Texas River Country

Created Saturday, 29 September 2007 10:10

Texas River Country

South Texas’ Hill Country is world-famous for its classic vistas and panoramas which rekindle memories of the Old West and cowboys, settlers, and pioneers.  But a short drive to the west will bring visitors to another part of Texas, equally as beautiful, yet not quite as well-known: the River Region.

For outdoor opportunists, nature lovers, and fanatics of fishing, festivals, and fun, the region has a number of attractions, parks, and rich cultural sights that should appease all appetites.  Any time of the year is a good time for a visit, as the winters are never too cold, the rain is rare, and summer heat can be beaten with a dip in one of the many rivers cutting through the area.
Located in Uvalde County, about 85 miles west of San Antonio on Highway 90 is the namesake of the county, the city of Uvalde.  Featuring tree-lined streets, the Leona River cutting through the center of town, and Fort Inge, Uvalde is the jumping off point for the surrounding activities in the region. 

One of the most popular rivers is the Frio River, and its clear, quick waters are popular with locals and tourists, who can rent floats, tubes, and kayaks for relaxing daily trips downriver. The town of Concan, located half an hour’s drive up Highway 83 from Uvalde, is full of outfitters for the Frio, as well as restaurants and lodgings.  Garner State Park, just 7 miles further north, is not only Texas’ most famous and most visited park, but another place along the Frio where visitors and families can enjoy the peaceful serenity of the river.

Along with the Frio, the Sabanal River is another of South Texas’ beautiful natural wonders.  The towns of Utopia and Sabinal are two small town offering a laid-back peek into some of the history of this region.  Both towns have a number of historic buildings, restaurants, and small museums offering displays of the Native Americans who first lived in the area, as well as the settlers, and the geological and natural history of the region.  The Lost Maples State Natural Area contains the only maple forest in the state, and is a gorgeous place to visit in the fall as the leaves change through a kaleidoscope of colors.

Although any time of the year is fine for a visit, there are several festivals and events that are put on each year that should be kept in mind when planning a trip.  The following are a few of the more popular:

· Nature Quest:  Held in two sessions, one in sping and the other in fall, visitors can learn about the native plants, wildflowers, and animals in the region from experts.  Nature Quest features programs of field trips, lectures, workshops, and seminars as well as birding expeditions.  The spring session is held in April and September 14-16.
· Bicycle Classic:  For active visitors and biking fanatics, the third weekend of each October offers riders a choice of a number of routes of differing difficulties and skill levels.  The Classic offers participants rest stops every ten miles, maps and support services, and nightly dinners and socials.  All proceeds are donated to local scout troops, fire departments, and EMS groups.

F4-Fall Fly Fishing Festival:  October 26-28 brings this interesting festival which offers programs for learning fishing techniques, as well as educational programs related to the different species in the area.  It also brings opportunities to test one’s mettle against the fish in the rivers.

Many people think of South Texas as mostly an arid desert, but a trip to the river region will quickly dispel any such notion.  For outdoor enthusiasts, the region offers diverse means for enjoying the clear, clean waters of Texas’ River Region.


Theaters and Venues in San Antonio

Created Thursday, 27 September 2007 10:07

San Antonio is home to a vibrant arts and entertainment community, and also to many unique and interesting venues.  From Broadway shows, to eclectic local productions, and from the symphony, to rock and roll, country, and Tejano music, San Antonio’s theaters are always booked with everything from the local to the international, urbane to the eccentric, and from the traditional to the cutting edge.  Visitors and locals can choose to take in a concert by some of the biggest acts today at the AT&T Center, or dip into one of the city’s smaller playhouses or amphitheaters to see a local play or singer-songwriter performing.  Here is a look at just a few of the more popular and interesting venues that San Antonio has to offer.


· AT&T Center:  Home to the San Antonio Spurs, the building formerly known as the SBC Center is a huge, modern arena featuring all the bells and whistles that visitors would expect.  In addition to the Spurs, the arena also plays host to rodeos, monster truck rallies, and the biggest concerts that come to the city.  Not the place to go for an intimate night, but certainly the place to be for the biggest spectacles that pass through.  October sees the NBA pre-season get underway, and also the music of Juan Gabriel and Vincente Fernandez.

· The Majestic Theater:  One of Texas’ historical and architectural treasures, the Majestic was built in 1929, and for a while, was the largest movie theater in the United States.  The theater fell into disrepair over time, until an effort was undertaken to restore the landmark building in the early ’90s.  Repainted, remodeled, and rejuvenated, the Majestic is once again worthy of its name, and now hosts many Broadway shows, and symphonic and intimate musical productions.  Coming up in October:  San Antonio Symphony (12th-13th), Lyle Lovett (13th), Twelve Angry Men (16th-21st), David Sedaris (22nd), and the San Antonio Symphony Pops (26-28).

· Arneson River Theater:  Located at La Villita Historic Arts District, the Arneson may be small, but this small amphitheater is certainly not lacking in charm.  The stage is surrounded by a moat with water diverted from the San Antonio River, and the audience sits on a terraced, grass hill.  The events are normally quite varied, with an emphasis on the unusual and quirky.  Coming soon: Throughout Sept., the Image Dance Company will be performing, and throughout La Villita, the month features Fotoseptiembre Photo Exhibits in adjacent galleries.  In Novernber, Bedouin Tribe will be performing Middle Eastern dances.

· Laurie Auditorium: Located on the campus of Trinity University, this small but storied hall seats just under 3,000 and has hosted the likes of Bill Cosby, Victor Borge, Jay Leno, B.B. King, and numerous political and literary luminaries.  Oftentimes, the University offers its performances free of charge to the public.


Dallas Cowboys-San Antonio Team

Created Tuesday, 25 September 2007 20:36

Although San Antonio doesn’t have its own NFL team, the Cowboys are the city’s adopted team, spending training camp here and doing everything possible to keep interest high in the southern half of the state. What the ‘Boys have been doing recently is winning. They are among the hottest teams in the league, winning their first three games, and making new coach Wade Phillips feel right at home.


In their first game, the Cowboys took on Eli Manning and the New York Giants, and won a wild game, 45-35. Led by Tony Romo, who had a career game, throwing for 345 yards on just 15 completions and 4 TDs, plus one rushing, the Cowboys started off the season in style, at let the league know that they should be regarded as top contenders. One major concern in the game would have to be Big D’s defense, which gave up 438 yards and 35 points. The next game, though, would be a different story.

Week 2 took the Cowboys to Miami, and while the offense efficiently scored 37 points, it was the defense that turned the game into a laugher. The Dallas secondary intercepted new Dolphins quarterback Trent Green four times, and recovered another fumble. Dallas RB, Marion Barber III, ran for two TDs and accounted for 89 yards rushing.

Having won a defensive struggle and an offensive shootout, both against mediocre teams, the first two weeks looked like things were going well for Dallas. Week 3 would be a real challenge against last year’s NFC Champion, Chicago Bears, and once again the Cowboys rose to the occasion, playing well on both sides of the ball, and turning a 3-3 ballgame at the half into a 34-10 rout. Romo again passed for over 300 yards with 2 TDs. Terrell Owens was on the receiving end of most of those, ending up with 145 yards and a score. The Cowboys defense also made its presence felt by scoring on an interception return, and picking off two other Rex Grossman passes.

With the next two matchups being against the Rams and Bills-who are a combined 0-6 to start the season-it looks like Dallas has a great shot of starting the season at 5-0 before the New England Patriots come to Dallas, Oct. 15. With many people picking the Pats as the AFC Champions this year, who knows, this game could be a preview of the Super Bowl.


San Antonio Oktoberfest

Created Tuesday, 25 September 2007 09:30

Fredericksburg, Texas is known throughout the state as being an outpost of German heritage, with many of its citizens being direct descendents of the liberal, educated German nobility that settled the area in the mid-1800s. Due to this unique background, Fredericksburg hasn’t always followed the trends of the rest of Texas. In fact, during the Civil War, the town was among the leaders of Texas’ Pro-Union anti-slavery movement.
A short 1 hour trip up I10 from San Antonio to Hiway 87 takes you right into downtown Fredericksburg.
Today, Fredericksburg celebrates its heritage every year as summer ends and fall begins with the German holiday, Oktoberfest. This year’s celebration will take place on October 5-7, and will feature its annual line-up of German music, Oompah and other musical acts. Some of the guests include: the Havlak Batla Polka Time Band, Rennie and the Happy Travelers, Jodie Mikula Orchestra, The Bandaids, The Boerne Village Band, The Seven Dutchmen, and the TubaMeisters. The festivities will take place in two tents and two stages at Marktplatz in downtown Fredericksburg.


Of course, Oktoberfest will feature the German food staples of pretzels, sausages, kraut, and of course, beer, but this is Texas after all, and no festival would be complete without fajitas, burgers, shish kebobs, and nachos. In addition to the good eats, the 26th annual Oktoberfest will feature polka and waltz contests, face painting, games, and entertainment for the kids, and many booths offering arts and crafts from area artisans.
Oktoberfest kicks off Friday night at 6:00 PM and lasts until midnight. Saturday and Sunday’s festivities get started in the morning at 10:00 AM and goes until midnight both nights. Tickets are $6 for adults and $1 for children, and three-day passes are available for $15.

For the town of Fredericksburg, Oktoberfest ushers in the beginning of the tourist and festival season. Besides Oktoberfest, the town also hosts the Mesquite Art Festival, Texas Wine Month Trail, and several other activities. As the Christmas season nears, the town celebrates with parades, concerts, home tours, and more art shows, and wine and food shows.

Just about the time the town finishes cleaning up after Oktoberfest, it will begin preparing for another festival that will take place October 13-15. The Mesquite Art Festival will feature more that 50 woodworking artisans showing their wares at the Marktplatz in downtown Fredericksburg. The festival is known as the world’s largest selection of mesquite art, and features sculptures, furniture, gifts, ornaments, and architectural items.


Inspiring Through Art and Ministry

Created Friday, 21 September 2007 19:08

Craig Beman: Inspiring Through Art and Ministry

 Craig Beman is not your typical artist. Most artists scrape and scrounge to make a buck, and when they do, it’s usually a hard-won dollar. When Beman makes a buck, he immediately donates it! All of his proceeds from the sale of his art go to Healing Promises Ministries, an organization begun by Craig and his wife, Peggy, to motivate and help preachers fulfill their ministries. But his generosity with his earnings is not the only thing that sets Beman apart from other artists. What truly makes him unique is that he is just getting started in the art scene.

Yet with the success he has had so far, it seems that Craig Beman Artwork will be inspiring people for years to come. With a degree in Economics, Beman has never had any formal artistic training, but judging from the works he creates, one would certainly never know. He credits God with giving him the gift, and only began sketching, painting, and exploring his gift on the 40th day after he and his wife began ministering full-time in 1999 at the age of 46. In addition to developing his skills, Beman is also pushing the boundary between hand-made art and computer generated art, and blending the two through the Giclee archival print reproduction process.


This process uses multi-density pigments and dye-based inks to enhance the production of fine art prints, and makes an artist of the printer himself. Using the latest technology, color design, mathematics, and art work come together to create a unique, high-quality reproduction, that will last for years to come, and hold up to sunlight, fading, and the passage of time.

Beman’s paintings and sketches are based primarily on three themes: simplicity, inspiration, and motivation. From his landscapes of places which inspire through their majesty, such as his “Great Plains” series or through the peace and tranquility of his “Tropical” works, Beman understands that nature is a place of rejuvenation, rest, and spirituality. On the other end of the spectrum, sports are also important to Beman, and he seeks to show that today’s football, basketball, racing, golf and baseball heroes inspire and motivate us in different ways—through their competitive spirit, leadership, and desire to be the best.

Another strong inspiration, and one that is likely to keep Beman busy in the future, is his new home in Texas. One can see from his works on the various missions, landmarks, and historical buildings in San Antonio that Beman is just beginning to explore the beauty and uniqueness of his new home state of Texas and his soon to be new home of Stephenville, Texas, requiring a move from his current home in San Antonio’s Promontory Point at Stone Oak. Beman has recently decided to open his own gallery, just off the town square in Stephenville. Although his works can be found in other galleries, the opening of his own gallery means that Beman is not only serious about his own art, but means to help other artists have an outlet for their own works.

Of course, for Beman, the art and business of selling it is secondary to what he feels is his true calling, that of helping pastors fulfill their ministries and be the best, most motivated, and inspirational they can be, through his work with Healing Promises Ministries. Most often, people come looking to preachers for guidance, but who is there to help guide the preachers? Healing Promises seeks to minister to the ministers through a series of retreats, exchanges, meetings, and seminars which seek to train and refocus leaders to help them relocate their inner strength and become even more motivated and inspirational.

All artists have muses. For Craig Beman, his spirituality and relationship with his faith are his muses, inspiring and motivating him through his art as well as his ministry. For more information about Craig Beman or to inquire about his art, visit his website at: www.craigbemanartwork.com