Stonehenge II in Texas Hill Country

What do Stonehenge, Easter Island, and Texas Hill Country have in common? A visit to Hill Country Arts Foundation in Ingram, Texas, solves that mystery. There you’ll find a Stonehenge and two Easter Island Moai head replicas. The structures are the work of two Hill Country residents, Al Shepperd and Doug Hill.

Stonehenge II and Moai heads

Neighbors, the two men hatched the plan to build a Stonehenge replica in 1989. Using steel frames, plaster and metal mesh, they built a scaled version (about 90 percent the height and 60 percent the width) of the famous Stonehenge circle on Shepperd’s ranch. It took them just nine months to construct the monument. A few years later they fabricated two Moai heads following a trip Shepperd made to Easter Island. For years, tourists flocked to Hunt to see the oddities.

Current location

Stonehenge II and the Moai heads found a new home in 2010 on the grounds of the Hill Country Arts Foundation in Ingram. I have to say, this location is perfect. The Moai heads flank a dirt pathway leading through a meadow to Stonehenge II. It’s a bucolic spot, with the Guadalupe River just off to the left.

Admission to the site is free, but the photographic opportunity is priceless.

Encore

I recommend you visit Stonehenge II about lunchtime. Why? Co-located on the art foundation property is a delightful little restaurant, Encore. The restaurant offers home-style lunches six days a week (closed Mondays). The restaurant has an outdoor deck that overlooks the Guadalupe River. We lunched there during our visit and were pleasantly surprised by the freshness of the cuisine and friendliness of the service. They also proffer an amazing selection of craft beers.

Blue Topaz

If you’re in the market for unique, fine jewelry, you’ll find it in Ingram. Just down the road from Stonehenge II is Gems of Hill Country. The jeweler Diane Eames and her partner Brad Hodges offer lone star cut (that’s the cut with the embedded five-pointed Texas star), blue topaz jewelry. Blue topaz is the official state gem of Texas and found only in the Mason area. The stone is usually clear, but you can also find blue variations. The more intense the blue, the more valuable the stone. Eames is a true artist. The stones she cuts are breathtakingly beautiful. Prices begin in the $200 range and go up from there.

When you go

Stonehenge II (120 Point Theatre Road South, Ingram) is in a field. As such, it’s accessible seven days a week. Encore (122 Point Theatre Road South, Ingram) is open for lunch 11 am to 2 pm Tuesdays through Sundays. And Gems of the Hill Country (200 Highway 39, Ingram) is open by appointment (phone (830)-367-3368).

 

Roses and Tigers inTyler

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This weekend, Tyler celebrates its 83rd Rose Festival with a parade, rose show, arts and crafts fair, and guided rose garden tours. If you visit Tyler, be sure to stop by the Tiger Creek Wildlife Refuge and support this nonprofit that provides a home to rescued big cats.

Tyler and roses

Nicknamed the Rose Capital, Tyler’s agricultural industry shifted from growing peaches to roses in the 1920s. By World War II, Tyler grew over half of the rosebushes sold in the United States. Tyler’s market share has decreased to about 15 percent, however, roses remain a major, area industry. Each October, Tyler celebrates its rose history with the Texas Rose Festival. The Tyler Rose Museum, open year round, tells the region’s story with rose festival memorabilia, video, and a computerized catalog of 250 rose varieties.

Tyler Municipal Rose Garden

The garden is at its height during the month of October. You’ll find 500 different rose varieties with fanciful names like Cinderella’s Song, Summer Wind, and Freckles. The rose garden contains over 38,000 rose bushes. I also recommend visiting in early spring when the garden is ablaze with blooming azalea displays in pink, salmon, magenta and red.

Tiger Creek

Located just outside Tyler, Tiger Creek Wildlife Refuge’s stated purpose is “to provide rescue and rehabilitation to big cats that have been abused, neglected, or displaced.” The tiger-creek-800x800refuge spans 150 acres and houses over 40 big cats from tiger to bobcat. Several of the cats were victims of the exotic pet trade of the 1990s. Some cats were relocated when other refuges closed. And many of the cats have physical problems, like Babs. A bobcat, Babs is blind, most probably due to poor nutrition when he was kept as a pet.

Each big cat has its own story. There is a tiger rescued from a man who abused her and had her fight dogs when she was a cub. The tiger, Sierra, was once owned by Michael Jackson. Then there is Tin Cup, a mountain lion. A farmer’s dog brought the cub (the size of a tin cup) to a farmhouse porch in New Mexico. Efforts to locate Tin Cup’s mother failed, so the farmer contacted Tiger Creek. Tin Cup, a handsome, playful, and photogenic cat, is my family’s favorite.

When you go

The Texas Rose Festival is October 13 through 16. Most events are free. Both the Tyler Rose Museum (420 Rose Park Drive) and the Tyler Municipal Rose Garden (624 North Broadway) are open year round.

Tiger Creek Wildlife Refuge (17552 FM 14) is open most days. While more expensive, I strongly recommend the guided tour, or the combo tour. The docents are extremely knowledgeable about the cats and their stories.

State Fair of Texas

big-texBig Tex is back! Yes, it’s time for the Great State Fair of Texas.

Fair Park in Dallas is alive with midway games, amusement rides, fair food, livestock shows, and exhibits. Old favorites return and new exhibits have been added.

Old favorites

I love the animals at the fair. Tucked in the back corner of Fair Park by Gate 12, you’ll find the cattle, swine, and horse barns. It’s all about traditional fair events with young people showing off their prize livestock. Want to see more farm animals? Check out the Lone Star stampede and pig races in the Pan Am building.state-fair-3-800x800

Fried food is everywhere. Personally, I’m quite content to give a pass to fried jello. However, I wholeheartedly recommend a Fletcher’s corn dog…even if you need to stand in line. Fletcher’s is located next to Big Tex, so be sure to get your photo of the iconic Texan while there.

New exhibits

Who would associate Michelangelo with the State Fair of Texas? This year, the Women’s Museum building is the site for an exhibit featuring full-sized reproductions of the Michelangelo’s Sistine Chapel paintings. These panels give an up-close view of the famous ceiling. There is an $8 admission fee.

Hard to please pre-teens may enjoy the Taylor Swift Experience, a collection of Taylor Swift memorabilia on display in the Hall of State building. All ages will enjoy the pogo stunts of Xpogo.

Insider tips

  • Tickets, rides, and food….it all adds up to big bucks when you visit the fair. You can save on tickets by purchasing them online or in advance at Walgreens or Kroger. Better yet, visit the State Fair on a discount day. Bring four cans of food for the North Texas Food Bank on Wednesdays and purchase your ticket for just $4. Even better, if you are 60 years old or more, visit the fair for free on Thursday.
  • Thursdays are not only free to seniors, but many concession vendors offer discounted food for Thrifty Thursdays.state-fair-2-800x800
  • To avoid crowds, consider a weekday visit to the State Fair. You’ll get the same great fair experience with less hassle.
  • Need to cool off on a hot day, the Hall of State, Automobile building, and many other buildings are blissfully air conditioned and wonderful ways to escape the heat.
  • Limit your time at the midway. Rides and games can be an expensive. Instead, take advantage of free entertainment. Special activities for kids are set up around the Pan Am Arena.

The Great State Fair of Texas continues until October 23.

 

 

Fair Park Art Deco

Fair Park 4 (800x600)Fair Park is one of Dallas’ most beautiful locations and also one of its most overlooked. If you are like most Dallas residents, you visit Fair Park only once a year during the Texas State Fair. Yet this 227-acre park is open year round. On a sunny day, I find the art and architectural at Fair Park simply breathtaking.

Art Deco Nirvana

The site of the 1936 Texas Centennial and World’s Fair, Fair Park retains many of its historical Art Deco buildings. The park purports to have the largest collection of Art Deco buildings, art, and sculpture – I believe them.

The Esplanade

The area surrounding the Esplanade showcase stunning Art Deco examples. Massive Fair Park 2 (800x600)porticos at the Automobile Building and Centennial Hall frame six statues. Each statue represents a nation who, at one time, controlled Texas. Designed by Carlo Ciampaglia (Centennial Hall) and Pierre Bourdelle (Automobile Building), the statues bear the classical look of Greek goddesses. Fair Park 3 (800x600)Reliefs on Centennial Hall continue the mythological theme and mix seamlessly with the modernistic murals of industry at the Automobile Building. Recently recreated fountain statues of The Tenor and The Contralto, add another exciting note to the whole Art Deco immersion.

Fair Park cell phone tour

You won’t find much in the way of descriptive placards around any of this fabulous art and architecture. Thankfully, there is a self-guided, cell phone tour available to provide details about art and artists. To access the tour, dial (214) 736-2913 and then follow the phone instructions.

Worth the look

While at Fair Park, be sure to visit the Hall of State and the African American Museum. Both attractions are free.

When you go.

Fair Park is at 1200 Second Avenue, in Dallas. Gate 3 provides parking closest to the Esplanade. Entry to Fair Park (and parking) is free except during the State Fair. You can also get to Fair Park using DART (Dallas Area Rapid Transit) – take the green line to the Fair Park station.

 

 

Hall of State at Fair Park

Hall of State 1 (800x600)The Hall of State at Fair Park is a one-stop primer in Texas history. This opulent showcase of Texas pride opened its doors to the public during the 1936 Texas Centennial. Years later, the Hall of State continues to educate visitors. Today, the Dallas Historical Society manages the museum.

Hall of Heroes

Like most of the buildings at Fair Park, the Hall of State is classic Art Deco, inside and out. Designed by Donald Barthelme, the building is shaped in an inverted ‘T’ – appropriate for a building that commemorates 400 years of Texas history. Every statue, carving, and mural in the Hall of State depicts some aspect of state (and pre-statehood) history and culture.

The towering, gilded statue, Tejas Warrior greets visitors at the building’s grand entrance. The blue, mosaic tiling behind the statue represents our state flower, the bluebonnet. Step inside the building to meet Texas fore fathers in the Hall of Heroes. Stephen Austin and Sam Houston are among the six, life-sized bronze statues.

The Great Hall

From the Hall of Heroes, you enter the Great Hall. I love this room. I’m always amazed at the detail packed all into a single space. Dominating the back wall, the brilliant gold medallion, divided into six pie-shaped reliefs, symbolizes the six nations (France, Mexico, Spanish, Confederacy, Texas Republic, and United States) who have claimed this area. Remarkably detailed murals cover the left and right walls, telling our history in a series of painted scenes.Hall of State 2 (800x600) The murals cover every aspect of Texas history from the 1500 arrival of Europeans to images of higher education and state industries. On the floor, you’ll find mosaics of Texas animals, like the jackrabbit and horned lizard. Even the ceiling in the Great Hall is chocked full of symbolism – designed by George Davidson to represent Aztec motifs of roadrunner, armadillo, and rattlesnake. You can simply spend hours finding new tidbits of history and symbolism throughout the room.

East and West Texas

To the left of the Great Hall, are the East Texas room and G.B. Dealey Library (West Texas). You’ll find murals again in each room, this time above the entrances. The East room murals portray pre-and post-oil Texas. Beautiful, translucent photos by Polly Smith, a Texas photographer active in the 1930s, decorate the walls. Continue on to the library and you’ll discover a completely different motif, this time using brightly colored ceramic tiles on floor and walls.

Storage

Unfortunately, you currently can’t visit the North and South Texas rooms. The historical society lost their off-site warehouse, and now use these rooms for storage of artifacts and documents. Still, you can virtually visit the rooms via an awesome online tour of the Hall of State.

When you go

The Hall of State is in Fair Park at 3939 Grand Avenue, Dallas. Enter the park at Gate 3 for easiest access. Touring the building adds another dimension to our state, especially for children studying Texas history in school. On the second Tuesday of the month, March through September, the Dallas Historical Society hosts a  brown bag lecture series (appropriate for teens and adults). The Hall of State is open Tuesday through Saturday from 9 a.m. to 5 p.m., and on Sunday from 1 to 5 p.m. Entrance to the Hall of State is free, though donations are welcome.