THROW YOUR PLANS OUT the window. We scoured the state in search of the top events and offerings, from the Cow Parade in Austin and the WNBA All-Star Game in San Antonio to honoring the American Cowboy in Bandera, the Cowboy Capital of the World. Here’s our super select guide to the things you absolutely can’t afford to miss. [July 22-29]
There are few sacred cows in Texas, but one of them is, well, the cow. Larry McMurtry and Elmer Kelton have both written thousands of words about cattle drives and ranches, one of the state’s most famous mascots is a longhorn, and slicing into a steak is a favorite pastime. The Austin iteration of the Cow Parade — a multinational public art display of life-size cow statues designed by local artists — is a way of honoring this revered animal. Beginning Wednesday, roughly 90 cows will be installed throughout town for an 82-day run. Jan Heaton, a painter specializing in watercolor, designed a cow named Cowbella, inspired by the intricate indigo-hued pottery of Deruta, Italy. “She is a very tranquil dairy cow,” Heaton said. “I think cows enjoy such popularity because they are a nonthreatening, comforting image that is symbolic of everything good.” The statues will inject vibrancy and whimsy into the cityscape, proving the power of community arts programs.
Downtown, July 27-Oct. 19, various times. cowparadeaustin.com
The Houston Press and Dallas Observer have both recently argued that Austin is losing its cachet as Texas’ music hub. While it’s hard to deny that Austin, home to South by Southwest and Austin City Limits, is the state’s music mecca, the scenes in H-Town and the Big D are adding some muscle. Take Gorilla vs. Bear, the music blog by Chris Cantalini of Dallas. Cantalini, who has run the website since 2005, has a great ear and has been known to scoop Pitchfork, the arbiter of indie cool. Impressed by shows that Cantalini organized for SXSW, the Granada Theater invited him to host the inaugural Gorilla vs. Bear Festival at the historic live music venue. “It required a leap of faith on the Granada’s part to allow us to fill the lineup with bands we love, regardless of what their draw might be,” Cantalini said. The Austin-based band White Denim is headlining, but the real attraction is the first live performance by Preteen Zenith. The Dallas group is the new project by Tim DeLaughter, frontman for the Polyphonic Spree, the pop band dressed as a church choir. “We’re doing eight songs in the midst of a psych-colored prism frenzy,” DeLaughter said.
Granada Theater, July 23, 6 p.m. gorillavsbear.net
Above the Rim
Fifteen years ago, a news conference was held to announce the creation of the Women’s National Basketball Association. By many accounts, it has been a major success. The league has added four teams and has picked up a substantial audience. The WNBA All-Star Game, held this year at the AT&T Center, is the ultimate showcase of athleticism. See Maya Moore of the Minnesota Lynx, the first rookie to start in an all-star game since 2002, and Candace Parker of the Los Angeles Sparks, the only player currently in the league who has dunked in a WNBA. game. You don’t want to miss the chance to see Parker do it again.
AT&T Center, July 23, 2:30, wnba.com
Tolkien in Tune
The Houston Symphony’s live-scoring of the screening of “The Lord of the Rings: The Fellowship of the Ring” lives up to the ambition of Peter Jackson’s epic movie set. More than 200 musicians and singers will participate in the performance, and at the heart of it all will be Kaitlyn Lusk, 22, a soprano who has performed in various live-scorings of the trilogy since she was 14. She will sing six solos from the Academy Award-winning score for the first film, among them Enya’s “May It Be.” “Enya’s song is the only time you hear any English from me,” Lusk said. “The majority of the singing is in Elvish and different languages of Middle Earth.” Lusk has done this all over the world countless times, but a past performance with the Houston Symphony stays with her. “My chair was literally shaking from their playing,” she said. “Those guys were totally ripping.”
Houston Symphony, July 22-23, 7:30 p.m., houstonsymphony.org
There is not a more authentic place to host National Day of the American Cowboy, an appreciation of the mythic figure who made boots and jeans acceptable everyday attire, than Bandera, the Cowboy Capital of the World.
Frontier Times Museum, July 22-23, various times. frontiertimesmuseum.org
Some Like It Hot
The Summer Balloon Classic & Airfest, a weekend pageant of hot-air ballooning, will show that these record-setting temperatures are good for something, as they help propel the balloonists to new heights — faster.
Mid-Way Regional Airport, July 22-24, various times. summerballoonclassic.com