From Canyon to Corpus Christi, we celebrate a Lone Star–spangled Fourth. Plus: Brushing up on contemporary art (San Antonio); doing Lunch one last time (Austin); fighting for the crown (Fort Worth); and getting to know the man who knew too much (Houston).

The Main Event

Rockets’ Red Glare

Nothing is ho-hum about Independence Day in Texas, and this year’s entertainment is no exception. At Willie Nelson’s picnic in tiny Luckenbach, friends include Leon Russell, Ray Price, the Bells of Joy, and the Sisters Morales, one of Willie’s most eclectic shows ever. The Wharton County Fourth of July Festival has lined up Emilio, Asleep at the Wheel, Little Joe y La Familia, and sixteen other acts for a weekend of music and fireworks. The gates will be flung wide open at Palo Duro Canyon State Park for a party that includes a performance of the musical Texas. For the big spenders, Corpus Christi offers the most fun: For a mere $1,000 you can treat your date and six friends to an evening of barbecue and big-band dancing aboard the U.S.S. Lexington, with jet fighter flybys, a flotilla of yachts, and fireworks over the bay. And speaking of fireworks, you can hardly do better than the spectacular laser-enhanced displays that cap off performances by Lorrie Morgan, the Commodores, the Turtles, and the Supremes in downtown Garland. That should light your fire. Chester Rosson


How Great Thou Art

“For a long time many people thought that contemporary art in San Antonio was kind of an ugly duckling,” says Carla Stellweg, the executive director of San Antonio’s Blue Star Art Space. But the Alamo City’s contemporary artists have fended off the nervous, confused silence their work sometimes provokes. In 1985 they organized Contemporary Art Month—an annual celebration that has grown into a city-wide homage to new work. And over the past few years they have received support through increased funding from the city and private patrons, an increase in the number of galleries, and the doubling of the city’s population. This month, the fourteenth annual Contemporary Art Month will showcase the vibrant scene’s creations at ArtPace, which regularly features challenging displays; the McNay, which will sponsor a retrospective of works by local artist Cesar Martinez; Art in the Hood, where more than one hundred artists, performers, poets, and musicians in from the South Side’s neighborhood converge in a funky neighborhood warehouse; and Blue Star Art Space, which will feature selected works from local private collections and which acts as the headquarters of the fifty-some participating venues. Each site defines the term “contemporary” differently, so you’re likely to see a variety of styles as diverse as the city itself. Katy Vine


A Final Note

Austin has earned the title of Live Music Capital of the World for two main reasons: (1) talented musicians of all styles live there and (2) venerable clubs like Antone’s, the Broken Spoke, and the Continental Club offer local acts and major artists a place to perform. Alas, one of these cherished institutions, Liberty Lunch, where throngs of music fans have swayed, swing-danced, and stage-dived to everything from reggae and folk to funk and alternative since 1976, will be uprooted to make room for a high-tech firm. All that will remain after the city demolishes the open-air warehouse this summer and replaces it with modern office buildings will be the memories—like the time Gibby Haynes of the Butthole Surfers set a fire onstage. The good news is that Liberty Lunch is slated to reopen in March next door to the music-and-barbecue mecca Stubb’s, just in time for the South by Southwest music festival. But this month die-hard patrons will want to have one last fling on the old concrete dance floor to see shows that include Sonic Youth and the Damnations TX. And though Austin’s music scene continues to flourish—practically every cafe and coffeehouse has a stage for struggling musicians—in our hearts we know there’s still only one place to do lunch. Eileen Schwartz


A Crowning Achievement

The state fair comes to Dallas in the fall, but the state’s fairest flock to Fort Worth in the summer. This month the annual Miss Texas pageant takes place, as always, in Cowtown, where 54 distinctly non-bovine babes compete July 7–10 for a $10,000 scholarship and a priceless title. Among the contestants vying to succeed Tatum Hubbard, Miss Texas 1998, are a tap-dancing Tami, a tuneful Tori, a singing Scarlett, and a piano-pounding Misti. The smiling faces reflect the changing face of Texas too: For example, you’ve got to love the fact that AnaMichelle Lopez will croon “Besame Mucho”—hardly the talent one might expect from the reigning Miss River Oaks. Veteran pageant-watchers will recognize some names and acts, including ventriloquist Brooke Staudt (Miss West Texas this year, Miss Amarillo Area last) and baton twirler Marshawn Evans (now Miss Oak Cliff, formerly Miss White Settlement). That’s because today’s pageanteers have not just looks and legs but ambition from here to there and back again. Anne Dingus


Good Evening

What’s scary? Not the current crop of “horror” flicks, whose recipe goes something like this: Take one Party of Five star, stir in a handful of Tommy Hilfiger models, season with buckets of blood and blaring alt-rock, and serve—invariably cold. Honestly, if you’ve seen Scream or its knockoffs, you know they’re for the birds. The Birds, however, is another story entirely, as it was the handiwork of Alfred Hitchcock, a man to whom the phrase “master of suspense” doesn’t do justice. Hitch would have been one hundred this year—a nice round age for a nice round man—and for that occasion various festivals have come together recognizing his best work. Not that it’s easy to choose: In a 54-year career he directed sixty films (take that, Terrence Malick), from Psycho to Rebecca to the aforementioned frightfest in which Tippi Hedren is stalked by a feathered flock (perhaps they blamed her in advance for Melanie Griffith’s creative output). On July 8 one such festival kicks off at the Museum of Fine Arts, Houston, which has chosen to honor both Hitchcock and François Truffaut, the French New Waver who paid homage to him in several thrillers. Twenty-one classics by two of the century’s cinematic greats? We know what you’ll do this summer. Evan Smith