Throw your plans out the window. We scoured the state in search of the top events and offerings, from watching an opening weekend football game in Waco and the Marfa Lights Festival to eating cabrito in Brady. Here’s our super select guide to the things you absolutely can’t afford to miss. [Sep 2–Sep 9]
Green and Gold Rush
There is always a big upset on opening weekend of college football season, and there’s reason to think the unranked Baylor Bears, playing at home, could maul the No. 14 Texas Christian Horned Frogs. It starts with the most important position on the field: quarterback. With Andy Dalton gone to the NFL, TCU is left to decide between a sophomore with one touchdown to his credit and a couple of freshmen. Baylor, meanwhile, has Robert Griffin III—or “RG3"—who is a pre-season Heisman candidate. Fourteen returning starters and a high-profile running back transfer promise an even better season for Baylor than last year, its first winning season since 1995. There would be no sweeter way for them to kick it off than by exacting revenge on T.C.U. for last year’s 45–10 shellacking. It’s a huge game for both teams, so expect a battle. TCU wants to finish its final season in the Mountain West Conference in good fashion before graduating to the Big East, and Baylor wants to show its worth in the event that its conference, the Big 12, falls apart after this season.
Floyd Casey Stadium, Sept. 2, 7 p.m. baylorbears.com
On certain nights in the mythical West Texas town of Marfa, random lights appear out of the void of the vast mountainscape, and not even an episode of Unsolved Mysteries has been able to get to the bottom of their existence. “Typically they wiggle around a little bit and get brighter, brighter, brighter and bigger, bigger, bigger, and then they split in two,” said Kaki Aufdengarten-Scott, a native Marfan who works at the chamber of commerce and is an organizer of the 25th Annual Marfa Lights Festival. “It’s not extraterrestrial aggression or psychedelic owls or campfires of Apache ghosts; it’s just mystery lights hanging out out there.” The festival celebrates the Marfa lights with a parade, a marshmallow-eating contest and live music headlined by the Tex-Mex purveyor Joe King Carrasco. While most of the event will occur downtown, people will head out to look-out points when the sun goes down. Don’t let the darkness scare you. “If it is aliens,” Aufdengarten-Scott said, “they haven’t molested me.”
Presidio County Courthouse, Sept. 2-4, various times. marfacc.com
Gigging has been the path to success for Grupo Fantasma, the ten-piece Austin-based band whose electric revisions of the Latin grooves of Mongo Santamaría, Tito Puente and the Buena Vista Social Club earned them a Grammy for their album El Existential . “Whenever people come to watch us play, we always feel we should give them that same energy we used to capture in our friends’ backyards when we played for free beer and had everyone dancing,” said Adrian Quesada, the band’s guitarist. When Grupo plays a free show at the Long Center, on the grand terrace overlooking the majestic skyline, your body will move, even if you have been a wallflower your entire life. You will also probably hear two new songs recently integrated into the live repertoire: “Problemas,” a classic salsa dura, and “Esa Negra,” a cumbia that is predominantly one chord.
The Long Center, Sept. 4, 7 p.m. grupofantasma.com
Old Goat Barbecue
If pork is the other white meat, then perhaps goat is the other dark meat. “The nutritional value of it leaves beef in the dust,” said Skye Smith of the Brady Chamber of Commerce, host of the 38th Annual World Championship BBQ Goat Cook-Off. “There are only 31 calories in an ounce.” A total of 206 teams from as far away as Athens, Ga., will cook a half-goat (supplied by the organizers), which includes grocery cuts like shoulders, ribs, loin and “ham.” They will smoke it slow and low in a cooker—not in a pit in the ground, the old-world method—and the meat will be served unadulterated. “Sauce is a big no-no,” Smith said. Eat some in the concession area, along with other treats like fried alligator and frog legs, as Johnny Bush performs “Whiskey River,” the song he wrote for Willie Nelson.
Richards Park, Sept. 2-3, various times. bradytx.com
Put on your thinking cap for Dr. David Eagleman, a Baylor College of Medicine* neuroscientist, as he talks about “Waking Life,” the cerebral dream movie directed by Richard Linklater, the philosophical Austin filmmaker.
14 Pews, Sept. 8, 6:30 p.m., 14pews.org
Cut the Cholesterol
Even vegetarians and health nuts can partake in the rich tradition of cook-offs, thanks to the Oatmeal Festival, where contestants battle in seven different oatmeal-making categories when not competing in Oatmeal Box Stacking, the Cow Chip Kick-Off, and the Egg Toss.
Various locations, Sept. 2-3, various times. oatmealfestival.com