal I've ever owned.

 

There's a little more than a week left to visit the State Fair of Texas, that grand showcase of food, entertainment, amusements, exhibits and Texas hospitality that lights up Dallas' Fair Park each fall.

It’s said that you can’t get blood from a stone, but how about getting a horny toad out of one?

That’s what’s said to have happened in Eastland, Texas, when the old courthouse was being torn down in 1928. A time capsule in the courthouse’s cornerstone since 1897 was opened, and to the surprise of thousands of people gathered for the event, a horned lizard sealed up in the box 31 years ago was still alive. Named “Old Rip,” after Rip Van Winkle, the horny toad was taken on a national tour before dying less than a year later. (According to the story, that wasn’t the end of his adventures.)

(Photo from the Texas State Library and Archives Commission) About a year after the Second Battle of Adobe Walls and later fighting in the Red River War, Quanah Parker and his band of Comanches surrendered themselves at Fort Sill, Oklahoma, in 1875. During the next 35 years, Parker continued to represent his people, and also became known as a rancher, statesman and Native American Church leader. (Photo from the Texas State Library and Archives Commission)

The kids are back in school, and we’re already working on the winter Texas Events Calendar, but hopefully there’s still room in everyone’s schedule for summer’s last hurrah – Labor Day!

In addition to the usual holiday celebrations, many communities choose this weekend to put on some of their biggest and most unique events.

As musicians and fans roll in for the annual Navasota Blues Festival this Friday and Saturday, I wondered: How did this town get its title as the “Blues Capital of Texas?”

Mance LipscombMance Lipscomb died in 1976 in his hometown of Navasota, Texas.

A key figure in the area's music heritage is songster and blues musician Mance Lipscomb, who was born in Navasota in 1895 and spent much of his life as a tenant farmer before releasing his first album 1960. (The term “songster” refers to traveling musicians who played in a wide variety of styles that influenced and blended with blues music as it's known today.) After being signed by a major label at age 65, Lipscomb became a regular at music festivals and blues clubs around the country before returning home to Navasota in his final years. Today, the city celebrates his musical legacy with a two-day festival featuring celebrated local and regional blues performers.

Howdy, folks! My name is Erin, and I’ve mostly worked behind the scenes here at Texas Highways as editor of the event listings on the website, as well as in the magazine and the Texas Events Calendar. I’m excited to join the team on TexasHighways.com to highlight the wonderful events the Lone Star State has to offer on my new blog, Texas To Do.

Let’s get started with some picks for events happening around the state this weekend. If you’ve never experienced the Texas Panhandle, this weekend would be a great time to make the drive to Dalhart for the XIT Rodeo and Reunion. Starting in 1937, cowboys who worked the once-sprawling XIT Ranch gathered here to reminisce with their families, and put on a rodeo and free barbecue for the public. Today, the event has grown into a massive affair that triples the size of the town, offering the World’s Largest Free Barbecue, a fiddlers’ contest, arts-and-crafts show, concerts and more. Check out the links below for details on the XIT Rodeo and Reunion, and other events this weekend.

Growing up in Texas and learning about how this state became a nation for a time, I always wondered why people didn't make a bigger deal out of Texas Independence Day. It seems like a great time to celebrate what's great about Texas, doesn't it?

This year is an excellent chance to do just that, since the March 2 anniversary of the adoption of a declaration of independence falls on Saturday. Celebrations in Granbury, Gruene and Washington-on-the-Brazos offer a fun way to mark this historic occasion and show your Texas pride.

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