The Fourth of July is right around the corner and the Lone Star State is kicking out the patriotic jams from the coast to the Hill Country and beyond. Here are a few of the best places to get your American pride on, and maybe avoid Lee Greenwood overexposure.
Up in the Ft. Worth Stockyards, Willie Nelson is celebrating the 40th anniversary of his fabled Picnic, and this year's line-up is strong indeed. The Red-Headed Stranger headlines the event, which also includes fellow Country Music Hall of Famers Kris Kristofferson and Ray Price, Rock and Roll Hall of Famer Leon Russell, hardcore troubadors Billy Joe Shaver and Ray Wylie Hubbard, honky-tonk crooners Dale Watson and Dallas Wayne, western swing preservationists Asleep at the Wheel, crazed outlaw David Allen Coe, neo-traditionalist Jamey Johnson and Texas country-rockers the Randy Rogers Band, among others. Tickets are $35 in advance and $55 at the gates on the day of the event. Here's a map and a list of nearby hotels. Organizers are expecing a flotilla of Ft. Worth food trucks to be on site.
With all that twangy talent 187 miles up I-35, the Live Music Capital of the World is left with a symphony performance at Auditorium Shores on Lady Bird Lake. Admission is free to the classical soiree, which will feature patriotic music and the 1812 Overture, culminating in fireworks booming over the water with the skyline in the background.
Ten years ago I spent a memorable Fourth with my family in a beach-house in Crystal Beach on the Bolivar Peninsula. Nothing of real note was organized or publicly funded about this bash, but pretty much everybody in town spent several hundred dollars each on fireworks at Crystal Beach's Pyroshack and put on independent displays that started at sundown and lasted deep into the night, the sea air exploding with Roman Candles, Rum Runners, Sin Cities, Sleepy Hollows, Black Cats, bottle rockets and every other variety of gorgeous ordinance China's teeming fireworks factories can supply. It might well have been the best fireworks display I've ever seen. Check here, here, or here for beach house rentals.
Just outside of Schulenburg lies the tiny hamlet of St. John, Texas, where each year the descendants of the area's Czech and German settlers host a polka-riffic Fourth-fest. The day begins with Mass in the village's 125-year-old St. John the Baptist church, followed by a flag-raising and a meal of locally-famous stew and fried chicken. Then the Shiner Hobo Band, Czech And Then Some, the Dujka Brothers and the Red Ravens follow one another to the stage in the preserved and recently expanded dance hall. Old-fashioned games abound for the kiddies -- ring toss, cake walks, fish ponds, etc. And these being Bohemians, it's safe to say there will be beer.
Robert Earl Keen and Owen Temple will precede the largest fireworks display in the Hill Country at Kerrville's 4th on the River. Admission is free to the party in Louise Hays Park on the banks of the Guadalupe.
Know of any others? Tip us off in the comments!