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Beyond Bratwurst: A Journey into the Heart of German Texas January 18, 2018

Posted by Tracy in : Cultural tourism, Texas , add a comment

By Tracy L. Barnett
Photos by Sarah Lim
For Texas Journey magazine

Greg and RodneyLively polka tunes mingled with the scent of grilled bratwurst. A bevy of girls in Bavarian dirndls bounced by aboard a hayride. A young
family tried ninepin bowling on a wooden plank. Then a fellow in a plumed hat, ruffled shirt, and tall riding boots caught my eye.

“Pardon, may I ask,” I began.

He held out a white-gloved hand. “Prince Carl, madame. Charmed, I’m sure.”

For a moment, I could have imagined myself in 19th century Germany. But I was actually 5,000 miles and nearly two centuries away in New Braunfels, at the annual Folkfest celebration of the town’s German pioneer heritage. (more…)

¡Viva! Brownsville’s Charro Days Fiesta takes friendship and unity across the border and back January 18, 2018

Posted by Tracy in : Border Culture, Cultural tourism, Texas , 2comments

By Tracy L. Barnett
Photos by Larry Ditto
For Texas Journey magazine

Screen Shot 2018-01-18 at 3.24.40 PMOn a sunny February afternoon in Brownsville, Beatrice “Chickie” Samano stood on a covered stage and surveyed the crowd as she had done countless times over the decades. Serious in her serape-striped director’s vest, she held a microphone and awaited her cue. Then, as violins began to soar, she took a deep breath, leaned back, and let out a shout so loud and so long it could surely be heard across the Rio Grande in Matamoros:


Whoops and hollers arose from the crowd. Samano finished with a classic Mexican cackle and sharp cries of “Aayy! Aayy! Aayy!”

By then, she was smiling from ear to ear, and the audience was roaring its approval. “¡Viva México!” shouted the emcee. “¡Viva!” yelled
Samano, her fist upraised. “¡Viva los Estados Unidos!” “¡Viva Matamoros!” “¡Viva Brownsville!”

With that, the 80th annual Charro Days Fiesta was officially under way. Launched in 1938, while the nation was in the throes of the
Great Depression, the festival was conceived by Brownsville civic leaders to lift peoples’ spirits and celebrate the town’s Mexican flavor, as well as its friendship with Matamoros, the bustling metropolis across the Mexican border. Organizers named the event for Mexico’s skilled horsemen—charros—and the elegant culture epitomized by their mariachi-style braidtrimmed leather ensembles and wide-brimmed sombreros.

San Antonio’s Missions declared a World Heritage site July 6, 2015

Posted by Tracy in : San Antonio, Spain, Texas , add a comment

Alamo with Moon (Al Rendon photo, courtesy San Antonio Convention and Visitors Bureau)

Tracy L. Barnett, Special for USA TODAY

Five cherished portals to America’s Spanish colonial past have just been elevated to the stature of Machu Picchu, Stonehenge and the Taj Mahal with Sunday’s decision by the World Heritage Committee of the United Nations Educational, Scientific and Cultural Organization (UNESCO) to grant World Heritage status to San Antonio Missions National Historical Park.

“We are thrilled,” said San Antonio Mayor Ivy Taylor, calling from Bonn, Germany, soon after the announcement was made. “The decision came right after Independence Day and we felt we were representing the United States on a world stage, so it was very exciting.”

True-Blue Texas Bluegrass: A slice of life January 11, 2010

Posted by Tracy in : Texas , add a comment

A couple of months back – it seems like an eternity now – I had the pleasure of enjoying one of the finer backwaters of Texas culture: the Salmon Lake Bluegrass Festival. It was truly a step back in time, and good company with some of the friendliest, down-to-earth folk I’ve run across – not to mention talented.

Just Fiddlin’ Around, an article I wrote on Texas Bluegrass, appeared recently in Texas Journey Magazine, and I promised videos and extra content – a promise I’ve been slow on delivering, due to my overcommitted work and travel schedule.

Here at long last is the first of the two videos I promised:

Keep an eye on this spot for a video demonstration of the amazing Doyle Campbell, a truly original bluegrasser who makes instruments out of everything from washtubs to bedpans to a dog dish. Also, an interview with the Pickin’ Professor Rod Moag, and a link to his article, A History of Texas Bluegrass, which contains everything you’ll every want to know on the subject.

Thank you for your patience, those of you who have been looking for the promised videos and extra content. I appreciate your readership and your support!

Party with a purpose at the Farm December 15, 2009

Posted by Tracy in : Houston, Sustainability, Texas , 1 comment so far

Saturday dawned misty and chilly, but it didn’t dampen the enthusiasm of the crowds who flocked to the Last Organic Outpost Saturday to celebrate the two-year anniversary of the group’s Emile Street Farm, learn about food security, forage for wild edibles, eat organic tamales and meet interesting folks.
(photos by Mona Metzger of Houston Green Scene)


First-time climber conquers fears at Enchanted Rock December 6, 2009

Posted by Tracy in : Adventure, ecotourism, Texas , 1 comment so far

My first piece in the Dallas Morning News, and it’s a travel cover! Out today, my friend and climbing teacher Jamie McNally just wrote to let me know…

Here it is:

First-time climber conquers fears at Enchanted Rock


Merriment Galore on the Strand December 6, 2009

Posted by Tracy in : Galveston, Historical preservation, Texas , 2comments

Just a year ago the annual Dickens on the Strand was carried out amid a ruined and gutted downtown Galveston, a defiant statement of the city’s commitment to a comeback. Yesterday that comeback was clear, and with all the fine lords and ladies shoulder to shoulder with rakish pirates and coal dust-smeared ragamuffins, the floodwaters were but a poignant memory.

Created with Admarket’s flickrSLiDR.

Top hats and bustles were de rigeur throughout the historic district. From a British jokester and juggler on Old Galveston Square to a costume contest judged by Galveston’s own “Queen Victoria,” bagpipes on the Tall Ship Elissa and camel and elephant and pony rides over on 21st Street, the festivities had a decidedly 18th century British feel.

Galveston calling December 4, 2009

Posted by Tracy in : Galveston, Texas , 2comments

Tomorrow’s the 36th annual Dickens on the Strand, and Galveston is going into its finest Victorian mode – with candy apples, bagpipes, games and crafts, and a whole cast of Dickens characters roaming the streets.

The festival began in the dark days of the Strand, when the Galveston Historical Foundation was casting about for ways to rebuild a decaying treasure. The first few years, lifelong Galvestonian Christine Hopkins told me, the festival was held only at night, when the festive lighting cast the shabby Victorian buildings at their romantic best.

Eventually, a multimillion-dollar restoration brought the charming historic downtown to life, but the city took another big hit last year when Ike deposited eight feet of floodwaters in the streets of downtown.

Nonetheless, Galvestonians being the hardy lot they are, the town has rallied impressively. A visit a few weeks ago with my daughter showed just how far the city’s come.

Here’s a little glimpse of a sunny day a couple of weeks ago.

Created with Admarket’s flickrSLiDR.

Last Organic Outpost’s Greenfest on video November 11, 2009

Posted by Tracy in : Houston, Sustainability, Texas , add a comment

In case you missed it, the best of Houston turned out on the farm for the Community Greenfest at the Last Organic Outpost’s Emile Street Community Farm.

Channel 39’s Going Green With Yolanda Green caught a great slice of celebratory life in a two-part video tour, now available on their website – and here. Enjoy!



Going full boar at Catalan September 24, 2009

Posted by tracybarnett in : Food, Houston, Sustainability, Texas , add a comment

Every now and then, a meal becomes an event you’ll never forget. That’s what happened Sunday at Catalan, one of Houston’s top-rated restaurants.

Chef Chris

Catalan, an anchor of the newly thriving Washington corridor, has caught the eye of many a writer in the couple of years since it’s opened, right up to the New York Times, and master chef Chris Shepherd is a big reason why. His bold, no-holds-barred, what-the-hell style has earned him a following that’s as passionate as his own commitment to his art. But what really drew me was his staunch advocacy of the buy local movement.


He plans his entire menu around what he finds at the local farmers’ markets and what local growers can provide him.

“It’s not just the right thing to do; it means better quality,” he explained when I met him on Friday. He was already cooking up plans for Sunday’s feast, and when he invited me, of course I couldn’t resist.

It all started when Farmer John Laughlin showed up on his doorstep with a wild boar. Laughlin’s farm kept getting raided by these wild hogs, and nothing he did could drive them away.