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Texans maintained the status quo in the November 8 mid-term election, re-electing Gov. Greg Abbott, Lt. Gov. Dan Patrick, and Attorney General Ken Paxton by similar majorities.

Results of all elections can be found at results.texas-election.com/races.

  • Abbott won by 55.11 percent, with a tally of 4,335,425 votes, while runner-up Beto O'Rourke earned 43.52 percent or 3,424,074 votes.
  • Patrick garnered 54.08 percent or 4,216,864 votes, against Democratic challenger Mike Collier, who earned 43.18 percent with 3,367,033 votes.
  • Paxton trailed with 53.75 percent or 4,178,494 votes, against runner-up Rochelle Mercedes Garza, who got 43.36 percent or 3,371,361 votes.
  • Sid Miller was re-elected Commissioner of Agriculture with 46.63 percent or 4,372,741 votes, versus opponent Susan Hays who earned 43.37 percent or 3,349,247 votes.
  • Wayne Christian was re-elected Railroad Commissioner with 55.7 percent or 4,296,565 votes, beating top contender Luke Warford who scored 40.24 percent or 3,104,474 votes.

In Fort Worth, the new Tarrant County Judge replacing Glen Whitley will be Tim O’Hare, a former mayor of Farmers Branch who had the support of Donald Trump; he defeated Democratic candidate Deborah Peoples, who has run for Fort Worth mayor twice.

In Dallas, County Judge Clay Jenkins was re-elected, as was District Attorney John Cruezot, who earned 59.36 percent of the vote against challenger Faith Johnson's 40.64 percent. The city also passed Proposition A, which will raise hotel occupancy taxes from 13 to 15 percent, with the funds to be used to renovate Fair Park and the Kay Bailey Hutchison Convention Center.

Austin's race for Mayor will go to a run-off. None of the six candidates earned more than 50 percent, so voters will choose from the two top candidates — former Austin mayor and state senator Kirk Watson and State Rep. Celia Israel — in a runoff election on December 13.

Houston experienced issues with polling places that did not open on time, or malfunctions that caused delays and temporary closures. A group called Texas Organizing Project successfully petitioned Harris County to extend the voting hours until 8 pm, but the Texas Supreme Court ordered Harris County election officials to separate out any ballots that were cast after hours.

A location at Texas State University in San Marcus also suffered malfunctions with five out of eight machines, causing wait times of four hours or more.

In San Antonio, U.S. Representative Henry Cuellar was reelected, besting Republic challenger Cassy Garcia by 56.6 percent to 43.4 percent.

Five cities — Denton, San Marcos, Killeen, Elgin, and Harker Heights — approved propositions to decriminalize low-level possession of marijuana, following the example of Austin, which passed a similar proposition in May.

For the first time, voters were given "no straight ticket" option to vote quickly for all one party or another requiring a click on each individual race — the result of HB25, a law pushed through by Republicans in the Texas Legislature in 2017, which killed the straight ticket option.

Photo by Jamie B. Ford/LiveNatio

Minus the Dixie, The Chicks make it a family affair at Dallas-Fort Worth concert

The last time the band now known as The Chicks played in Dallas-Fort Worth in 2016, they still had the word "Dixie" attached to their name as they embarked on their first tour in 10 years. The group — comprised of lead singer Natalie Maines and sisters Martie Maguire and Emily Strayer — likely didn't intend for it to be another six years before they returned again, but they made up for lost time in a 2+ hour concert at The Pavilion at Toyota Music Factory in Irving on October 10, the first of two straight nights at the venue.

In front of a nearly sold-out crowd that skewed female, the Chicks put on a show that relied heavily on songs from their latest album, 2020's Gaslighter, which was released soon after they changed their name due to the negative connotations surrounding the word "Dixie." That album was inspired by the personal lives and divorces of the band members, most notably Maines, featuring songs with highly specific references like the title song, "Sleep at Night," and "Tights on My Boat."

Ten of the 23 songs the group played on Monday night came from that 12-song album, an indication that the Chicks were itching to showcase the music for their fans as this is their first tour since the album was released. Although "Gaslighter" is the signature song from that release, fan favorites appeared to be the jaunty "Texas Man," which echoes their previous work while still telling a personal narrative, and "March March," a protest song that becomes even more powerful when combined with the video, which concludes with a seemingly never-ending list of Black people who have been unjustly killed (the list becomes even longer in the version shown behind the band on stage).

As with their 2016 show, which came amid the run-up to that year's hugely consequential presidential election, the Chicks fearlessly let their political leanings be known.

Maines wore a blouse with "It's My Body" written on it, which is both a lyric from their song "Everybody Loves You" — during which Strayer played a piano with a "Beto for Texas" sticker prominently displayed on it — and a pointed allusion to the abortion debate. They also featured animated caricatures of Texas Governor Greg Abbott, Senator Ted Cruz, and five of the six conservative Supreme Court justices during "Tights on My Boat," a song about an affair Maines' ex-husband had, but that took on a new meaning with the visuals.

The mostly high-energy night, underscored by a bank of video walls on stage that displayed a variety of supplemental animation and video footage, was complemented by a six-song section in which the entire band sat down near the front of the stage to play jam band versions of songs like "Lubbock or Leave It," "Cowboy Take Me Away," and "Truth No. 2." The latter was written by opening act Patty Griffin, who re-emerged to sing it as a duet after delivering her own powerful set. Notably, none of the six songs came from the newest album, a nod to how the group has changed over the years.

Another change is that the tour has now become a family affair for the Chicks. Maines' dad Lloyd — who was one of the first three members of the Austin City Limits Hall of Fame alongside Willie Nelson and Stevie Ray Vaughan — has long gone out on tour with the group, but now her son, Slade Pasdar, is featured as a guitarist. Maguire's daughter Eva also joined her mom in playing fiddle during the poignant song "For Her."

Even though the concert tilted toward Gaslighter, the Chicks know the songs their fans want to hear, which is why they ended the night with the barnburners "Not Ready to Make Nice" and "Goodbye Earl." Both songs feature women standing up to people who have done them wrong, a fitting conclusion to a night in which giving strength to women was the focal point.

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The Chicks will play a second show at The Pavilion at Toyota Music Factory on October 11 at 7:30 pm.

Courtesy rendering

New Fort Worth City Hall at Pier 1 to include food hall and community art

City Hall News

Big changes are underway at the Pier 1 building at 100 Energy Way, slated to become the new City Hall for Fort Worth.

According to a release, project managers are busy on a suite of upgrades including a bustling new customer service center and that trendiest of dining options, a food hall.

Fort Worth purchased the Pier 1 building in 2020 as part of a goal to transform the way city services are delivered. The move will bring functions from 22 departments from 14 buildings into the site.

There were already plans to build a new City Hall next to the current one, but the city determined that buying the Pier 1 building would save tens of millions of dollars. Pier 1 declared bankruptcy in May 2020.

Renovations will emphasize the "shared daylight" principle, looking to maximize the use of natural light into the space and provide lines of sight to windows for all workers on the floor.

They've already begun to replace sections of the roof and are updating security systems.

They're creating a new one-stop-shop customer service center in the tower, housing many of the major customer-facing functions in one area, reducing trips around town and bringing together critical functions that currently operate in different buildings.

The lobby is getting an update to provide an efficient and equitable City Hall experience with features such as intuitive way-finding, alternative areas to work while in the building, and a pre-council lobby area to better serve members of the community on council days.

The terrace level, including the cafeteria, is also being updated. Eventually, it will host a food hall concept, providing meal options to those in the tower and from the surrounding neighborhood.

There's a plan to incorporate art from the community, including a potential rotating art program and partnerships with local art communities.

Updates are being made to better serve residents who require ADA accommodations.

Photo by Christian Petersen/Getty Images

Texas-born WNBA star Brittney Griner sentenced to 9 years in Russian prison

crime news

Texas-born basketball star Brittney Griner has been convicted and sentenced to nine years in prison for drug possession and smuggling in Russia.

Jailed in Russia since February, the WNBA star tearfully begged a judge for leniency on August 4 in Khimki, Russia. “I made an honest mistake and I hope that in your ruling, that it doesn’t end my life here,” Griner said to the judge on August 4, according to Reuters. “My parents taught me two important things: one, take ownership of your responsibilities and two, work hard for everything that you have. That’s why I pled guilty to my charges.”

The court, however, said it believed that the 31-year-old Griner deliberately brought cannabis-infused vape cartridges into Russia, which is illegal there.

Immediately after the sentencing, U.S. President Joe Biden released the following statement:

Today, American citizen Brittney Griner received a prison sentence that is one more reminder of what the world already knew: Russia is wrongfully detaining Brittney. It’s unacceptable, and I call on Russia to release her immediately so she can be with her wife, loved ones, friends, and teammates. My administration will continue to work tirelessly and pursue every possible avenue to bring Brittney and Paul Whelan home safely as soon as possible.

How the conviction affects a proposed U.S.-Russia prisoner swap remains to be seen. The Biden administration has offered to send convicted Russian arms trafficker Viktor Bout, who is currently in the U.S. serving a 25-year prison sentence, in exchange for Griner and fellow detained American Paul Whelan.

Biden was said to support the proposed trade, which overrules the current Department of Justice stance that is decidedly anti-prison swap.

Secretary of State Antony Blinken announced July 27 that the Biden administration approached Moscow with the prisoner deal. Blinken called the arrangement a “substantial proposal” for Whelan and Griner, who are officially classified as wrongfully detained.

Griner entered a guilty plea in Russian court on Thursday, July 7 for bringing hashish oil into the country in her luggage in February. In the country to play for team BC UMMC Ekaterinburg of the Russian Premier League during the WNBA’s offseason, she was immediately detained and jailed by Russian Customs.

After worldwide scrutiny, her trial began on July 1.

Griner told the Russian judge that she had “inadvertently” brought the hashish oil into the country — where it is illegal to do so — and asked the court for mercy, ESPN reports. She could face up to 10 years in prison.

During her detainment, calls came from across the globe for her release, especially to Biden, whose administration was criticized for being slow to act. “I’m terrified I might be here forever,” she wrote to Biden in a handwritten letter.

Officially, the White House said it would employ “every tool” to release Griner, stating that Russia’s invasion of Ukraine complicated negotiations. Russia’s demand for a prisoner swap led to the belief among many that Griner, a woman of color and gay, was targeted and made to be a political pawn, as the New York Times notes, between two adversarial global superpowers.

Her wife, Cherelle Griner, made a recent publicity tour, where she made passionate pleas for her wife’s release and shared that she was disappointed to not hear from the White House personally, prompting phone calls from President Biden and Vice President Kamala Harris.

Born in Houston, the six-foot-nine Griner was the top-ranked female basketball player in the nation and chose to stay in state and play for the Baylor Lady Bears, where she became one of college basketball’s biggest stars. Famed for her unstoppable post presence, defensive skills, shot blocking, and offensive dominance, she was drafted by the Phoenix Mercury professional franchise. She later led Team USA to Olympic gold in the Rio and Tokyo games.

Griner is one of only 11 women to win an NCAA championship, WNBA championship, Olympic gold medal, and an FIBA World Cup gold medal.

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Tarrant County uses pandemic funds to give big boost in child care

Kid News

The Tarrant County Commissioners Court made a big investment in child care to the tune of $45 million.

The money comes from the American Rescue Plan Act (ARPA), part of a larger $408 million that Tarrant County received in pandemic recovery funds.

On March 1, the commissioners approved a budget on how to spend that $480 million, and $45 million of it was allocated to child care purposes as follows:

  • $2 million to strengthen child care businesses and quality
  • $15 million to stabilize quality child care and increase whole child supports
  • $28 million to expand infant-toddler access and infrastructure for highest need families

To help figure out how to spend all that money wisely, the county found a nonprofit partner and also helped in the formation of a larger committee.

Their partner is Child Care Associates (CCA), a nonprofit founded in 1968 that provides child care services for low-income families in Tarrant County as well as 19 counties in West Texas.

The committee is the Blue Ribbon Action Committee on Child Care, a collaboration between Tarrant County, the city of Fort Worth, and the city of Arlington.

The Blue Ribbon Action Committee consists of business, philanthropic, and community leaders across North Texas who came together in the thick of COVID-19 to try and reimagine child care in Tarrant County. Members include former U.S. Secretary of Education Margaret Spellings; Elva LeBlanc, acting chancellor of Tarrant County College; and nonprofit representatives from various foundations.

In a statement, Tarrant County Judge Glen Whitley calls it a once-in-a-lifetime opportunity.

"The pandemic both highlighted and intensified the need for affordable, high quality child care for families in Tarrant County," Whitley says. "I'm thrilled that we're applying these once-in-a-lifetime funds to expand and strengthen the industry, so that more parents have the support they need, and more children have access to transformational childhood development."

Strengthen Child Care Businesses
The county’s $2 million investment expands $3 million in funding from Workforce Solutions for Tarrant County. This is in addition to $3.4 billion in historic funding from the Texas Workforce Commission to stabilize child care businesses statewide.

The money supports licensed child care providers and offers business coaching to help ensure they invest the funding for long-term success, says Blue Ribbon Action Committee co-chair Rose Bradshaw.

Stabilize Quality Child Care and Whole Child Supports
The county's $15 million goes towards quality child care, enhancing child care educator salaries, and expands whole child supports to children in these programs. "Whole child" addresses needs outside the classroom such as healthcare and homelessness.

Expand Infant-Toddler Access and Infrastructure for Highest Need Families
The county and Child Care Associates will seek partnerships with municipalities, ISDs, higher education, and other public entities with a goal of doubling the county’s investment of $28 million and adding 50 new infant-toddler classrooms in high need neighborhoods.

Tarrant County Commissioner Roy C. Brooks says that toddlers and infants are a group that can really use the help.

"I am thrilled that Tarrant County and CCA together can expand Early Head Start services for infants and toddlers in some of our highest need neighborhoods," Brooks says. "The greatest return on investment in education remains largely untapped – providing high quality early education and care services for infants and toddlers of families who need those services

Child Care Associates is one of the largest child development nonprofits in North Texas and has served more than half a million young children over the past 54 years. Through Head Start, Early Head Start and Child Care Management Services, they deliver early education programs to children and families of disadvantaged means, offsetting the high cost of child care for lower-income working families, and increasing the quality of child care delivered across Tarrant County.

Photo courtesy of the Cliburn

Cliburn invites 6 Russian pianists and political fireworks to 2022 competition in Fort Worth

Piano news

Get ready for geopolitical fireworks to accompany the 2022 Cliburn competition in Fort Worth this June. Of the 30 competitors chosen for the Sixteenth Van Cliburn International Piano Competition, six are coming from Russia, the largest pool from any one country, the organization revealed March 30. Two are from Belarus, and one is from Ukraine.

The announcement comes at a time when cultural institutions around the world are banning participants from Russia and Belarus to stand against Vladimir Putin's Russian-led invasion of Ukraine. But the Cliburn is choosing to stand with artists — and with the power of art to transcend politics — says CEO Jacques Marquis.

In a statement released with the list of competitors, Marquis says:

The 30 competitors we announce today were selected solely on their artistry. We know that their extraordinary ability to communicate through music will touch the world when they take the Cliburn stage this June.

The Cliburn must and will remain true to its mission as an artist-supporting cultural institution, and we are dedicated to the power of this artform to transcend boundaries. We make no distinction between non-political artists based on their nationality, gender, or ethnicity. We stand firmly with the music community around the globe in its commitment to these ideals.

The hearts of the people of the Cliburn are with the valiant Ukrainians as they courageously defend their homeland from the Russian regime. What is happening goes against everything that humankind should stand for.

A March 30 social media video of the Cliburn's announcement was set to the music Three Movements from Petrushka by Russian composer Igor Stravinsky, which Ukrainian pianist Vadym Kholodenko played to great acclaim on his way to winning the 2013 Cliburn competition.

Already listening
The quadrennial Cliburn international competition is considered the world's pre-eminent piano contest and an "Olympics" of the classical music world. The theme of the 2022 event is "The World is Listening," which already has been true.

The Cliburn received both criticism and applause in early March, when — just days into Russia's attack on Ukraine — the organization allowed 15 Russians to participate in screening auditions in Fort Worth. While the Fort Worth Star-Telegram editorial board agreed with its decision, the Fort Worth Weekly's Kristian Lin warned that he and the audience might stand up and boo.

The Cliburn's decision even attracted The New York Times, which reminded readers of the foundation's Cold War-era roots and quoted Marquis as saying, “We can help the world by standing our ground and focusing on the music and on the artists."

Van Cliburn's victory at the 1958 International Tchaikovsky Piano Competition in Moscow was considered a pivotal thaw in Cold War relations. When Cliburn passed away in February 2013 at the age of 78 in Fort Worth, he was still known by a title bestowed on a Time magazine cover: "The Texan who conquered Russia." (A TCU concert hall named for Cliburn, where much of the competition will take place, is set to open next week.)

While the participation of Russian pianists will likely dominate headlines until the last note is played, here's a list of all 30 of the competitors who will be vying for a gold medal and the start of a professional career. The competition runs June 2-18 in Fort Worth.

  • Tianxu An, China, age 23
  • Yangrui Cai, China, 21
  • Albert Cano Smit, Spain/Netherlands, 25
  • Dmytro Choni, Ukraine, 28
  • Federico Gad Crema, Italy, 23
  • Anna Geniushene, Russia, 31
  • Francesco Granata, Italy, 23
  • Arseniy Gusev, Russia, 23
  • Masaya Kamei, Japan, 20
  • Uladzislau Khandohi, Belarus, 20
  • Honggi Kim, South Korea, 30
  • Elizaveta Kliuchereva, Russia, 23
  • Shuan Hern Lee, Australia, 19
  • Andrew Li, United States, 22
  • Yunchan Lim, South Korea, 18
  • Denis Linnik, Belarus, 26
  • Kate Liu, United States, 28
  • Ziyu Liu, China, 24
  • Jonathan Mak, Canada, 25
  • Georgijs Osokins, Latvia, 27
  • Jinhyung Park, South Korea, 26
  • Changyong Shin, South Korea, 28
  • Ilya Shmukler, Russia, 27
  • Vitaly Starikov, Russia, 27
  • Clayton Stephenson, United States, 23
  • Yutong Sun, China, 26
  • Marcel Tadokoro, France/Japan, 28
  • Sergey Tanin, Russia, 26
  • Yuki Yoshimi, Japan, 22
  • Xiaolu Zang, China, 22

The country breakdown (with a couple competitors representing two countries) is as follows:

  • Russia: 6
  • China: 5
  • South Korea: 4
  • Japan: 3
  • United States: 3
  • Italy: 2
  • Belarus: 2
  • Ukraine, Spain, Netherlands, Australia, Canada, Latvia, France: 1

Notably, just three of the 30 are women, a number that's down from past competitions.

Of 388 initial applicants, the Cliburn says, 70 were invited to audition in Fort Worth, and 30 of those were selected to compete in June.

The jury deciding the winners will consist of Marin Alsop, jury chairman (United States); Jean-Efflam Bavouzet (France); Alessio Bax (Italy); Rico Gulda (Austria); Andreas Haefliger (Switzerland); Wu Han (China Taiwan/United States); Stephen Hough (United Kingdom); Anne-Marie McDermott (United States); Orli Shaham (Israel/United States); and Lilya Zilberstein (Germany).

For tickets and more information, visit the competition website. The entire competition also will be live-streamed.

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CultureMap Emails are Awesome

'Lightscape' shines bright in this week's 5 most popular 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. What to expect at 'Lightscape,' Fort Worth's new walk-thru winter wonderland. Fort Worth’s most Instagrammable new holiday lights display is best enjoyed without clinging to a phone. “Lightscape,” which made its North Texas debut at the Fort Worth Botanic Garden on Friday, November 18, walks visitors through a winter wonderland experience unlike any other in DFW.

2. Hoffbrau Steak fires up the grill for new location in Grapevine. A longtime steakhouse is coming to Grapevine: Hoffbrau Steak & Grill House, a small family-owned and -operated chain that's been in Dallas-Fort Worth for more than 40 years, will open a location November 28 at 700 W. State Hwy 114, previously home to a Brick House Tavern & Tap, which closed during the pandemic.

3. Yellowstone and 1883 stars cowboy up at Fort Worth gala honoring Taylor Sheridan. Fort Worth has always been "where the West begins," and now it's where TV's hottest Western drama begins, too. The 2022 Lone Star Film Festival Gala - held November 11 at Hotel Drover in the Stockyards - leaned hard into the city's connections to Yellowstone and its prequel, 1883, with signs and programs that boasted "The Road to Yellowstone Began in Fort Worth."

4. Divine doughnuts and tempting tamales top this Fort Worth restaurant news. This roundup of restaurant news around Fort Worth has tidbits about doughnuts, Cajun food, vegan tamales, and gourmet ice cream, culled from press releases, social media, and the occasional hot tip. Here's what's happening in Fort Worth restaurant news.

5. Here comes Santa House, back to Grapevine for a very charitable 2022 Christmas season. After taking a much-needed break last year, Louie Murillo and his family are once again decking their halls, yard, and rooftop to bring back the Grapevine Santa House — a smash hit during the 2020 holiday season. The half-acre property is a "Where's Waldo?" maze of more than 1,000 Santa statues, which visitors can walk among, snap photos with, and then, they hope, make a donation to Grace Grapevine's Christmas Cottage program.

Texas parks beckon throughout 2022 holidays with festive events and peaceful escapes

If roasting ‘smores and hiking in the great outdoors sounds fun, pack up your family and visit one of Texas’ state parks this holiday season.

Texas state parks and historic sites are ringing in the holidays with a number of festive events. There are drive-thru light tours, special holiday hikes, arts and crafts for the kiddos, and more.

Reservations fill up quickly, so be sure to visit an individual park's website before you head out. And check the Holidays in the Parks page for many more fun options, pricing information, and more information.

Dallas-Fort Worth-area parks

Tyler State Park
Avoid the Black Friday madness with the 15th annual “Walk-off the Bird” Bird Walk, a 2.1-mile walk by the lakeshore at 9 am November 25. Bring your binoculars to relax and enjoy the bird life of the East Texas Pineywoods. At 2 pm the same day, enjoy a Fall in the Savannah fall foliage hike. Enjoy Reading Ranger Campfire Stories around a cozy campfire at 3 pm December 3. Head back December 9-10 for A Pineywoods Christmas, when you can stroll or drive through the Lakeview and Big Pine campgrounds to take in campers' elaborately decorated sites and take a Winter Wonderland Hike.

Lake Tawakoni State Park
Drive through or stay at the park and decorate your campsite with your favorite Christmas decorations to receive your second night of camping free during your stay. There will be a decorating contest, complete with awards, as well as a reading of The Night before Christmas — all part of Twinkle Tour 2022, 5-8 pm December 3.

Daingerfield State Park
Drive through the park lit up like Santa Land during the 10th annual Christmas in the Park drive thru lights tour December 14-17 (times vary). Marvel at the decorated campsites and lights, and enjoy hot chocolate and cookies while waiting for a chance to visit with Santa.

Eisenhower State Park
Help those in need and spread holiday cheer — and as a bonus, get free entry to the park — by bringing one unwrapped donation item to the park’s Holiday Donation Drive from November 25 to December 19. Come back December 9-10 to visit the Light Up the Park drive-thru lights event, featuring milk and cookies with Santa. This year, the park is taking unwrapped toys to donate instead of collecting entrance fees for the event.

Cleburne State Park
Enjoy Pancakes With Santa and make pinecone bird feeders 9-11 a.m. December 10.

Cedar Hill State Park
Walk off your Thanksgiving Day meal and explore nature in the cool fall air during the three-mile Thanksgiving Nature Walk 7:30-9 a.m. November 26. Search for birds taking their winter break at the park during their Winter Birding Walk, which takes place 7:30-8:30 am December 13. Explore Christmas on Penn Farm on December 17: Learn about the history and pioneers of the Penn Family and the farm they built 150 years ago.

Lake Mineral Wells State Park
Experience Christmas, cowboy style, at Cross Timbers Cowboy Christmas, December 3. Park ranger and cowboy poet David Owens will gather guests around a campfire at the Lone Star Amphitheater for an evening of cowboy culture through songs, stories and poems.

Dinosaur Valley State Park
In partnership with Toys for Tots, the park is hosting Christmas in the Valley, a full day of ranger-led events, programs, family friendly activities, arts and crafts, food and more. Bring a new and unwrapped toy for free admission for the whole family. The event takes place 1-4 pm. December 17.

Austin/San Antonio-area parks

Bastrop State Park
The park’s annual Gobble Till You Wobble hike November 25 has been canceled due to predicted rains. However, you can still follow ornaments with clues through the park every day in December during the annual Fa La La Through The Forest Scavenger Hunt. Enjoy the Lost Pines Christmas Parade, a collaborative event with Bastrop and Buescher Parks, at 6 pm December 10. Tour the inside of the historic Refectory and see how the Civilian Conservation Corps celebrated Christmas away from home during A Lost Pines CCC Christmas 9 a.m. to noon December 17.

Lyndon B. Johnson State Park & Historic Site
Attend Deck the Halls, 10 am. to 3 pm November 26 to explore how early Texans at the Sauer-Beckmann Farm got ready for the holidays by stringing popcorn and decorating cookies to hang on their Christmas tree; learn how to make wreaths out of local cedar and dip candles as the farm staff get ready for das Weihnachten (Christmas). Return to the park at 5:30 pm December 18 for the 53rd Annual Tree Lighting, a holiday tradition started by President and Mrs. Johnson.

Garner State Park
Join the Buffalo Soldiers program and friends as they stop into Garner State Park before leaving for Christmas break during the Marching Towards Christmas event 10 am to 2 pm December 10. Christmas activities will include hand-dipped candles, frontier Christmas painting, Christmas-themed hard tack in Dutch ovens, and stories of the Buffalo Soldiers.

Buescher State Park
Take a Giving Thanks Guided Hike and learn how the Civilian Conservation Corps built the park from 3-4 pm November 26. On the Fa La La in the Forest Scavenger Hunt, you can follow ornaments with clues through the park to secure a prize at the end, December 1 to January 1. Enjoy the Smithville Festival of Lights and Lighted Parade, a collaborative effort between Buescher and Bastrop parks, on December 3.

Hill Country State Natural Area
See how art, history and state parks are connected; learn some basic watercolor techniques and paint a card or two to take home during the Watercolor Christmas Cards event 2:30-4 p.m. December 3. Come back for Horses in History & Ornament Craft from 2:30-4 pm. December 22 and learn how horses played important roles in the lives of vaqueros, native people, ranchers and more. Then, play a round of horseshoes and paint a horse ornament to take with you.

South Llano River State Park
At Christmas at the Ranch, 2 to 5 pm December 3, guests can warm up with hot chocolate and cider, listen to live entertainment, enjoy crafts and cookie decorating, and anticipate Santa's visit while taking in the twinkling lights and Christmas decorations at the historic Ranch House that now serves as Park Headquarters.

Houston and Gulf Coast-area parks

Brazos Bend State Park
Holiday in the Park is an all-day affair on December 10. Events include a self-guided "Elf Hike," Christmas crafts, "Pup Parade," s'mores, and more.

Goose Island State Park
See the park in lights, enjoy holiday activities, and camp for free when you decorate your campsite during Christmas in the Park on December 17. Guests are invited to "Santa's Village" at the CCC Recreation Hall for holiday crafts, games, hot chocolate around the campfire, and to drop off letters to Santa in the North Pole Mailbox.

Lake Livingston State Park
Learn about your favorite Thanksgiving food (the turkey) during Campfire Turkey Talk on November 26. Rangers will cover the history of Thanksgiving, the habits and behaviors of wild turkeys, and share interesting facts about turkeys, including how it nearly became our national bird.

Lake Corpus Christi State Park
Get in the holiday spirit with the second annual Holiday Light Drive Thru 6-9 pm December 10. Visitors can enter the park for a drive through the lighted areas of Javelina and Opossum Bend camping loops, plus the Old Pavilion.

West Texas and the Panhandle-area parks

Franklin Mountains State Park
Pack your Thanksgiving leftovers and hike 1.5 miles up to Aztec Caves during the park’s Turkey Trot at 11 am November 25. On December 3, make ornaments and holiday cards with recycled materials as part of the Art in the Parks series. During Cookies and Cocoa, you can decorate and take home your own Christmas treat while sipping on a cup of hot chocolate 2-4 pm December 23. Come back on Christmas Eve for a guided, two-mile Santa Hike at 11 am.

Hueco Tanks State Park & Historic Site
Bring your family out for Home for the Holidays guided family hike on December 10 and moderate hike on 17.

San Angelo State Park
Enjoy a drive-thru tour of lights and optional pictures with Santa and Smokey Bear during Holly-Days in the Park 6-8 pm December 10.

Affluent Fort Worth neighbor leads list of lavish holiday spending budgets in U.S.

Santa Baby

As the most wonderful time of the year approaches, holiday shopping budgets are in the spotlight, and a study from WalletHub lists Flower Mound as one of the top cities where Santa doesn't need a whole lot of help.

According to the personal finance website, the average holiday budget in Flower Mound is $3,531 per person, the third highest in the nation.

The town's 2021 population of 77,243 (per the U.S. Census) boasts a median income $139,703 and earlier this year was named by Ventured.com as the richest city in Texas.

In spite of an increase over last year's gift list totals, Flower Mound dropped to the third spot after being ranked No. 1 last year with a budget of $3,427. Newton, Massachusetts (budget $4,233) and Palo Alto, California (budget $3,920) edged out the Texas city this year.

Flower Mound was the only Texas city in the top 10, but there's plenty of holiday cheer to be found in the report, and not just for Flower Mound Santa fans.

Each year, WalletHub calculates the maximum holiday budget for over 550 U.S. cities "to help consumers avoid post-holiday regret," the website says. The study factors in income, age of the population, and other financial indicators such as debt-to-income ratio, monthly-income-to monthly-expenses ratio and savings-to-monthly-expenses ratio.

Despite nationwide focus on inflation strains, holiday spending is expected to be healthy, and higher than last year.

"The seeming social upheaval in recent times may lead households to spend more in an attempt to take some control of the environment which they can control," says Robert Wright, University of Illinois, Springfield professor emeritus who was among five experts consulted for advice about holiday shopping.

This could be good news if your Christmas wishes are on local shopping lists. Eight other North Texas cities landed in this year's top 100 heftiest holiday budgets:

  • Allen, No. 17 , $2,670
  • Frisco, No. 37, $2,150
  • McKinney, No. 45, $2,070
  • Plano, No. 50, $1,999
  • Carrollton, No. 55, $1,837
  • Richardson, No. 58, $1,823
  • North Richland Hills, No. 81, $1,658
  • Lewisville, No. 90, $1,630

Fort Worth landed at No. 366 with a budget of $890, while Dallas landed at No. 401 out of 558 cities with an average holiday budget of $845.

Elsewhere in Texas, spending in the Austin area won't be ho-hum with the Capitol City's budget of $1,705 ranked at No. 78. Two Austin suburbs, Cedar Park (budget $2,855) and League City (budget $2,541) ranked 14 and 20, respectively.

Santa's bag could be a mixed bag in the Houston area with three suburbs in the top 100, but the urban center falling behind:

  • Sugar Land, No. 15, $2,793
  • Pearland, No. 36, $2,172
  • The Woodlands, No. 71, $1,733
  • Houston, No. 366, $890

Things don't look too jolly for San Antonio, ranked at No. 431 with an average budget of $803 or Pharr, which was the lowest ranked city in Texas.

At No. 553 with a budget of $487, the Rio Grande Valley city came in just a few spots ahead of last place Hartford, Connecticut, with a budget of only $211.