Throw your plans out the window. We scoured the state in search of the top events and offerings, from hearing UNT's Grammy Award-winning One O'Clock Lab Band to turkey racing in Cuero. Here’s our super select guide to the things you absolutely can’t afford to miss.
[October 12–October 18]
Tooting Their Horns
The jazz program at the University of North Texas counts Norah Jones among its alumni, but it is also known for educating many of the session players behind the genre’s mid-century heyday recordings. In the forties, the school began offering one of the first jazz studies majors. “A lot of people came out of World War II on the GI Bill and wanted to study jazz,” said Steve Wiest, a professor in the program. “They went to North Texas and it started catching on fire.” The One O’Clock Lab Band, which Wiest directs, is like the jazz program’s house band. Formed in 1946 and named after the hour of the representing musicians’ rehearsal time, the ensemble has released an album a year, mostly of students’ compositions, and has earned six Grammy nominations. On Friday, the latest incarnation—a nineteen-piece including five saxophonists, five trombonists, and five trumpeters— will perform the release show for the 2012 CD . Buy a ticket and affirm that jazz is not a bygone music. “There are more highly accomplished jazz musicians around now than there has ever been,” Wiest said. “Jazz has never been more alive.”
Bass Performance Hall, 525 Commerce (817-212-4200). October 12 at 8 p.m. jazz.unt.edu
Cuero used to be the epicenter for processing and shipping turkeys across the country for Thanksgiving dinner. In 1912, the agricultural town began paying homage to its birds with the Turkey Trot, the festival where some 10,000 birds were annually herded to the butcher. “They would come from farms seven miles away,” said Erik McCowan, an organizer of this year’s Turkey Trot and the director of Ruby’s Town, the documentary about Cuero’s turkey heritage. “It would take a couple of days. They would stop and roost, and take an overnighter and continue on.” In 1973 Cuero started promoting itself as the Turkey Capital of the World, only to find that Worthington, Minnesota, made the same claim. But Cuero wouldn’t back down, and as a way to settle the score, it started Turkeyfest, featuring the Great Gobbler Gallop. Honors went to the winner of the race between turkeys from each town: Cuero’s Ruby Begonia and Worthington’s Paycheck. The winner is awarded the Traveling Turkey Trophy of Tumultuous Triumph; the loser gets the Circulating Consolation Cup of Consummate Commiseration. Paycheck is ahead 22-17, but winning the 40th annual Turkeyfest during the 100th annual Turkey Trot would be a step toward erasing that gap.
Various locations, October 12-14, various times. turkeyfest.org
Holding, Not Folding
Kenny Rogers ’s third act is in full swing. Earlier this year, the 79-year-old played Bonnaroo, the music festival whose younger audience embraced him as a novelty act. Ten days ago, he released his autobiography Luck or Something Like It. The book intends to captivate readers with his trajectory from humble beginnings in Houston to hitmaker, with songs like “The Gambler” (we all know “You got to know when to hold ’em, know when to fold ’em”) to “Islands in the Stream,” his duet with Dolly Parton. Rogers actually wrote a great deal of his book and laced it with a sarcastic and self-deprecating tone. See how candid he is when he returns to his old neighborhood for the last stop on his book tour . It’s just the occasion for nostalgia and never-before-told stories.
Barnes & Noble River Oaks Shopping Center, 2030 West Gray (713-522-8571). October 12 at 1 p.m. barnesandnoble.com
Word for Word
Screenwriters tend to get no respect. Hollywood egos impose themselves, and words are easily minced. But the movies at the Austin Film Festival are impervious to this meddling. Dubbed the “writer’s festival,” it’s akin to theater, where the person who puts it on paper retains control. Screenplay and teleplay competitions will precede 90 panels and 180 screenings this year, led by Not Fade Away, the writer-director David Chase’s follow-up to The Sopranos. The movie, starring James Gandolfini, is about putting together a band in New Jersey in the 1960s. It joins another movie about music: Quartet, Dustin Hoffman’s directorial debut about a home for retired opera singers. And then there is the documentary Ann Richards’ Texas, whose subject certainly had a way with words.
Various locations, October 18-25 at various times. austinfilmfestival.com
The Scarecrow Festival includes a smattering of scarecrow scenes that are judged by how well they incorporate recycled materials, a subliminal tactic to get visitors thinking about what they are throwing away.
Shangri La Botanical Gardens & Nature Center, 2111 West Park Avenue (409-670-9113). October 16–November 10 at various times. shangrilagardens.org
Play a prima donna at “ Punch Party: The 18th-Century Imbiber ” and drink glasses of both contemporary and old school English punches to get the courage to wear one of the white pompadour wigs.
Museum of Fine Arts, Houston; 1001 Bissonnet (713-639-7300) October 18 at 6:30 p.m. mfah.org