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Photo courtesy of Natural Bridge Caverns

Spelunkers now have a new cave to explore at the state’s largest cavern: Natural Bridge Cavernsnewest tour, Hidden Wonders, opened to visitors on Friday, May 12.

The new tour allows guests to access an area that was previously accessible only by cavers. Development of this second cavern has been in the works since 2017. It was previously sealed under the Earth’s surface, perfectly preserving the natural environment and its beautiful, unique formations.

“In developing this area of the cavern system, we have both pursued and established best-case practices for working in this delicate environment,” said Natural Bridge Caverns president Brad Wuest in a statement. “Our goal is to give visitors a stunning view of the cavern like never before, without impacting its beauty.”

The multimillion-dollar expansion into never-before-seen areas of the cave features state-of-the-art lighting and a unique sound and light show. Public passageways have expanded by 1,100 feet with a new stainless steel bridge that crosses the cavern’s deepest area.

Additionally, a new 5,700-square-foot dome chamber, dubbed the Ballroom, has been constructed to serve as an event space. For the light show, a viewing area called the Box Canyon serves as a natural theater.

Wuest explained that certain aspects of developing the cavern had been a challenge, such as the depth of the new touring area. Fortunately, they were able to construct a new exit tunnel "with minimal impact on the cavern."

"We used best-in-class techniques and developed new ones to make it work," he said. "We took the time to do it right. The result speaks for itself.”

To exit the Hidden Wonders tour, visitors take a glorious ride on a pioneering conveyor system ride, the Belt Assisted Transport, to the surface through the newly constructed tunnel.

“We plan to showcase the science behind the beauty of this once hidden cavern on our tour,” said Wuest. “With Hidden Wonders’ many enhancements, we have an opportunity to both educate and entertain.”

More information about the new tour can be found on naturalbridgecaverns.com. The visitor's center at the caverns is located at 26495 Natural Bridge Caverns Rd., San Antonio.

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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.

Quonset hut in south Fort Worth to be transformed into ballroom

Quonset Hut News

A Quonset hut in south Fort Worth is about to make a Cinderella-like transformation: Called the Quonset Ballroom, it's being developed into an entertainment space which will host live music, food trucks, and events.

The hut is located at 2608 W. Dickson St., and was previously home to a lawn care operator for 30 years.

Husband-and-wife Jason and Hedy Peña stumbled onto it while searching for a new location for Hedy’s insurance agency, Armor Texas Insurance Agency. They landed at 2612 Dickson St., a cool mid-century office building built in 1957, which was ideal for the agency, even despite its offbeat address in a heavily industrial area.

“It was a piece of property where we could locate the office and it also had this 4,000-square foot Quonset hut next door,” Hedy says. "We started thinking about creating a venue which could be rented for parties, weddings, and social events."

Quonset huts are sprinkled across the Dallas-Fort Worth landscape, most dating back to the 1940s, shortly after the structure was first invented at Quonset Point Naval Air Station in Rhode Island.

Fort Worth is also currently in thrall with Quonset huts, thanks to the hip PS1200 mixed-use development near the Medical District which opened in July.

This one was built in 1948, and will require an overhaul, including new flooring, AC, and framing, with a planned-for capacity of 250 people.

Even as they work on the revamp, the Peñas have hosted private parties as well as a campaign event for Jason Peña, who ran unsuccessfully for Fort Worth city council in May 2023.

“We’ve had some private events there, but it’s not ready for a full event," Hedy says.

They currently have no plans for a bar but they're building a kitchen space to serve as a platform for the food trucks, including hookups.

The tract also has what was once a 10-car garage, which the Peñas are developing as storefronts they hope to lease as office spaces.

The industrial nature of the neighborhood initally gave them pause, but Hedy says it's turned out to be a positive, and the property itself has mature, leafy trees.

"Everything around us is industrial and at first I was uneasy about opening the insurance agency there," she says. "But the neighborhood has not deterred customers. We've even grown. And without homeowners nearby, it's a good setup if we have live music."

She envisions a spot that will eventually have a community feel, where families can dine and sit outside or inside – there will be seating – and enjoy music and conversation.

“It will be open to rent to the public, for sure, and could turn into something where it has regular hours," she says. “It will be for everyone, the public, our friends, family, so that everyone can see what we have here.”

Gamestop stock saga gets fun, star-filled movie treatment with Dumb Money

Movie review

The stock market feels like one of those aspects of American life that only a select few truly understand. The rest of us acknowledge it as something that exists and affects our lives in some way, but how and why any particular stock is traded and becomes more (or less) valuable can be a complete mystery.

Dumb Money tackles one of the most interesting recent stories to come out of the stock market, the surprising inflation of Gamestop stock in late 2020/early 2021. The film bounces around to a variety of characters, but centers mostly on Keith Gill (Paul Dano), a YouTuber who went by the name of Roaring Kitty. Gill, an amateur stock trader, took an early position about liking the lightly-regarded Gamestop stock, regularly posting videos and on the Reddit thread WallStreetBets about how his significant investment in the stock was doing.

Concurrently, hedge fund managers like Gabe Plotkin (Seth Rogen) were actively trying to short, or bet against, the stock. That began a battle by Gill and other similarly-minded individual investors to fight back against what they saw as unfair trading practices by the big firms, resulting in Gamestop’s stock rising astronomically in a relatively short period of time.

Directed by Craig Gillespie (I, Tonya) and written by Lauren Schuker Blum and Rebecca Angelo, the film is notable for what it is not, a deep dive into the inner workings of the stock market. Instead of getting into the nitty gritty details, the filmmakers treat it as the ultimate David vs. Goliath story, with Gill and other everyday people like a nurse, Jenny (America Ferrera), Gamestop worker Marcus (Anthony Ramos), and college student Harmony (Talia Ryder) going up against billionaires like Plotkin, Steve Cohen (Vincent D’Onofrio), Ken Griffin (Nick Offerman), and Vlad Tenev (Sebastian Stan).

Paul Dano in Dumb Money

Photo by Claire Folger/Sony Pictures

Paul Dano in Dumb Money.

It doesn’t hurt that Gill is an eccentric character who wears cat-emblazoned shirts and a headband, and that the Reddit community he inspires communicates primarily in memes, upping the entertainment factor of their side immensely. The story is also a suspense in a way; as the variety of individuals drive the stock ever higher, their net worth – on paper – also grows exponentially, and the longer each of them holds on without selling ups the potential that they could be burned.

Because the real-life event happened during the thick of the pandemic when it was still up in the air as to the full impact of COVID-19, the story takes on a little more significance. Characters mask up regularly, conversations take place on the phone or over Zoom, and a general feeling of unease permeates the film. That may or may not have influenced how certain people approached the situation, but in the context of the film, it definitely seems to play a part.

The back-and-forth between the haves and have-nots takes up so much time in the film that it barely has time for such well-known actors as Shailene Woodley, Dane Dehaan, Olivia Thirlby, and Pete Davidson, among others. Each of them plays a supporting character to one of the main people, and all of them deliver that little something extra in what could have been throwaway roles.

Dano is a chameleonic actor who’s gone between drama and comedy with ease throughout his career. This role is a mixture of both, and he has an effortlessness about him that makes everything he says instantly believable. Rogen is great casting as Plotkin, amiably playing the buffoon of the story. After her big role in Barbie, Ferrera once again shows that she deserves as many showcases as Hollywood can give her.

Storytellers can rarely go wrong in showing people with little power taking on those with great wealth, and the fact that the story shown in Dumb Money is (mostly) true makes it that much better. You may not understand the stock market any more than you already did at the end, but you’ll be so entertained that it won’t matter.

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Dumb Money is now playing in theaters.