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Written by Jane Kellogg Murray

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Cutting through the heart of the Panhandle, Palo Duro Canyon State Park—the second-largest canyon in the country, falling behind that grand one in Arizona—holds a rich history in its deep walls. Thousands of generations of people have lived in this spectacular landscape: Geologists have found evidence that humans called the canyon home as far back as 15,000 years ago. In more recent centuries, the Apache, Comanche, and Kiowa tribes all fought many battles over this precious territory, including their last stand against the U.S. military in 1874. When these Native American tribes were pushed out to reservations in Oklahoma, settlers began moving in, including Charles Goodnight—inventor of the chuckwagon—who drove more than a thousand cattle into the canyon in 1876. Every summer for more than five decades, the canyon walls have set the stage for an outdoor musical drama that aims to tell the stories of these Native American struggles and 19th-century pioneers. TEXAS returns to the canyon’s Pioneer Amphitheatre for its 53rd season June 2-August 19, with a special holiday show July 3. Over the years, the musical has seen more than 4,000 cast and crewmembers; many in this year’s iteration have been performing the same character for decades. It’s theater for the people—especially the outdoor-loving Texans who otherwise might not feel comfortable going into a traditional theater to see a musical production. But more than anything, it plays out the drama of Texas history in a setting like no other.

 

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When the weather reaches triple digits, spend a weekend floating the lazy San Marcos River and enjoying one of the most unique music festivals in the state. On July 22–23, the fourth annual Float Fest will take over Cool River Ranch’s 220-acre riverfront property in Martindale. Campers are invited to check in a day early to ease congestion as people make their way in and out of town—last year’s event brought in an estimated 10,000 ticketholders. A supercharged lineup this year includes Weezer, MGMT, Passion Pit, and Texas-bred musicians like Neon Indian, Walker Lukens, and Wild Child.

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If you thought nothing else could shut down Austin like South by Southwest, you’ve likely never been in town during the Republic of Texas Biker Rally—billed as the largest ticketed motorcycle rally in the nation with riders of all types drawn to the capital city for a weekend of camaraderie, camping, and concerts. For the 22nd annual event, the city will close off 54 square blocks as more than 200,000 people—and some 40,000 bikers—head to Congress Avenue June 8-11 for a huge kick-off party, during which an 11-mile parade downtown gets a friendly police escort (on motorcycles, no less). The ROT Rally will see its largest music festival yet with more than 30 bands slated to perform throughout the weekend, including Joe Ely, Billy Joe Shaver, and Ray Wylie Hubbard. Yeah, it’ll definitely be loud. But decked out in their denim and leather glory, these bikers are a pretty spectacular sight to see. 

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What’s better than enjoying a nice summer day watching baseball? Watching the game while floating in a lazy river, perhaps. The Frisco RoughRiders are set to host this year’s Texas League All-Star Game at Dr Pepper Ballpark on June 27—pitting teams from the league’s North and South divisions, comprised of the top prospects from the Texas Rangers, Houston Astros, the Kansas City Royals, and five other Major League Baseball teams. The game will mark the third time Frisco has hosted after welcoming sellout crowds of more than 10,000 fans for the event in 2005 and 2009. But this time, the ballpark offers a new amenity: the opportunity to watch the action from a cool vantage point—from an inner tube floating in the stadium’s new $1.5 million Choctaw Lazy River. The 3,000 square foot pool, just beyond right field, is shaped like a figure eight with a gentle current and holds more than 68,000 gallons of water. It’s a whole new ballgame.

 

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For such a small town—a 2010 census revealed just 90 full-time residents—Round Top is home to an unlikely music series. Every summer since 1971, the Round Top Music Festival has curated a world-class series of classical concerts, considered one of the most well-curated music festivals in the nation, housed since 2007 in the acoustically stunning Festival Concert Hall. This year, 90 applicants were accepted to perform the six-week program (June 4–July 16) out of hundreds of applicants from more than 23 countries, including Belgium, Brazil, Nigeria, Japan, and Finland. And each week, the orchestra will train with guest conductors hailing from across the globe as well—China, Brazil, Puerto Rico, Israel, Serbia, and Austria in addition to the United States. The worldly festival owes its existence to founder and artistic director James Dick, who will perform Beethoven’s “Concerto for Violin, Cello, and Piano” on June 10 and Chopin’s “Concerto No. 1” on July 15.

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Lockhart’s Chisholm Trail Roundup is a western weekend 45 years in the making. The city’s largest annual festival attracts some 30,000 people each year on the second weekend of June for this cowboy celebration, which falls on June 8-10 this year. Visitors are encouraged to dust off their cowboy hats and put on their boots to get in the spirit for the events, which includes a full rodeo, a grand parade, gunfight reenactments, cowboy breakfasts, and live music from the Bellamy Brothers, Reckless Kelly, Nathan Colt Young, and Justin Trevino. And seeing as it’s set in the Barbecue Capital of Texas, the festivities wouldn’t be complete without a cook-off, June 2-3

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We’ve curated a weekend itinerary of the state’s best festivals, concerts, and cuisine—from taco showdowns at Austin Food + Wine Fest to glittering carnivals and parades during the final weekend of Fiesta San Antonio.

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The weekend's best bets include Fiesta San Antonio, the 30th annual Old Settler's Music Festival in Driftwood, and La Porte's San Jacinto Day Festival and Battle Reenactment.

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On the hunt for good things to do this long weekend? Hop around the state to see new art exhibits like “Zimsculpt” at the Dallas Arboretum and Botanical Garden, and Easter festivities like the one at the Sauer-Beckmann Living History Farm in Stonewall.

Strawberry Festival photo by Kevin StillmanSee more of the Lone Star State as April events kick into high gear.

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May marks the 30th year of music, crafts, culture, and Texas history at the General Sam Houston Folk Festival. On May 12–14, 2017 in Huntsville, the Sam Houston Memorial Museum’s 15 acres will be transformed into a bustling frontier settlement, where visitors can stroll the grounds and experience what it might have been like for Sam and Margaret Houston when they retired there—where he died before the end of the American Civil War. The folk festival celebrates his legacy with historical reenactments, live music and dance, and kids’ games. Festival admission includes the 18th annual Texas State Knife and Tomahawk championship, held on the memorial museum’s grounds. 

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The oldest and largest of its kind in the nation, the Tejano Conjunto Festival celebrates the style of this unique Mexi­can dance music. The genre was born in south Texas at the end of the 19th century after German and East European settlers brought their accordions, waltzes and polkas to the region. The blend of cultures eventually evolved into tejano conjunto, where four-piece bands entertain the masses with the sounds of a button accordion, a bajo sexto, an electric bass and drums.

This festival brings together as many as 10,000 revelers from all over Texas and across the world for five days of music and dancing at the historic Guadalupe Theater and Rosedale Park in San Antonio. Hosted by the Guadalupe Cultural Arts Center, this year’s festival runs May 24–28, 2017 and will feature star-studded performances by Conjunto Music Hall of Fame award winners. 

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