Get the Boot
Becoming the owner of a pair of cowboy boots is a rite of passage for any self-respecting Texan. But it is not enough to simply look the part; understanding the part shows a deeper respect for the tradition that is inherently Texan—by way of Mexico. Gain substantial knowledge at the El Paso Museum of History’s exhibit “Made in El Paso: The Traditions, Influence, and Legacy of El Paso’s Cowboy Boots,” open through this weekend. Though boots were made in El Paso in the late 1800’s for the stock-raising regions of West Texas, southern New Mexico, and northern Chihuahua, Mexico, the area’s claim to fame as the boot capital of the world gained a foothold in the twenties, when Yldefonso Sanchez, a boot maker from Leon, Mexico, arrived and drew other Mexican craftsmen with him across the border. Over time, boot makers the likes of Tony Lama, Justin, Nocona, and Lucchese set up shop in El Paso. The history of the cowboy boot—invented more or less to fit in a stirrup—and El Paso’s multigenerational role in its trajectory from utilitarian product to fashion statement unfolds with photographs, tools of the trade, and scores of boots from makers including Stallion, Rocketbuster, and Caboots (pictured above). The exhibit is the first in a Made in El Paso series focusing on a new product each year, and it comes exactly one hundred years after the El Paso Herald Post popularized the “Made in El Paso” campaign, with cowboy boots as one of its main manufactured goods.
El Paso Museum of History, January 1–3, history.elpasotexas.gov

Bowled Over
Defense may win championships but few football fans watching during this era of the game want to see scores in the single digits. While TCU*, ranked number 11 in the country, and Oregon, ranked number 15, aren’t contending for the National Championship, they will nonetheless be one of the marquee matchups of the college football bowl season when they face off this Saturday in the Alamo Bowl. Both teams ended the regular season in the top ten in total team offense. Their defenses, meanwhile, weren’t so hot: TCU was ranked sixty-third and Oregon was at 115. That’s a recipe for a scoreboard on fire. But today’s fans demand even more than a lot of touchdowns: they want their teams to also look good as they amass their points. Fortunately, TCU and Oregon are both sponsored by Nike, which means fans will likely get to see brand-new, futuristic-looking uniforms and helmets on each squad.
Alamodome, January 2, 5:45 p.m., alamobowl.com

*This just in: TCU quarterback Trevone Boykin was arrested early Thursday morning for allegedly striking a police officer during a fight at a bar in San Antonio, the repercussions of which could spell disaster for the Horned Frogs.


Free to Rock
The holidays are about over and the bills are soon to come due. But some people aren’t quite ready for the party to end. Good thing there’s Free Week, ten days of complimentary concerts performed by more than 125 bands at two Red River venues, the Mohawk and the Sidewinder (the former location of the Red Eyed Fly). Don’t be discouraged if there’s only a few familiar acts; the lineup is curated by Transmission Events, which produces the tastemaking Austin music festival Fun Fun Fun Fest. Free Week dates back more than a decade when Transmission cofounder Graham Williams was a promoter at the original Emo’s club. With a dearth of touring acts available during the first week of the year, he booked a bunch of local bands to give them a chance at bigger stages and audiences beyond their family and friends. Some national acts still creep into the rotation, but this affair is all about making hometown discoveries.
The Mohawk and the Sidewinder, January 1–10, transmissionevents.com

Freeze Your Tail Off
You know the Ice Bucket Challenge, when individuals douse themselves with cold water and post a video of it online to raise money for ALS? People seem to either love it or hate it. Those in the latter category who still want to raise funds for the progressive neurodegenerative affliction also known as Lou Gehrig’s disease can instead participate in the Corpus Christi Polar Bear Plunge, with registration fees benefitting the ALS Therapy Development Institute. At 10 a.m. on New Year’s Day, congregate at Fajitaville On the Beach, run straight into the water, then turn around and run straight back onto the sand. The water temperature should be around 60 degrees. Don’t be a wimp—New Yorkers do this in ocean water that hovers around 45 degrees.
Fajitaville On the Beach, January 1, 10 a.m., polarbearplunge.cc

All Systems Go
Congress intends to allocate around $19 million for NASA next year, giving the space agency its biggest budget in more than a decade. This could very well instigate a rise in the number of aspiring astronauts. A good place to learn the basic skills required of the job is the exhibit “Be the Astronaut,” open through this weekend, wherein participants of all ages can experience a simulated rocket launch and see what it’s like to pilot a spaceship, from gassing up mid-flight using a robotic arm to landing on various simulated landscapes.
Space Center Houston, January 1–3, spacecenter.org

Cowgirl Up
The term “cowboy” is technically gender neutral, but at the Cowgirl Roundup and Show-deo it’s females only—at least in terms of participants. Males are more than welcome to spectate during this annual New Year’s Day gathering when Hill Country cowgirls assemble for a group photo before engaging in a slate of equine activities emphasizing showmanship, dressage, and speed.
Hill Country State Natural Area, January 1, 11 a.m., tpwd.texas.gov