Throw your plans out the window. We scoured the state in search of the top events and offerings, from watching the Aggies play their first home game as part of the SEC to admiring hot-air balloons float across the West Texas sky. Here’s our super select guide to the things you absolutely can’t afford to miss.
[August 31–September 8]
The Texas A&M football team has had nine months to recuperate after its last regular season game in the Big 12—a stunning, last-second loss to Texas in what appears to be the final game in a rivalry that lasted more than a century. On Saturday the Aggies begin a new chapter in their new conference: the perennially tough S.E.C. They will kick off conference play against the No. 23 ranked Florida Gators, coached by Will Muschamp, who helped the Longhorns beat the Aggies twice in his three years as defensive coordinator for UT. He has since bad-mouthed College Station, telling a group of Florida boosters, “You ever been to College Station? It’ll be the only time you go.” Try to snag a ticket to the sold-out game to witness what should be a battle. The cadets will be in full force, 12th man towels will be waving and Kevin Sumlin, the new head coach, will have the troops rallied.
Kyle Field, September 8, 2:30 p.m., aggieathletics.com
Damon Gray was four when he first realized he had vocal chops. “I was in the car, going down the road, and I was singing a Hank Sr. song: ‘Your Cheatin’ Heart,’” Gray said. “And my mom said, ‘Well, you sound just like him.’” Fast forward to adulthood and Gray, a resident of Nashville who grew up in the Panhandle, is singing in the Great Recession Orchestra , the Duncanville-based western-swing big band that plays their own version of songs popularized by Bob Wills and Milton Brown, Texan pioneers of the hillbilly-jazz sound. This will be the first time the entire super-group of sorts, whose numerous members hail from across the state and beyond, has played together live since forming a couple of years ago. They will perform songs from the albums “Have You Ever Even Heard of Milton Brown?” and “Double Shot,” with free barbecue on the side. It will be redemption for Gray, who had a recording contract that expired a decade ago because the Nashville label he was on thought he was "too country.” “Nashville has ruined real country music,” Gray said. “And Texas still loves it.”
Sons of Hermann Hall, August 31, 8 p.m., newtexrecords.net
Sunny Side Up
It is hard to ignore the reality of climate change during a time when most of the country is gripped by a drought. “People have come to accept that we’re entering an era of extreme weather,” said Hamilton Fish, a New York publisher and entrepreneur. “What they haven’t done on either the civic or legislative level is translate that consciousness into action.” To change that, Fish and Fairfax Dorn, the co-founder of Ballroom Marfa , will host Marfa Dialogues: Politics and Culture of Climate and Sustainability , a symposium bringing together locals and international figures. Michael Pollan and Rebecca Solnit, both socially-minded authors, will speak; the artist Cynthia Hopkins will perform “This Clement World,” her musical about “sailing through the burning ice and myths of the high arctic”; and the curator David Buckland will debut Carbon 13, an exhibit to help attendees understand the concept of carbon footprint. The far-flung West Texas location, though a cultural haven, was chosen with purpose. “We always think that we have access to these huge networks and we can operate at a much more expansive level,” Fish said. “And we tend to forget the importance of acting locally.”
Various locations, August 31-September 2, various times, ballroommarfa.org
While just about everybody has picked their nose, it is still taboo to talk about what is inside our nostrils. Partakers in the pastime of mucus excavation will find likeminded souls at the last weekend of Grossology: The (Impolite) Science of the Human Body , an exhibit based on the Grossology series of children’s books by Sylvia Branzei, which are dedicated to the body’s sometimes unpleasant functions. But adults will have fun, too, exploring these creative displays, including “Patients Please,” a variation of the board game Operation, and “Y U Stink,” a challenge to visitors to match body odors with body parts.
Fort Worth Museum of Science and Technology, August 31-September 3, various times, fortworthmuseum.org
Seeing hot-air balloons cast against the mountains of West Texas during the Big Bend Balloon Bash might blow you away, but if it doesn’t, there’s the Fire Concert, where the ballooners scorch the night sky by playing “music” with their burners.
Alpine-Casparis Airport, September 1-3, 7 a.m., bigbendballoonbash.com
Although Texas legislators have been reluctant to loosen distribution laws on the brewers in the state's booming craft beer business, getting merry at the Brew Masters Craft Beer Festival will be a show of support that might convince them otherwise.
Moody Gardens, August 31-September 2, various times, brewmastersinternationalbeerfestival.com