Throw your plans out the window. We scoured the state in search of the top events and offerings, from the opera in Houston and Friday night lights in Odessa to surfing along the coast and hiking in the mountains. Here’s our super select guide to the things you absolutely can’t afford to miss.
Attending the Texas Folklife Festival is like speed-dating the state, demographically. You have three days to sample forty or so cultures, each of which is represented by food, music, arts, crafts, and more. Some, like Czech or Mexican, may already be familiar. But what about Wendish? “Who?” you say. The Wends are a Slavic people with a complex and unusual language who settled in Lee County in the 1850’s, seeking religious and linguistic freedom. Discovering a unique cultural history like theirs is exactly what makes the Folklife Festival worthwhile. (Plus, the Wends cook some mean noodles.) Some of the groups on display have been here a long time, some are recent arrivals. “We have new immigrant groups arriving to our state and they feel that the festival is the perfect place to be introduced to the community at large,” said Jo Ann Andera, festival director. “When they are looking for a place to live, the combination of reality and dreams makes them pick Texas.” The fortieth anniversary festival will also include a special exhibit of photos, tickets, and artifacts. In an era when borders are increasingly tightened, your attendance shows you still value the American Dream.
HemisFair Park, June 10–12, various times.
There is Dr Pepper and there is Dublin Dr Pepper. Chances are you haven’t tried the latter, which is considered the original formula that was concocted at Wade Morrison’s Old Corner Drug Store, in Waco, in 1885. That’s because Dublin Dr Pepper is only offered in a 44-mile area around the Central Texas town of Dublin, home to one of the soda’s first bottling plants. There will be no shortage of the real thing at the plant’s 120th Birthday Celebration. “I would feel safe in estimating about 10,000 servings of deliciousness will be going down,” said Lori Dodd, event organizer. This year’s theme is Greek mythology. The grounds will feature a Parthenon and Mt. Olympus. There will also be a Tour de Pepper bike ride led by Nike and 10-2-4K run led by Hermes. The connection between Greek mythology and glorified sugar water might seem tenuous, but that didn’t dissuade Dodd. “Several months ago, I received an e-mail that said, ‘If Dr. Pepper is the nectar of the gods, then Dublin Dr Pepper is Zeus’s private stock,’” Dodd said of her inspiration for this year’s fest.
Dublin Dr Pepper Bottling Company, June 11, 7:45 a.m.
When you think of motorcycles, you think of wide open spaces, where engines can roar without repercussion. Rallies like Sturgis, in the Black Hills of South Dakota, or Laconia, near Weirs Beach in New Hampshire, come to mind. This is because the crush of an armada of burly bikers and their lascivious ladies in a major city might seem a recipe for disaster. But Austin is not afraid. The Republic of Texas Biker Rally, one of the largest in the country, happens almost entirely in downtown Austin. What undoubtedly attracts hard-core riders and weekend warriors alike is the awesome northbound stretch of South Congress Avenue that gives a stellar view of the Texas Capitol. But as much as this is about the bikers taking in local sights, live music, and breakfast tacos, it’s also about the bipedal population taking in the bikers, and thinking, “What was I so scared of?”
Various locations, June 10–12, various times.
The Cards You’re Dealt
It’s hard to think about Kenny Rogers, one of the original country star-to-movie star crossovers, and not reflect on his plastic surgery. Rogers has said he did it to appeal to a younger woman. Remember Rogers’s ballad “Lady”? This man is obviously a lover, and you’ve got to respect the lengths that he went to prove it. Show your support when Rogers returns home to Texas for the second night of the tour in support of his new gospel album, The Love of God. The CD is available exclusively at Cracker Barrel, which is either a bold or peculiar move, considering the recent trend to use Starbucks as the alternative distribution route. But if you know the saying “You’ve gotta know when to hold ’em … ,” you know Rogers is a gambler. And a gambler who is nearing the end of his game always has some cards up his sleeve come show time.
Meyerson Symphony Center, June 11, 8 p.m.
Forget the 260 miles of river between San Marcos and Corpus Christi that must be paddled in one hundred hours as part of the Texas Water Safari, a.k.a. “The World’s Toughest Boat Race.” Your real enemies are water snakes and heatstroke.
Aquarena Springs, June 11–15, 9 a.m.
In the Oil Bowl Classic, a face-off of high-school all-stars from Texas and Oklahoma, the fierce gridiron rivalry between the two states goes deeper than the celebrated Red River Rivalry.
Memorial Stadium, June 11, 7 p.m.