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News: Texas travel industry briefs

Visit Travel Information Centers to stay rested/alert on road trips


Ready to be thrown for a loop? Kemah Boardwalk recently opened its newest thrill ride, the Flare, a 75-foot-tall looping coaster.

New ride at Kemah Boardwalk

LBJ Ranch gets 8 longhorn from Official State Herd

Stay alert and rested on your road trips

Kemah Boardwalk's new addition is the only ride of its size in Texas, and only the third in the world, providing a unique experience for thrill seekers.

Up to 24 passengers per ride will travel forward and backward on the steel coaster at 27 miles per hour, rocking back and forth before looping seven stories in the air. With back-to-back seats, the ride offering excellent views of both the Kemah Boardwalk and Galveston Bay.

The ride is accented by a programmed light show (20,000 LED lights).

Last fall, the Kemah Boardwalk unveiled another new ride, the Iron Eagle, a 30-mile-per-hour ziplining adventure.

For more information, visit


Longhorns from Official State Herd Now at LBJ State Park

Visitors to Lyndon B. Johnson State Park & Historic Site  can share the late president’s love of one of Texas’ most enduring icons by viewing eight steer from the Official Texas Longhorn Herd, now residing at the LBJ State Park.

Park Superintendent Iris Neffendorf says the new additions to the approximately 700-acre park, between Fredericksburg and Johnson City, came from the 100-plus head kept at San Angelo State Park.

“LBJ didn’t raise longhorns, although he kept a sizable herd of herefords at the LBJ Ranch that sits just across the Pedernales River from the state park,” Neffendorf says. “LBJ helped the park when it opened in many ways and encouraged the inclusion of longhorns, bison and other indigenous wildlife in game pens for visitors to see.”

The Texas Parks and Wildlife Department auctioned off LBJ State Park’s few resident longhorns of mixed lineage and replaced them with eight young steers from descendants of the pure longhorn line preserved in the 1940s by Texas oilman Sid Richardson and Texas writer and historian Frank Dobie. Today’s Official Texas Longhorn Herd totals 205 head pastured at Fort Griffin State Historic Site and Copper Breaks, LBJ, Palo Duro and San Angelo state parks.  

Plans are in the works at LBJ State Park to develop interpretive programs focused on the Official Texas Longhorn Herd and update longhorn signage/kiosks by the small game pen inside the park.

The park’s Visitors Center Park visitors include several exhibits pertaining to Texas’ ranching heritage, including one that explains how LBJ’s grandfather drove 7,000 longhorns up the Chisholm Trail to Abilene, Kan. prior to the turn of the 20th century.  The late president’s Stetson hat, saddle and boots, as well as information about LBJ’s love of the land and ranching, are on display.

The state park includes a nature trail, the Sauer-Beckmann Living History Farm that interprets early Texas-German farm life, the Visitors Center, swimming pool, a gift shop and 1840s Danz log cabin and dog-trot style Behrens cabins. The park also serves as a starting point for self-guided tours of the Lyndon B. Johnson National Historical Park just across the Pedernales River that includes the LBJ Ranch, Texas White House, the school house LBJ attended as a child, and the cemetery where LBJ, Lady Bird and other Johnson Family descendants are buried.

For more information about the longhorns and LBJ State Park & Historic Site, call (830) 644-2252 or visit:

Safe Travels this Summer

With 88 percent of Texas Highways magazine readers planning to drive to their summer vacation destinations and events this year, the Texas Department of Transportation reminds motorists to stay alert and well-rested as they travel.

“Family road trips are a great way to make memories, but driving long distances on our busy roadways requires focus and responsibility,” says John Barton, TxDOT deputy executive director. “We remind drivers to pull over and stretch, minimize distractions, buckle up everyone in the car and always obey all traffic laws. Don’t wreck your summer vacation.”

Across the state, TxDOT operates 12 Travel Information Centers where visitors can rest, get directions and stretch their legs. The centers are staffed by professional travel counselors who welcome visitors, help with routings and provide information on points of interest, events and road conditions. Internet access, restrooms and picnic tables also are available.

TxDOT reminds drivers also to carefully inspect their cars before hitting the road this summer. Simple steps such as checking your tire pressure and getting your car tuned up on schedule can reduce tailpipe emissions, improve fuel economy and save money at the pump. Proper vehicle maintenance also helps prevent your vehicle from breaking down and leaving you stranded on the side of the road.

For more tips on keeping the air clean and saving money on gas, visit the Drive Clean Across Texas website.


Travel Industry Standouts Honored

Four travel industry professionals received prestigious awards during ceremonies at the 59th annual Texas Travel Counselors Conference held in South Padre Island.

The conference is a meeting of Texas travel industry professionals and representatives of Texas Department of Transportation’s Travel Information Division, the Texas Travel Industry Association, Texas Parks and Wildlife Department and the American Automobile Association, and city information centers.

Lone Star Award


Texas Highways magazine’s Editor Jill Lawless received the Lone Star Award for her outstanding service to Texas’ tourism industry.

She is credited as a driving force behind Texas Highways magazine, the award-winning travel publication for Texas’ diverse tourism destinations and colorful culture.

jill2Lawless began her 20-year career with the magazine as an intern and has climbed the ranks as its top editor. She has influenced and shaped the content of the magazine through many of its transitions, including the addition of a digital online sector, and her pivotal role in the magazine redesign for its 40th Anniversary this year.

“Jill has been a fixture at Texas Highways magazine for many years, and is one of the key reasons the publication enjoys its loyalty and appeal among readers across the world that it does today,” says Travel Information Division Director Margo Richards. “She is a hard worker, a tireless professional and well deserving of this award.”

TxDOT Roadrunner Award

monicaMonica Freeman, a TxDOT Texas Travel Information Center counselor received the 2014 Roadrunner award for her excellent customer service and outstanding dedication to Texas tourism. Freeman is based at the Texas Travel Information Center in Denison, which served more than 200,000 visitors in 2013.

Freeman began her career in 2010 at the Travel Information Center in Wichita Falls, before transferring to Denison. She became a state and nationally certified Travel Counselor in 2011 and routinely demonstrates outstanding leadership and innovation, particularly for tourism events hosted by the Denison Travel Information Center. She routinely demonstrates leadership in coordinating numerous tourism and safety campaigns at her center, including the OU-Texas football weekend “Arrive Safely to the Game” event, as well as Highway Work Zone Safety Awareness and Distracted Driving events.

“Monica has shown exemplary service, initiative and creativity in her time with the department,” says Richards. “Her willingness to go the extra mile for customers and follow through on details makes her a valuable asset to our division, and she is very deserving of this award.”

TxDOT operates 12 Texas Travel Information Centers at points of entry to the state and at the Capitol Visitor Center in Austin.

Gene Phillips Hospitality Award

Longtime tourism industry professional Jerry Holt of Traders Village in Grand Prairie was named the 2014 recipient of the Gene Phillips Hospitality Award.

The award recognizes Holt’s career-long contributions, involvement in legislation, and work that specifically impacts Texas’ $65.7 billion travel and tourism industry.

The Gene Phillips Hospitality Award is named in honor of the late Gene Phillips, who managed Aquarena Springs in San Marcos and was an influential, driving force in the emerging tourism industry during the 1970s. Each year the award is presented by TxDOT Travel Information Division staff and recognizes one person for his or her outstanding lifetime accomplishments within the Texas travel and tourism industry.

With 40 years of experience in Texas tourism, Holt is currently in sales, tourism and promotions at Traders Village in Grand Prairie, considered the largest weekly flea market, shopping and vendor marketplace of its kind in the U.S.

He previously served as vice president of the Amarillo Convention and Visitor Council for 18 years, where he oversaw, managed and was involved in most all tourism initiatives, visitor programs and outreach, and marketing. Before that, he spent 20 years in sales and marketing with the Six Flags Corporation, where he started as a seasonal ride operator while in high school.

Throughout his career, Holt has been a regular fixture on committees and boards for the Texas Association of Convention and Visitor Bureaus, Texas Tourism Industry Association, Panhandle Days in Austin, the Texas Panhandle Heritage Foundation, the Tourism Advisory Council for the Office of the Governor Economic Development and Tourism, and many others.

“Jerry Holt has been the kind of worker who represents the best of the Texas tourism industry,” says Richards. “He remains a consummate ambassador for the state and is a perfect fit for the Gene Phillips award.”

Texas Travel Information Center Visitor Numbers


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