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A Grand Ole Opry

Written by Lori Moffatt.

Nestled along the Trinity River some 42 miles northeast of Houston, the town of Liberty maintains close ties to its nearly 200-year-old history. Not only does it display an exact replica of Philadelphia’s Liberty Bell, cast in 1976 as part of the nation’s Bicentennial Celebration, but it also salutes musical tradition with the 14-year-old Liberty Opry.

Led by an eight-piece house band, the Opry presents family-friendly musical revues every Saturday night in the restored 1938 Park Theater. “Our fiddle-player and steel guitarist are members of the Western Swing Hall of Fame,” says owner Bruce Boehner, who has run the Opry with his wife, Brenda, since 2006. “And every show is different.”

September’s performances include “Rock Around the Clock,” the “All-Gospel Show,” the “Fantastic ’50s Show,” “Great Ladies of Country,” and the “Country Western Show.” Reservations are encouraged, as the shows sometimes sell out. Admission: $10; $5 age 12 and younger. Call 877/729-9103; www.libertyopry.com.

Open Your Eyes

“Go Orange, be strong!” proclaimed postman-turned-artist Jeff McKissack in the 1970s as he built Houston’s Orange Show, a whirligig-festooned architectural shrine to oranges. Jeff’s fanciful structure now serves as headquarters for the city’s Orange Show Foundation for Visionary Art, the organization responsible for Houston’s famous Art Car Parade, along with year-round art workshops, Eyeopener Tours of folk art environments, and other programs. Every August, the Orange Show closes for repairs and cleaning, then reopens in September with a big bash.

This year, there’s a special cause for celebration: the return of Atomic Dog, the grand prize-winner of the 2006 Art Car Parade. Created by kids from Houston’s Waltrip High School, the car—a wildly embellished Volvo—went on to win raves at the Essen Motor Show, then got stranded in a German parking lot when the kids couldn’t afford to bring it back. Now, thanks to a generous donation by philanthropist Brady Carruth, it’s back in Texas. Atomic Dog Day, held September 29, will feature live music, art workshops for kids, tours of the Orange Show, and an army of art cars on display.

On September 23, the Orange Show leads an Eyeopener Tour to nearby Beaumont, where participants will explore treasures like the historic Jefferson Theatre, St. Anthony’s Cathedral, and the art of Felix Harris at the Art Museum of Southeast Texas. Other Eyeopener Tours in 2007 include a tour of Houston’s West End (Oct. 21) and a Christmas Lights tour on December 12. Call 713/926-6368; www.orangeshow.org.

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From the October 2007 issue.

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