Photo by Daylon Walton

The Dallas-Fort Worth theater community lost one of its most recognizable contributors on May 21, when The Column founder John Garcia passed away from leukemia.

"John is at peace now. He got into places right at 2 pm for the matinee in heaven," posted The Column account on Facebook.

Born in Kerrville, Garcia made an indelible mark on the local theater community when he founded The Column 17 years ago. It began as a group email among 20 friends, and today has more than 20,000 subscribers worldwide. Many actors in DFW rely on it for audition notices, and there are currently 17 associate theater critics who write for the site.

Having so many contributors means that The Column was able to cover nearly all of the theater here, from extremely local community productions to national Broadway tours.

According to The Column's website, Garcia appeared in more than 400 productions as an actor, including two years touring with Walt Disney World Entertainment and working with such stars as Tommy Tune, Ann Miller, and New Kids on the Block. He was currently an Actor's Equity candidate, working toward full equity status.

In 2005, Garcia was awarded the Distinguished Alumni Award for Excellence in Theater from the University of North Texas.

Garcia also founded The Column Awards, a major fundraiser for Broadway Cares/Equity Fights AIDS and the only theater awards show in DFW. It was not unusual for Garcia to entice huge stars to Dallas for the awards, including Donna McKechnie, Anthony Rapp, Max Von Essen, and Plano's own Michael Urie.

Garcia had been diagnosed with cancer in March, and on a ventilator since April. On May 20, Column Awards board member and Garcia's close friend Jason Bias posted:

"Today, we met with the palliative care doctor and made the difficult decision to take John off the ventilator tomorrow afternoon. The doctor laid everything out for us and John’s cancer would return in the future and they would not be able to provide him chemo based on his reaction, and he is not strong off enough to live off the vent. Our hearts are heavy with this decision, but we know that our sweet John would want this. He will be surrounded by close friends and loved ones."

Remembrances and condolences poured out from the theater community. Greater Lewisville Community Theatre posted on Facebook:

"Through the annual presentation of The Column Awards, John raised and forwarded all proceeds to Broadway Cares/Equity Fights AIDS, making his organization one of the most effective fund raisers for BCEFA outside of the Broadway community. John Garcia's, The Column Online was one of the first effective clearing houses for theatre information, audition notices, and production notices in DFW and beyond. On behalf of the entire GLCT organization, we extend our support and condolences to John's family and friends in honoring his memory."

"It goes without saying but John was obsessed with theater. He lived and breathed it," writes Bias in a message to CultureMap. "He was also super passionate about students learning the art and growing in their craft. He judged many UIL speech competitions, was one of the original judges for then-called Dallas Summer Musicals High School Musical Theatre Awards, and of course all things The Column/The Column Awards. You would always see him with a Diet Coke and some type of theatre show merchandise!"

Funeral arrangements have not been publicly announced.

Allan Hayslip

Musician Jess Barr, co-owner of Twilite Lounge in Fort Worth, dies at 46

RIP Jess

A Dallas-Fort Worth musician and club owner has died: Jess Barr, who was the guitarist for seminal alt-country rock band Slobberbone, passed away in the early hours of December 6; he was 46. Friends of the family said he suffered from a heart condition.

A native of Pensacola who also lived in West Texas and New Jersey, Barr was a member of Slobberbone during its heyday, when the quartet put its hometown Denton on the map and created a vibrant local scene at bars like the Barley House in Dallas. He also played with a Slobberbone offshoot band, The Drams.

He also co-owned Twilight Lounge, a popular bar with locations in Fort Worth and Dallas.

Slobberbone helped coalesce the rising alt-country genre of the '90s, touring with acts like Son Volt, Drive By Truckers, and even pop acts like Cheap Trick, performing to rapt audiences both nationally and abroad.

Barr joined Slobberbone following the 1997 release of their second album, Barrel Chested.

“Jess had a full-ride scholarship in Austin, but he quit to join us,” recalled singer Brent Best.

His tagline was "Jessie Barr on the shiny gold guitar" — referring to his signature Les Paul.

In 2014, he left the band with the blessing of Best and band mates Brian Lane and Tony Harper, who lauded him for the contributions he'd made on albums like Everything You Thought Was Right Was Wrong Today ("especially the solo he did on 'Josephine'," they said).

In 2013, he opened Twilite Lounge in Deep Ellum, with partner Danny Balis, then opened a spinoff in Fort Worth in 2017. Both locations earned best bar awards and provided a platform for local musicians — another of his legacies, says Jimmy Morton, his partner at the Fort Worth location.

"Helping local bands is one thing that Jess, Danny, and I all championed," Morton says.

As a tribute to his passing, Twilight Lounge closed both locations on December 6.

"We closed both Twilite Lounge Dallas and Fort Worth, to honor him and allow his family, and our own, an opportunity to grieve," Morton says. "We turned our lights off and went dark."

Morton, whose friendship with Barr goes back more than 20 years to the Barley House days, says that Barr was celebrated not only as a skilled guitarist and banjo player but also for his personable, down-to-earth disposition.

One friend called him "one of a kind — nicest guy you could meet who would always remember where the conversation left off." Another said, "Jess always had the warmest smile and quickest wit. And he could solo like a badass."

"He was a super low-key guy," Morton says. "We would always joke that when he got on stage, he would turn into 'rock star Jess'," he says.

Barr is survived by his wife Ashley, son Liam, his mother Rae, and his sister Amy. Services are still to be announced.

The Royal Family/Twitter [https://twitter.com/RoyalFamily]

When and how to watch Queen Elizabeth II's state funeral from Fort Worth

Final salute

The world will bid a final "goodbye and thank you, Ma'am" to Britain's Queen Elizabeth II at her state funeral on Monday, September 19 at London's Westminster Abbey.

While the service for Her Majesty, who passed away September 8, will be attended by 2,000 family, friends, dignitaries, and heads of state, the event is expected to draw a record 4.1 billion viewers from around the world.

In the United States, every major network, broadcast outlet, and streaming service will provide coverage. And in Fort Worth, viewers will need to get up before the sun to tune in live. The funeral starts at 5 am local time, with many noteworthy events happening before and after it (see schedule, below).

Here is a complete guide to the network, cable, and streaming service coverage, per the L.A. Times and Hollywood Reporter. (All times are local to Fort Worth.)

Networks (television and streaming):

  • PBS: PBS will carry the BBC’s live coverage from London, starting at 3 am. A primetime special, The State Funeral of HM Queen Elizabeth II: Events of the Day, will then be broadcast at 7 pm.
  • ABC: David Muir and Robin Roberts will anchor coverage, starting at 4:30 am.
  • NBC: Savannah Guthrie, Hoda Kotb, and Lester Holt will anchor coverage, starting at 4:30 am.
  • CBS: Gayle King and Norah O’Donnell will anchor coverage (time TBA).

Cable networks (television and streaming):

  • BBC America: Coverage from London will start at 3 am.
  • CNN: Anderson Cooper and Erin Burnett will anchor coverage starting at 4 am, with additional anchors and reporters joining throughout the morning.
  • MSNBC: Chris Jansing will anchor coverage, beginning at 2 am, following with a special edition of Morning Joe from London and continuing through services.
  • C-SPAN: Live coverage will begin at 4:30 am.
  • Bloomberg TV: Live coverage will run from 4-6:30 am.
  • Fox News Channel: Martha MacCallum, Ainsley Earhardt, and Piers Morgan will anchor coverage, starting at 2 am.

Other streaming options:

  • BritBox will stream BBC live coverage, starting at 3:30 am.
  • BBC is live-streaming from London, 24 hours a day, on their news app and at www.bbc.com/news. (Click on the Queen Elizabeth II tab.)
  • ITV News offers live-streaming at www.itv.com/news and through YouTube.
  • Sky News offers live-streaming at news.sky.com, as well as through Peacock and YouTube.
  • Subscription-based streaming platforms (with free trials available) will be streaming the funeral, including: FuboTV, Sling, YouTube TV, Peacock Premium, Hulu + Live TV, and Paramount+. The service will be available to stream on regular Hulu as soon as it concludes.

Schedule of events

The funeral service itself will begin at 11 am in London (BST), which is 5 am in Fort Worth (CDT). The service is expected to last about an hour, but it's preceded and followed by other events that also will be broadcast. Here is a schedule of events for the day, according to this handy guide from BBC. All times below are CDT.

12:30 am: The Queen's lying-in-state at Westminster Hall will end. Hundreds of thousands (including soccer legend David Beckham) have been "queueing up" and waiting in line up to 14 hours to walk by her coffin and pay their respects. The BBC is live-streaming the lying-in-state here.

2 am: The doors of Westminster Abbey will open for guests to begin arriving for the state funeral. Heads of state — including U.S. President Joe Biden and first lady Jill Biden — will attend, as will royal family members from across Europe (many of whom were blood relatives of the Queen). Find the guest list here.

4:44 am: About 15 minutes before the funeral, the Queen's coffin will be carried, via gun carriage, from Westminster Hall to Westminster Abbey. Senior members of the royal family (including King Charles and princes William and Harry) will follow the coffin in the procession.

5 am: The funeral at Westminster Abbey begins. It will be presided over by the Dean of Westminster David Hoyle and the Archbishop of Canterbury Justin Welby.

5:55 am: Near the end of the funeral, a bugle call called "Last Post" will be played, and two minutes of silence will be observed nationally across the UK. Then the "new" national anthem "God Save the King" will be sung and a lament will be played by the Queen's piper.

6:15 am: A walking procession — including military bands and members of the armed services — will draw the coffin from the Abbey to Wellington Arch.

7 am: The coffin will be transferred to a state hearse for its final journey to Windsor.

9 am: The state hearse will arrive in Windsor for a walking procession up Windsor Castle's Long Walk. Members of the armed forces will line the three-mile route, and members of the royal family will meet the cortege outside the castle.

10 am: The coffin will enter St. George's Chapel for a committal service attended by a congregation of 800. At the conclusion of the 45-minute service, the Queen's coffin will be lowered into the royal vault, and the royal family will leave the chapel. The service will include many traditions symbolizing the end of the Queen's reign, including the removal of the Imperial State Crown and the Sovereign's orb and scepter from the top of the coffin. (Read more about what to expect here.)

1:30 pm: The Queen will be buried together with her late husband, the Duke of Edinburgh, at the King George VI memorial chapel inside St. George's Chapel. The private ceremony is just for family, and it is unclear whether any part of it will be made public.

Getty Images

Dallas-Fort Worth mourns Queen Elizabeth II, one of its longtime idols, who has died at 96

RIP the Queen

Queen Elizabeth II, the United Kingdom's longest-serving monarch, died September 8 after reigning for 70 years; she was 96.

Her death was announced via a statement from Buckingham Palace that said, "The Queen died peacefully at Balmoral this afternoon.”

According to the BBC, doctors placed her under medical supervision after concerns grew about her condition. Family then gathered at Balmoral (her summer residence), including her heirs Prince Charles and Prince William, along with Charles' wife Camilla, Duchess of Cornwall; and the queen's children Princess Anne, Prince Andrew, Prince Edward, and Edward's wife Sophie, Countess of Wessex.

At her death, her eldest son Charles, 73, immediately became His Majesty the King Charles III. He said in a statement: "We mourn profoundly the passing of a cherished Sovereign and a much-loved Mother. I know her loss will be deeply felt throughout the country, the Realms and the Commonwealth, and by countless people around the world."

Her death reverberates not only around the world but also in Dallas-Fort Worth, which has a long historical accord with all things British, dating back to the U.K.'s longtime infatuation with the TV show Dallas, which attracted many Brits to Dallas and vice versa. The Queen and her husband, Prince Philip, visited North Texas in 1991.

Dallas-Fort Worth seemed especially beholden to the Queen in the past year, whether it was celebrating her via high-society events or parties marking her landmark reign.

When the Crystal Charity Ball came back to life after the pandemic in 2021, it chose a theme "Peace, Love, London" to revive Dallas' grandest gala back from its darkest year. Chairwoman Leslie Diers' event took attendees across the pond with all the best British things: Union Jack flags, costumed Queen's Guards, and a vibrant portrait of Queen Elizabeth, as well as a piped-in trumpet salute and orchestral rendition of "God Save the Queen" that made guests feel as though they were arriving at the palace.

This year's Mad Hatter's Tea Party took place April 20, one day before Queen Elizabeth's 96th birthday, making the annual event it seem like a royal party.

That same week, on April 28, British Emporium, DFW's favorite British shop in Grapevine, celebrated their own 30-year anniversary as well as Her Majesty Queen Elizabeth's long and glorious 70-year reign with a regal afternoon of cars and corgis. The pet of choice since the queen was a child, corgis held a special place in the celebration, with corgi owners encouraged to bring their dogs in costume — whether it be British-themed, royal family-themed, or otherwise.

And numerous local venues celebrated the Queen Elizabeth's Platinum Jubilee, throwing special parties to mark the Queen's "happy and glorious" 70-year reign — a tenure achieved by no other British monarch, from brunch at the Londoner Pub to Royal Tea at The French Room to a special trifle served at Fish & Fizz, owned by native Brits Nick and Kelly Barclay.

In 2020, the Dallas Museum of Art League chose a royal theme for its annual Art in Bloom fundraiser, one of the top galas of the year. Called "A Royal Affair," it featured guest speaker Shane Connolly, who did the floral design for Prince Charles' wedding to the Duchess of Cornwall (aka Camilla), and served as artistic director for Prince William and Kate Middleton’s 2011 wedding-watched-round-the-world.

A Dallas women's shelter was also the beneficiary of royal kindness in 2021 when the Duke and Duchess of Sussex provided Genesis Women's Shelter & Support, a domestic violence shelter and support agency, with a new roof following damages sustained from Winter Storm Uri. News reached Prince Harry and Meghan nee Markle, who lent a financial hand through their nonprofit Archewell Foundation.

Earlier this year, Prince Harry was spotted at a rodeo in the Fort Worth Stockyards.

On the afternoon of the Queen's death — while mourners at Buckingham Palace gates sang "God Save the Queen" under a shimmering double rainbow — North Texans shared their own tributes.

At the British Emporium, a book of condolences for customers to sign went on display Thursday. It will remain there for several days until it is sent to Buckingham Palace, a spokesman says.

"As to other plans, I’m sure we will do something; we just don’t know yet," he says. "Today we just want to be a place where people can come and gather with others and mourn together."

Fort Worth artist Nancy Lamb posted on Facebook a photo of her 2012 painting of Queen Elizabeth called Royal Crown Neat. It will be going on display at Love Texas Art gallery in downtown Fort Worth this week as tribute to the Queen, and can be viewed on Fall Gallery Night, Saturday, September 10.

Lamb shared the little-known backstory with CultureMap:

It started with Malcolm Warner, who was the interim director for the Kimbell before Eric Lee came. He had told our friends that he wanted a painting done of himself and he wanted me to do it. So I thought that was may be a good idea, and since he was English, I added the queen and Prince Philip in it just for fun. But I had always wanted to paint her crown, too, which was amazing. It took me a month or two to paint that crown. In the end, it became more about the Queen than Malcolm Warner for sure. I have adored her forever, and always love those crowns. I was told it had been shown to her by a friend of his, so I know she actually got to see it!

And Dallas-based chef Darren McGrady, who served as Royal Chef to Queen Elizabeth and later Princess Diana, tweeted a condolence and then a zinger.

"Rest In Peace Your Majesty. Thank you for your service. And thank you for letting me cook for you for eleven years. Memories I will hold dear forever," he tweeted.

Then he followed with, "I know, I know, It's wrong to say or even think this, but I can't get it off my mind. Had things gone to plan, Princess Diana would have been Queen Diana today."

The British Royal family has now entered a period of mourning, BBC says, and in coming days, much of national life will be put on hold. A state funeral is expected in the next two weeks.

Photo courtesy of Savor Dallas

Dallas-Fort Worth radio personality and Restaurant Week founder Jim White dies


North Texas radio personality Jim White, who co-founded Restaurant Week as well as the Savor Dallas food festival, died on June 4.

His wife, Vicki Briley-White, confirmed that White passed away while in hospice care, after the couple learned he had cancer just two months before.

"This has been a fast and shocking journey for us," she said. "We had barely comprehended that he was ill, much less that he is now gone from us."

White, who had a mellifluous voice that could melt ice, was a longtime radio personality, serving as a news anchor and talk show host for 1080 KRLD for a decade from 1995-2004.

He was probably DFW's original foodie in his capacity as host of "The KRLD Restaurant Show with Jim White," a two-hour live talk-show featuring famous chefs, cookbook authors, winemakers, and restaurateurs from around the world, earning a James Beard Foundation nomination for "Best Radio Show on Food."

While at KRLD, he co-founded KRLD Restaurant Week, the annual fundraiser for the North Texas Food Bank and Lena Pope.

From 1995-1997, he was morning and afternoon news anchor, and was honored by the Associated Press for "Best Newscast in Texas." His silver-tongued voice became a signature for KRLD, and earned him many requests for voice-over and emcee gigs.

He was ahead of his time in his enthusiasm for the food and beverage scene, producing and hosting videos featuring famous chefs, winemakers, and wine and food destinations, long before social media made such coverage common.

Inspired by food festivals they'd seen in other cities, and utilizing Briley-White's experience as chair of annual wine auction event Côtes du Coeur, the couple founded Savor Dallas in 2005, trailblazing the idea of a foodie festival in Dallas and drawing crowds of more than 4,000 people.

White recalled in 2013 that the event's launch fortuitously coincided with the debut of Stella Artois Beer in the Dallas-Fort Worth market; they served the beer ice cold on tap in a chalice, which attendees could take home for free.

The festival was eventually acquired by the Dallas Morning News in 2014, which let it flounder; its final year was 2018.

Always abreast of new media, White subsequently founded Wining & Dining with Jim White, a website and podcast enterprise where he interviewed top chefs and figures in the wine and spirits world.

White was still a student at the University of Texas at Arlington in 1968 when he was recruited to work at the then-new Dallas-Fort Worth TV station Channel 39. At the same time, he worked weekends with radio legend Ron Chapman, nudging him into a successful broadcast career before he was able to graduate from college.

In addition to Dallas, he had radio experience at news and talk stations in Chicago and San Francisco, serving as reporter, weather anchor, and host; in satellite radio; and as an actor and voice-over actor in commercials, corporate spokesperson, and film.

"He will be greatly missed by me and others," Vicki said. "He was a kind, generous, highly principled, loving man who wanted everyone to succeed. He never held any hard feelings. A rare man indeed."

A memorial service will be held on June 17 at 1:30 pm at Wilshire Baptist Church Sanctuary, 4316 Abrams Rd. Dallas. A reception will follow in the Community Hall.

Country music icon and Gilley's co-founder Mickey Gilley passes away at 86

remembering mickey gilley

A country music icon has passed away. Mickey Gilley, the singer-songwriter whose career spanned more than 50 years, died Saturday, May 7 surrounded by his family, according to Pasadena, Texas mayor Jeff Wagner. He was 86.

Born in 1936 in Natchez, Mississippi to a famed family that included iconic cousins Jerry Lee Lewis and Jimmy Swaggart, Gilley cut his teeth at small clubs, eventually charting 39 Top 10 hits and 17 No. 1 singles.

In 1970, he opened his now-famed, eponymous Gilley’s honky-tonk in Pasadena, which would eventually be known as the “world’s biggest honky-tonk.”

The club — and its legendary mechanical bull — would eventually create a memorable setting in the 1980 John Travolta smash hit, Urban Cowboy. An over-the-top movie premiere at the club in 1980 saw the likes of Lynn Wyatt, Andy Warhol, and Diane von Furstenberg.

Gilley not only starred in the blockbuster, but his cover of “Stand by Me” became a pop and adult contemporary hit that year, marking a resurgence for the singer. (He later recounted that magical era with TV legend Dave Ward.)

With Urban Cowboy putting him back in the spotlight, Gilley moved to television in the 1980s, appearing in popular series such as Murder She Wrote, The Fall Guy, Fantasy Island, and Dukes of Hazzard.

His Gilley's club no longer operates in Pasadena (a store is located nearby), as it shuttered in 1989 due to dispute between Gilley and one-time partner Sherwood Cryer. In 1990, the honky tonk burned down; the fire was ruled as arson by local investigators.

Gilley sold the naming rights to Dallas-based developer Matthews Southwest, and Gilley's Dallas opened in 2003. It's currently owned by Don Nelson. There are also locations in Las Vegas and Oklahoma.

He has a connection to Billy Bob's Texas in Fort Worth, too. A history snippet on Billy Bob's website recalls, "Mickey owned his own honky tonk place that was called Gilley’s and he was upset when Billy Bob’s opened that we called ourselves the world's largest honky tonk. Well eventually when we got Mickey Gilley to play here, we sold T-Shirts that said 'Gilley plays Billy’s.'”

A longtime Pasadena resident, Gilley boasts a star on the Hollywood Walk of Fame, six Academy of Country Music Awards, and a place in the Texas Country Music Hall of Fame. Fittingly, a street in Pasadena is named for the star: Mickey Gilley Boulevard.

“Pasadena has lost a true legend,” Wagner said in a social media post, adding that “his talent and larger-than-life personality helped ignite a new interest in country music as he introduced the world to Pasadena through his dance hall and Urban Cowboy in 1980. We were so honored to have Mickey perform at our State of the City in February, 2020. Our prayers for comfort and peace are with Mickey’s family, his loved ones and his fans.”

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'Yellowstone' stars to greet fans at Fort Worth Stock Show & Rodeo

Yellowstone news

Yellowstone fans, get your comfy shoes ready - there'll be a long line for this one. Cole Hauser a.k.a. "Rip Wheeler" on Yellowstone, and Taylor Sheridan, the show's co-creator, executive producer, and director of the series, will meet fans and sign autographs at the Fort Worth Stock Show & Rodeo.

The event will take place from 4:30-6:30 pm only on Friday, February 3. Location is the 6666 Ranch booth near the south end of Aisle 700 in the Amon G. Carter, Jr. Exhibits Hall.

According to a February 2 announcement from FWSSR, "fans will have the opportunity to snag an autograph as well as purchase some distinctive Yellowstone and 6666 Ranch merchandise while also enjoying all the features the Stock Show offers."

The event is free to attend (with paid Stock Show admission) and open to the public.

It's the second year in a row for Hauser to appear at FWSSR; in 2022, he and fellow cast mates drew huge crowds.

Sheridan, a Paschal High School graduate, is no stranger to Fort Worth; he lives in a ranch near Weatherford and filmed 1883, the prequel to Yellowstone, in and around Fort Worth. Currently, another spinoff, 1883: The Bass Reeves Story, is filming in North Texas.

The Fort Worth Stock Show & Rodeo is winding up its 2023 run on Saturday, February 4.

New brunch cafe cracks top spot in this week's 5 most-read Fort Worth stories

This week's hot headlines

Editor's note: A lot happened this week, so here's your chance to get caught up. Read on for the week's most popular headlines. Looking for the best things to do this weekend? Find that list here.

1. New cafe in North Fort Worth does eggtastic breakfast, brunch, and lunch. There's an exciting new restaurant serving breakfast, lunch, and brunch in Fort Worth's Alliance Town Center: Called Eggtastic Brunch Cafe, it's located at 9160 North Fwy. #452, in the same shopping center as Sam Moon, where it opened in mid-April and is already drawing raves from locals for its hearty and well-made dishes, doting service, and cheerful bright atmosphere.

2. Fort Worth chef Tim Love cooks up collection of premium jeans and accessories. Fort Worth chef Tim Love’s next project trades chef’s whites for blue jeans: Love Collection, his debut line of premium women's and men's apparel and accessories, launched Friday, May 19 online and at one of Love’s properties in the Fort Worth Stockyards.

3. Burleson's Jellystone Park unlocks grain bin cabins, covered wagons, and tipis for summer glamping. Ahead of the busy summer travel season, the North Texas Jellystone Park in Burleson has added a few of the coolest new "glamping" accommodations in Texas. Furnished tipis, covered wagons, and grain bin cabins opened to guests on May 19.

4. New lagoon-waterpark with lazy river dives into Dallas-Fort Worth. A long-awaited waterpark in Cedar Hill is debuting Memorial Day weekend with two of Texas' favorite splashy attractions: a lagoon and lazy river. The Lagoon at Virginia Weaver Park will open Saturday, May 27 after more than a year in development.

5. Action-packed Fast X drives home the ridiculousness of series' premise. Believe it or not, we are now over 20 years into the existence of the Fast & the Furious franchise, evolving from a street-racing story to one that could be compared to the Mission: Impossible and James Bond series. Our critic reviews the latest entry, Fast X.

Fort Worth Symphony launches summer concerts with sparkly extra: drones

Fireworks News

The Fort Worth Symphony Orchestra returns in 2023 with its annual summer concert series, Concerts in The Garden, featuring 11 concerts taking place at the Fort Worth Botanic Garden, starting May 26 and running through June 11.

This year's lineup includes tributes to the Beatles, the Eagles, and Led Zeppelin, as well as nights featuring cinematic themes such as Harry Potter and Star Wars.

But the coolest part of the 2023 series might be the light show: For the first time, they're replacing old-school fireworks with the use of cutting-edge drones.

Drones are an innovative technology that creates stunning night-sky displays using LED lights. The practice of using drones to create light shows has only been around a few years, but has been used in high-profile Olympics ceremonies as well as by the city of Dallas, who added drones as an enhancement to its 2022 New Year's Eve fireworks display.

They're an up-and-comer with many benefits, both practically and aesthetically, says FWSO VP of operations John Clapp, including avoiding the potential to start fires, as Fort Worth endured on July 4, 2022 when a fireworks show at Panther Island Pavilion started a grass fire and the event had to be shut down.

"The Botanic Garden has a lot of grass, trees, and other landscaping that could pose an issue if fireworks were to go astray," Clapp says. "Parts of Texas are so dry and fires are not uncommon. This seems like a safer option."

"It also reduces the impact on homes and residences in the area - we don’t need that noise late at night and drones don’t have that problem," he says.

"We’re doing all kinds of enhancements to our indoor concerts, and we thought, why not do something with our outdoor concerts, too?" he says.

The company helping the FWSO with its programming is headquartered in North Richland Hills: Called Sky Elements, they're risen to become the top name in drone shows, flying all over the country, from Seattle to Key West to the Santa Monica Pier in California, where they'll be headed for Memorial Day.

The company employs a team of 3D animation specialists who can create displays with customized themes, says VP of development Rick Boss.

"That's one of the fun things about the Symphony's program, it has multiple unique themes like Star Wars, which is quite fun, like putting together pieces of a puzzle," Boss says.

Sky Elements started out as a pyrotechnics company, and they still do fireworks, but they're shifting all of their resources to drones, and can't keep up with demand.

From a practical standpoint, drones surpass fireworks because there's no risk of fire, and they're silent. Noise from fireworks is extremely harmful to people with PTSD as well as to wildlife and pets who get spooked and run in fear; the worst days of the year for animal shelters are July 4 and New Year's Eve.

Drones have also come down in cost to be about the same as fireworks, which have become more expensive in recent years.

The duration of a drone show is 10-15 minutes and is dependent on the drones' battery life. You measure the splendor of a drone show by how many drones. Ross says they've done shows with up to 1,000 drones; their shows for the Concerts in the Garden will deploy approximately 100 drones.

"It's a nice size, and most people haven't seen this before, so it will be a fun one," he says. "I get such a kick out of seeing the joy it brings to people."

Beyond the pragmatic element, drones also offer a more nimble and expansive palette, allowing designers to create designs and displays that fireworks cannot, says the FWSO's Clapp.

"Fireworks kind of spread out and do what they do," he says. "Pattern-wise, it's nice to look at, but the drone shows are artistically fantastic, with images that animate and move into 3D. They let you tell a story."