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Archive for texas

A Step Into the Past in Texas

By Linda Tancs

Padre Island National Seashore in Texas is the longest stretch of undeveloped barrier island in the world, a time capsule of sorts with dunes and other natural formations that look the same today as they would have to the Native Americans and European settlers who inhabited the area hundreds of years ago. Owned at different times by Spain, Mexico, the Republic of Texas and later the United States, it comprises mostly prairie/grasslands with ephemeral marshes and ponds bordered on the east by the Gulf of Mexico and on the west by the Laguna Madre, one of only six lagoons in the world that is hypersaline (saltier than the ocean). The park protects 70 miles of coastline, dunes, prairies and wind tidal flats teeming with life, including the Kemp’s ridley sea turtle and 380 bird species.



By Linda Tancs

The liberation of black American slaves in Texas occurred on June 19, 1865, and an annual celebration of the end of slavery is held on the day. Known as Juneteenth, the first celebration in Texas came in 1867, and it became a state holiday in 1980. Like any Texas occasion, food is plentiful. A typical celebration includes barbecue, smothered chicken, collard greens and red desserts and beverages (such as red velvet cake and strawberry soda).

A Fort’s Family Heritage

By Linda Tancs

John Butterfield chose Fort Chadbourne as a major stop for his Overland Mail Company, a stagecoach mail service connecting the east and west coasts of the United States. The fort saw other action as part of the Old West, too, like the Fence Cutting Wars (disputes between farmers and cattlemen staking their claims in the area) and mustering on its grounds at the outbreak of the Civil War. Unlike other military posts, however, this fort has always been privately owned, becoming a ranching haven for eight generations of the Odom’s, Wylie’s and Richards’ families. Located in the vicinity of Bronte, Texas, its military, ranching, and Indian historical roots have been lovingly restored. The old frontier fort now has six restored buildings, stabilized ruins, and a new visitor center featuring over 300 antique guns, thousands of military and Native American artifacts, cannons and a research library.

Best Known Street in Texas

By Linda Tancs

The heart of Austin, Texas, 6th Street is an entertainment mecca. On the one hand, you’ll find historic buildings hosting bars, restaurants and an eclectic set of entertainment venues boasting everything from country to punk. On the other hand, quieter pursuits await thanks to art galleries and antique shops. No wonder the variety attracts showcase events like the Austin Mardi Gras celebration, SXSW, The Republic of Texas Bikers Rally, the Pecan Street Festival (the street’s former name) and the infamous Halloween celebration. Get ready to party.

Dance Hall Days

By Linda Tancs

If the dance floor boards at Gruene Hall could talk, then imagine the stories they’d tell. Built in 1878, Gruene Hall is Texas’ oldest continually operating dance hall, boasting an original layout of 6,000 square feet and a tin roof. In the early days, it hosted dance parties as well as badger fights. These days, you’re just as likely to find working songwriters trying out new material there or maybe you’ll enjoy a performance by Willie Nelson, Aaron Neville or another well-known artist. In fact, this year marks the venue’s 40th anniversary of the best live music in Texas.

Where Nature Speaks

By Linda Tancs

The Chihuahuan Desert region covers over 220,000 square miles, the third largest desert of the Western Hemisphere.  It includes parts of the states of Arizona, New Mexico, and Texas in the United States, as well as parts of the states of Chihuahua, Coahuila, Nuevo Leon, Durango, Zacatecas, and San Luis Potosi in Mexico.  Here you’ll find more cacti than any other region in the world, including the prickly pears, hedgehogs, living rocks, nipple cacti, and cory cacti.  So how do you go about exploring such a vast expanse?  Why not start at the Chihuahuan Desert Nature Center in Fort Davis, Texas.  Beginning hikers will love the Hummingbird and Butterfly Trail, a short, easy trail with spectacular views of Mitre Peak.  The more difficult Outside Loop Trail will take you up to Clayton’s Overlook, the highest point on the property.  Plant and bird lovers should flock to Modesta Canyon Trail.  If hiking is too strenuous, be sure to visit the botanical gardens, where they say it’s quiet enough to hear nature speak.

The Tomato Capital of the World

By Linda Tancs

They’re seeing red in Jacksonville, Texas –plump, red tomatoes, that is.  Harvest time is here, which means the Tomato Fest is just a ticking clock away.  Held the second Saturday each June, the city’s best fest illustrates all manner of dealing with their prized fruit:  peeling, mashing, eating, and shooting.  Home of the world’s largest bowl of salsa, they’ll be plenty of that, too.  The event takes place downtown between Commerce and Austin streets.

Splendid Isolation

By Linda Tancs

Big Bend National Park in southwest Texas is one of the remotest places on earth.  Named for the vast curve of the Rio Grande, native peoples have lived in and passed through this expansive park (the 8th largest in the lower 48 states) for thousands of years.  Archeological wonders are also represented, including fossils like a world-record pterosaur and a 50-foot crocodile.   No surprise that the park offers idyllic hiking trails, like Grapevine Hills with its beautiful rock formations.  Over 150 miles of trails await for day hikes or backpacking trips.  Visitor information is available at any of the five centers, two of which are open year round.  The busy season is generally November through April.  Get there now before the crowds do.  The closest commercial airport is Midland International.

The Barbecue Capital of Texas

By Linda Tancs

Lockhart, Texas has about 15,000 inhabitants but welcomes over 250,000 visitors each year to its four barbecue restaurants:  Blacks, Chisholm Trail, Kreuz and Smittys.  Not surprisingly, the Texas Legislature has proclaimed that Lockhart is the barbecue capital of Texas.   No doubt you’ll find barbecue nirvana.  And remember, good barbecue doesn’t need sauce.

Making Order Out of Chaos

By Linda Tancs

Wordsmiths will be battling it out in the National Scrabble Championship on August 6–10, 2011 at the Hotel InterContinental Dallas at 15201 Dallas Parkway in Addison, Texas.  Not just any wordsmith, mind you.  To compete you must be a rated player–in other words, an official brainiac.  This year’s tournament has four divisions, with the best players duking it out in Division 4.  So who will the W-I-N-N-E-R be?


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