Throw your plans out the window. We scoured the state in search of the top events and offerings, from the State Fair of Texas to playing Texas Hold 'Em at the Blanco County Courthouse. Here’s our super select guide to the things you absolutely can’t afford to miss.
[September 28–October 4]
Sex Still Sells
Suzy Spencer , the New York Times -bestselling author from Austin, is fascinated with characters on the margins. But after many years of writing about people like Andrea Yates, the Houston woman convicted of drowning her five children, or Stephanie Lynn Martin and William M. Busenburg, the Austin lovers who killed and dismembered for pleasure, Spencer desperately wanted a laugh. So she turned to sex. The result, Secret Sex Lives: A Year on the Fringes of American Sexuality, is an overview of alternative sex practices like, Spencer said, “women cruising Craigslist to check out the sex smorgasbord.” The book started as a journalistic endeavor but evolved into a memoir, a bold decision for Spencer, a born-again Christian who nearly went to seminary. “To some degree it is an awakening of sexuality and sexual desire,” she said. Spencer’s revelations culminate in a twist that you can question her about at BookPeople, the first stop on her book tour, which comes the day a package on her and Secret Sex Lives airs on Katie Couric’s new TV show.
BookPeople, Ocober. 4, 7 p.m., suzyspencer.com
Online poker rooms make bluffing easy, but try getting into a real room with real players to see what kind of game you truly have. The third annual Texas Hold ’Em Tournament recreates poker as it should be played, among corporeal beings, only instead of betting the mortgage, you bet “donations” as part of a fund-raiser for maintaining the Old Blanco County Courthouse . The building opened in 1886 but was abandoned by the government four years later when the county seat transferred to Johnson City. The Second Empire-style structure nonetheless has a rich history, operating at various times as a bank, a school, a hospital, a newspaper office, an opera house, and a barbecue joint. More recently the second floor courtroom was the setting of a courtroom scene in the Coen brothers’ 2010 remake of True Grit. Event organizers will screen the film the night before the tournament, and while there are no poker scenes in it, the stakes the movie’s characters find themselves up against should act as a reminder that poker is just a game.
Old Blanco County Courthouse, September 29, 10 a.m., historicblanco.org
The carnival aspect of the State Fair of Texas seems to have shifted from rides to food. These days, innovative, mostly amateur chefs try to one-up each other by concocting deep-fried recipes with a wow factor. This year’s Big Tex Choice Awards for Best Taste and Most Creative were announced September 3, and Abel Gonzales Jr., the subject of a profile in the September 2010 issue of Texas Monthly , won the former with Deep Fried Jambalaya, while Butch Benavides captured the latter with his Fried Bacon Cinnamon Roll. ( enavides also submitted Chicken Fried Cactus Bites, which won an honorable mention.) But there is more to the fair, which is celebrating Big Tex’s sixtieth birthday, than the spectacle of fried concoctions. Work off the pounds by walking through the Chinese Lantern Festival. The fantastical realm of art, architecture and animals is making its debut in the Southwest, and while it will replace the popular swan paddleboats, it will integrate Texas elements into its Asiatic theme, including a herd of cattle and a glowing set of bluebonnets.
Fair Park, September 28-October 21, various times, bigtex.com
People who want to be cryogenically frozen might not be crazy. There appears to be a market for bodies that live past their expiration dates. Take Mummies of the World , the largest-ever international display of mummies, some dating back more than 6,000 years. People will be whispering about the Detmold Child from South America, the 10-month-old “natural” mummy in the burial position, considered one of the oldest human mummies ever found. You might glean insight into the lives of past civilizations, or just satisfy a morbid curiosity.
The Witte Museum, September 29-Jan. 27, various times, wittemuseum.org
The Fort Worth Music Festival features Texas mainstays of the rock and country persuasion, but festivals are often about discovery of new acts like the Peterson Brothers Band, the teenage bass-and-guitar duo from Bastrop who has been tutored by Bootsy Collins, Buddy Guy, and B.B. King.
Will Rogers Memorial Center, September 28-29, various times, fwfest.com
Let the Banned Book Bash , a reading by writers and performers of once-unauthorized texts that are now classics, like The Great Gatsby, Howl, and To Kill a Mockingbird, serve as a reminder of one of America’s greatest rights: freedom of speech.
Scholz Garten, October 4, 6 p.m., austinlibrary.org