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Written by Matt Joyce


Amid the hiss and hum of century-old machines, hat-makers steam, press, and sew felt and straw into headwear both fashionable and utilitarian at the Hatco factory in Garland. Their craft hasn’t changed all that much since the early 1900s, when American men would no sooner leave home without a hat than without their pants.


Before opening his restaurant Chicken Scratch in Dallas, Chef Tim Byres and a couple of friends made a five-day, 2,500-mile road trip across parts of the South and Midwest on a quest for chicken-fried inspiration.


In creating Utopiafest, Travis Sutherland and his partners set out to develop a music festival worthy of its picturesque Hill Country namesake and host. Taking place September 4-6 (Labor Day Weekend), the seventh-annual edition of Utopiafest features three days of music with about 25 diverse acts ranging from soul to bluegrass, rock, folk, hip-hop, and punk—all in a natural amphitheater with limited crowds.


Balmorhea State Park—home of the spectacular San Solomon Springs swimming pool—is adding parking options to accommodate heavy traffic on summer weekends that leads to backups on Texas 17. 

Suzanna Choffel performs at Padre's in Marfa during Viva Big Bend 2014.

If there’s a description that comes up repeatedly when people talk about the Marfa lights, it’s the way they dance. The color and intensity of the lights vary widely depending on whom you ask, but their darting, dipping, and flickering movements often call to mind some sort of supernatural boogie. Maybe it’s understandable, therefore, that sightings of the Marfa lights spike during the Viva Big Bend music festival, when everyone has music ringing in their ears.

boquillas2In the two years since the Boquillas border crossing reopened in Big Bend National Park, about 18,000 people have used the port of entry to cross the Rio Grande from Texas into Mexico.

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About three hundred horses, saddled and raring to go, tug impatiently at their reins as the Bill Pickett Zydeco Trail Ride gets underway near Beaumont.

San Antonio accordionist Juanito Castillo, center, jams with C.J. Chenier, right, and the Red Hot Louisiana Band.

Randall Jackson planted himself in the center of the dance floor and focused on the stage. The 21-year-old watched closely as zydeco stalwart C.J. Chenier pumped his squeezebox through a searing set of bluesy zydeco classics. The melodies surged naturally from C.J., who honed his craft at the side of his late father Clifton Chenier, “The King of Zydeco.” Amid the churning swirl of dancers, there stood Jackson, taking it all in.


While South by Southwest is known as a petri dish of global alternative culture and innovative thought, some of the conference’s best moments spring from local creativity that grabs the spotlight when the world comes to Austin. One example is the documentary movie about Texas musician Doug Sahm that premiered at this year’s festival.

Exploring the South by Southwest Music Conference under way at the Austin Convention Center, I’m struck by the diverse and wide-ranging elements of the music industry represented at the annual festival. 

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I recently discovered a little-known natural escape near Bastrop that’s easily accessible from Central Texas, 90 minutes from San Antonio, and about two hours from Houston. Along with the fun of kayaking on a picturesque stretch of the Colorado River, the highlight of this adventure was the opportunity to observe a bald eagle in the wild. 


The Gem Theatre in Claude kicks off its centennial celebration this Saturday, February 7, with a concert by Coby Carter & Five Miles West. The theater opened as “the Claudia” in 1915, presenting silent films and vaudeville stage shows for the Panhandle ranching community.  

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