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Written by Jane Kellogg Murray

01 Oklahoma

From Oklahoma! to the Texas-Oklahoma border, there's plenty to celebrate the weekend across the Lone Star State.

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Learn how to time your wildflower seed sowing for a bountiful spring, indulge in kolaches in Caldwell, and explore a new Dalí exhibit at the Meadows Museum in Dallas.


What do flip flops, oatmeal, rodeos, sorghum, and animatronic dinosaurs have in common? They're all the centerpiece of events happening across Texas this Labor Day weekend.

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On Nov. 17-18, the sounds of Native American drums will lead visitors to “experience Mother Earth’s heartbeat” at the Sacred Springs Powwow in San Marcos near the headwaters of the San Marcos River. The event expects to feature more than 100 dancers in vibrant regalia along with Native American history presentations. Taste favorite dishes like fry bread, and shop for handmade goods. The event is produced by the Indigenous Cultures Institute—a nonprofit dedicated to preserving the culture, arts, and traditions of distinct indigenous groups originally from South Texas and northeastern Mexico that are collectively known as Coahuiltecans.

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A few miles north of Waco, Homestead Heritage—an agrarian and artisan community consisting of a few hundred families—welcomes visitors for a taste of the simple life at its annual Homestead Fair on Thanksgiving weekend, Nov. 23-24. Members of the community drive modern vehicles and use technology, but adopt plain dress and traditional values, and strive to master the skills of self-sufficiency—a lifestyle that draws thousands of tourists every year. At the 31st annual event, learn how to milk a cow, lend a hand at an old-fashioned timber frame barn raising, and watch a master craftsman fashion a fine Windsor chair straight from a rough log. Each day in the craft pavilion, you’ll find a wide variety of ongoing homestead craft demonstrations—pottery, quilting, weaving, broom making, basket weaving, leatherwork, and more; learn how to make your own holiday gifts, or purchase one of these specialty items onsite. Sip on hand-pressed apple cider, snack on cheeses aged in Homestead’s own climate-controlled cheese cave, and take a horse-drawn hayride around the farm, which houses numerous structures built before the American Revolution, including a water-powered gristmill.

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Texas leads the nation in cattle production and projects a rough-and-tumble mystique about ranch life. City slickers and old ranch hands alike can celebrate this heritage at the Ranch Hand Festival, Nov. 16-18 in Kingsville and on King Ranch—the largest ranch in the Lone Star State. Downtown Kingsville gets festive Friday evening by lighting the Christmas tree followed by a street dance. Head out to the working King Ranch on Saturday morning for the Ranch Hand Breakfast—a hearty cowboy and cowgirl breakfast fit for a hard day’s work, served outdoors—plus team-roping demonstrations, storytelling, music, bird-watching tours, and wildlife tours. The festival caps off Saturday evening with a holiday-themed performance by the Kingsville Symphony Orchestra and a headliner country concert.

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November is peak season for butterflies in South Texas and the Lower Rio Grande Valley. The National Butterfly Center in Mission has documented sightings for more than 200 types of native and migratory butterflies and is the premier location in the U.S. to witness such vast butterfly diversity in the wild. The center invites promising naturalists of all ages to learn more about butterflies and their natural garden habitats at the Texas Butterfly Festival’s Community Day on Nov. 3. Open to the public, the event offers a Hungry Caterpillar playscape for little ones to climb, and “wild things” arts and crafts to keep their hands busy. You can also learn how to make banana brew, an irresistible beverage for butterflies that uses dark beer as its secret ingredient. Who knew butterflies liked beer? Professional naturalists and butterfly enthusiasts can stick around for expert-led educational field trips Nov. 3-6.

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As Texas’ summer heat subsides, more than 2 million visitors will say “howdy” to Big Tex, the towering 55-foot cowboy, as they enter the State Fair of Texas. Gates are open Sept. 28-Oct. 21 in Dallas’ famed Fair Park, host since 1886. Some visitors seek out deep-fried banana pudding, while others find glory in the cooking competitions. Carnival rides will spin you around while stunt dogs do the flipping in one of the fair’s numerous family friendly shows. Watch a chainsaw carver transform a piece of timber into art, or view the nightly fireworks and dancing water show. No state fair trip is complete without seeing the year’s butter sculpture representing the theme “Celebrating Texas Innovation.” Admission includes 75 concerts by regional performers and headliners on the main stage during the 24-day event. Some of the star power making an appearance this year include Ludacris, Casting Crowns, and Hunter Hayes.

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Escape the urban pressures of traffic and deadlines, and head down to the fifth-generation Graff 7A Ranch in Hondo during weekends from Sept. 15 to Nov. 25. The South Texas MAiZE is a 7-acre maze cut from 12-foot high sorghum. The maze is divided into two parts and takes 15-30 minutes to complete each side. Bring a flashlight if you plan on exploring after dark. Campfire sites can be reserved for an additional fee. Explore the farm on a tractor-pulled hayride, pet and feed the ranch’s Boer goats, and watch squealing pigs race. During the month of October, the pumpkin patch creates an ideal backdrop for fall family photos. Climb on giant hay bales, become human popcorn on the two corn popper pillows, or slide down the giant MatterCorn. Owners caution that the last two weekends of October are the busiest, so expect longer lines.

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Celebrate a Texas icon of function and fashion Oct. 5-6 in downtown Victoria. Entering its eighth year, the annual Bootfest kicks off with a Saturday morning 5K. Afterward, trade your running shoes for boots and head to De Leon Plaza to see boot crafters, Western artisans, and a trick roper display their talents. The festival includes two days of free live music on the main bandstand, with ’80s and classic rock tribute bands on Friday night and Texas country favorites on Saturday night, including Mason Lively, Cameran Nelson, William Clark Green, and Reckless Kelly. 

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Fredericksburg’s history is tied to its roots as an 1840s German pioneer settlement. The city’s early design resembled German villages along the Rhine, and German remained the prevalent language until the 1900s. Oktoberfest in Fredericksburg will honor this German heritage along its hauptstrasse, or main street, Oct. 5-7. Brass tubas and euphoniums will kick off the celebration on Friday evening with OkTubaFest. Saturday activities begin at the Oktoberfest Kraut Run—a benefit for literacy programs—where kids ages 4 to 10 complete an obstacle course. Afterward, join hands with hundreds of other revelers for the chicken dance, then indulge in popular German fare like bratwursts, wiener schnitzels, German potato salad, and pfeffernüsse (a popular tiny spice cookie); German import beers will be offered along with Texas craft brews and at least one Mexican import. Polka bands and yodelers will provide a festive soundtrack to the weekend.

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On Sept. 29, grab your helmet and join a community bike ride through Fannin County that includes routes for all ages and skill levels, from a 13-mile fun ride out to Bonham State Park, to a 100-mile ride for the aspiring Tour de France champions. The 29th annual Autumn in Bonham Bike Rally includes routes that travel along areas with challenging elevations, river crossings, and gravel roads, and offers one of the few 100-mile rides in the state.

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