Throw your plans out the window. We scoured the state in search of the top events and offerings, from roasting a 900-pound cow in Wimberly and A-list comedians in Austin to a fiddle competition and a birthday bash for Johnny Cash. Here’s our super select guide to the things you absolutely can’t afford to miss.
With all the praise recently heaped on the homegrown barbecue scene, it would seem Texans would be the masters of all meats. But roasting a 900-pound cow presents a challenge to even the most seasoned pitmasters. When the Austin chefs Emmett Fox, Louis Lambert and Larry McGuire try to accomplish the feat this weekend on a private ranch as part of Vaca y Vino—a 5-hour, 300-person dinner party with live music—they will turn to the French methodologies of Francis Mallmann, the Argentine chef trained in France. Guests will arrive to find the giant steer hoisted onto a custom-made trellis, above a bunker of concrete blocks. “My biggest concern is getting that steer on that apparatus,” Fox said. “It will take at least six people.” A month ago, Fox and his crew did a practice run with a 350-pound half cow. This time, they intend to bring in some professional butchers to help. “Carving it up will be a big undertaking,” Fox said, “but it will be a big part of the show.”
Bridges Ranch, April 22, 1 p.m. vacayvino.com
Fiddlers’ Frolics started in 1971 as a fund-raiser for the Knights of Columbus. It has evolved into the Texas state championship fiddle competition, and it is also the subject of a documentary, “The Devil’s Box,” which premiered at South by Southwest in 2011. “The thing that will surprise people is how young the contestants are,” said the event’s organizer, John Stuart Fryer, whose father, Cliff, was one of three to conceive the fund-raiser and to put up the prize money the first year. “The old guys are still playing, but they don’t have the dexterity any more.” Impeccable melodies and tenacious breakdowns await a judges’ panel of past champions and a thousand onlookers during the weekend, paired with barbecue and new Songwriter Serenade competitions. Equally entertaining is the Anything Goes contest the night before the championship. “That’s when you’ll hear ‘Orange Blossom Special’ and other gimmicky stuff,” Fryer said. “There are sisters who bow each other’s fiddles and people who play behind their backs. I’ve even seen a guy dance on a barrel and roll.”
Various locations, April 26-29, various times. fiddlersfrolics.com
Field of Green
Former President George W. Bush can be polarizing, but his wife, Laura, is largely respected. Her enrichment of Texas dates back to 1995, her first year as first lady of Texas, when she established the Texas Book Festival, noted for its literacy advocacy. Mrs. Bush has since turned her attention to the environment. She has parlayed her honorary chair on the National Park Foundation into Taking Care of Texas, the new conservation corps. Attend Earth Day Dallas, where Mrs. Bush will be a keynote speaker, and let her give you that swift boot in the pants you need to finally follow through on your community service intentions. Mrs. Bush’s pitch will be one of many at this mini-city of green-tainment, where admission is free in exchange for your contribution to the environment.
Fair Park, April 21-22, 10 a.m. earthdaydallas.org
Nick Offerman and Aziz Ansari play two of television’s funniest characters on the NBC comedy “Parks and Recreation.” Each week millions tune in to watch Ron Swanson (Mr. Offerman) and Tom Haverford (Mr. Ansari) ham it up with the rest of the City of Pawnee staff. But like many of today’s most hilarious personalities, Offerman and Ansari got their starts on the stage, left to their own devices to get a laugh. They will return to this form at the Moontower Comedy and Oddity Fest, a multiday laugh-in with an assemblage of performers that would make the Not Ready for Prime-Time Players truly look it. A-list talent including Wanda Sykes, most notably of “Curb Your Enthusiasm”; Seth Meyers, the Weekend Update anchor for “Saturday Night Live”; and Steven Wright, the mysterious man of droll, are some of the many geniuses who will make you delightfully sick with laughter.
Various locations, April 25-28, various times. moontowercomedyfestival.com
Paul Goldberger, the Pulitzer Prize-winning architecture critic for The New Yorker, and others at the David Dillon Symposium convey that critiquing buildings that have already been built is worthwhile because of its place in the discussion of buildings that have yet to be built.
Dallas Museum of Art and Nasher Sculpture Center, April 26-27, various times. uta.edu
Cashing Their Chips
Willie Nelson and Kris Kristofferson are why people will buy tickets to “We Walk the Line,” the star-studded 80th birthday bash for Johnny Cash, but it will be special guest Matthew McConaughey who will have people afraid to go to the bar or bathroom for fear of missing a bongos solo.
ACL Live, April 20, 8 p.m. acl-live.com