Throw your plans out the window. We scoured the state in search of the top events and offerings, from A Tribute to Elvis in Fort Worth and Flaco Jimenez in Houston to the Lone Star Uke Fest and a King Ranch photo exhibit. Here’s our super select guide to the things you absolutely can’t afford to miss.
[June 1 – June 8]
The shuttle program may be over, but the final frontier continues to draw interest. Space Center Houston, the official visitors center of NASA’s Johnson Space Center, draws about 750,000 people annually, according to Richard Allen, president and chief executive of the visitors center. And the recent acquisition from the Kennedy Space Center of a full-scale replica space shuttle will most likely only boost those numbers. “You’re actually able to go inside of the shuttle,” Allen said. “The bulkhead has been removed, so when you walk in, you’re standing in the cockpit, between two couches that the astronauts ride into space on.” Shuttlebration is a weekend event marking the debut of this impressive piece of machinery. Attendees will see it arrive by barge to Johnson Space Center’s dock on Clear Lake. Two days later, after a trailer with 144 wheels hauls it to Space Center Houston, the shuttle will be installed amid the fanfare of astronauts signing autographs and advance looks at new space technology that will build excitement for the next chapter in space exploration.
Various locations, June 1-3, various times, spacecenter.org
As far as Noel Tardy knows, her Uke Lady’s Music Store near White Rock Lake is the only all-ukelele store in Texas. Tardy’s infatuation with the instrument blossomed in 2000, when she was on a trip to Hawaii. There, after a single lesson, she dedicated her life to the stringed instrument that has grown so popular there are now Black Sabbath ukelele songbooks. “Its sound just makes you feel good,” Tardy said. Because there were no outlets in Dallas for Tardy’s new pursuit, she started a local uke club, began uke drives for children and organized the Lone Star Uke Fest. The fourth annual jamboree will consist of workshops and performances that will run the gamut of jazz, blues and country. It will be just the thing for people wanting to learn an instrument but are unsure of their skills. “You can have a degree of proficiency on a ukulele in a very short time,” Ms. Tardy said. “It’s almost like instant gratification.”
Bath House Cultural Center, June 1-2, various times, lonestarukefest.com
The Eyes of Texas
Helen Kleberg was a cowgirl from South Texas. Toni Frissell was a fashion photographer from New York. And yet, at a horse race in Saratoga Springs in 1939, these two formed an unlikely bond. Kleberg, an amateur photographer, invited Frissell to Texas to help her document her husband’s legendary, 825,000-acre King Ranch. The duo’s photographs of scenery people identify with Texas—cowboys, cattle and oil—compose the Two Women Look West exhibition. The symbiotic relationship between these two women had long-term effects. Kleberg inspired Frissell to move on from fashion photography to become a correspondent in World War II. In return, Frissell helped Kleberg turn her hobby into an art form. “The majority of the show is the juxtaposition of the amateur and professional photographer,” said Patrick Kelly, curator at the Old Jail Art Center. “But you can’t tell much of a difference in quality between the two sets of photographs.”
The Old Jail Art Center, June 2-Sept. 9, various times, theoldjailartcenter.org
Long Live Elvis
Elvis Presley once said RCA Records signed him because of his early embrace by Texas fans, so it only makes sense that Texas would be home to one of the most acclaimed Elvis Presley impersonators. Kraig Parker of Dallas plays the Presley of Vegas, wearing jumpsuits, capes and gold-rimmed sunglasses. This impersonation, according to Parker’s bio, won the endorsement of the widow of Colonel Tom Parker, Presley’s manager. Though Parker never had the chance to see Presley perform live, he grew up listening to the King: the first song his mother played for him on guitar was by Elvis Presley. At “A Tribute to Elvis,” one of the opening weekend performances of the Concerts in the Garden series, Parker will possibly cause swooning female audience members to faint by throwing a silk sash at them—only to be roused by a set-capping fireworks show.
Fort Worth Botanic Garden, June 3, 8:00 p.m., thekinglives.com
All St.’s Day
St. Vincent’s Annie Clark, the former member of the Polyphonic Spree, will return to Dallas for KXT’s Summer Cut, possibly flexing her multi-instrumentalist skills in a fashion that surprises people there solely for the headliner, the Flaming Lips.
Gexa Energy Pavilion, June 1, 6:15 p.m., kxt.org
Following the long-awaited reunion onstage last week of the brothers Flaco and Santiago Jimenez Jr., expect Flaco to look rejuvenated and ready to try new tricks at Texas Folklife’s Accordion Kings & Queens concert.
Miller Outdoor Theatre, June 2, 7 p.m., texasfolklife.org