Photo by Patrick Fore on Unsplash

St. Patrick’s Day is Friday and that means everyone is feeling Irish, as evidenced by the onslaught of St. Patrick’s Day-themed festivities happening this weekend. Don’t forget to wear green, or prepare to be pinched. Save room for lots of mac and cheese by week’s end. By the way, we're just a few weeks away from this year's Fort Worth Food + Wine Festival, and tickets are going fast; find out more here.

Friday, March 17

44th Annual St. Patrick’s Day Block Party at J. Gilligan’s Bar & Grill
It’s the biggest tradition in downtown Arlington. Visit all day starting at 11 am for lunch and 4 pm for the outdoor party. A half dozen bands, green beer, and Irish nachos – natural cut cottage fries with melted cheddar, bacon, chives, onions, tomatoes and jalapenos – will combine for a good time.

St. Patrick’s Day at Angelo’s Bar-B-Que
While Texas barbecue is not exactly Irish, there’s a St. Patrick’s Day tie to this Fort Worth barbecue institution. Angelo’s opened on March 17, 1958, and every year on its anniversary, the beloved barbecue joint hosts Irish bagpipers to play for guests while they dine. Visit during dinner and enjoy the music along with a green beer paired with brisket or ribs.

St. Pawtrick’s Day Party Mutt’s Canine Cantina
To celebrate St. Patrick’s Day, leprechauns will leave a trail of golden stickers on the bottom of select Barkaritas at this dog park and bar. Find one and pick from the pot of gold to win prizes like food, drinks, merchandise, and more. The agave tequila-based Barkaritas, made with fresh lemon and lime juice, will be made green for the occasion. The giveaways will take place all weekend long, Friday through Sunday.

Greek Wine Tasting at Wine Thief
The intimate wine bar inside the Omni Fort Worth Hotel will host a Greek wine tasting with small bites to match. A guest speaker will guide participants through each varietal. The tasting is $45, plus tax and gratuity, and will run from 5-7 pm.

After Hours in the Garden at the Fort Worth Botanic Garden
Enjoy the beauty of the Botanic Garden after dark. There’ll be live music by singer and songwriter Joseph Neville, light bites, wine, and beer. Tickets are $18 for members or $25 for non-members. Bringing a blanket for sitting is encouraged. The event will run from 6:30 – -8:30 pm.

EIEIO Wine Dinner at Waters
The downtown high-end seafood destination will welcome winemaker and owner of EIEO & Company, Jay McDonald, for a five-course wine pairing dinner. Menu highlights include roasted Texas quail, cherrywood coal salmon, and coffee-ancho chile rubbed beef tenderloin. There’ll also be pinot noirs a ‘plenty. Dinner is $190 per person, plus tax and gratuity, and will begin at 6:30 pm.

Saturday, March 18

Spirits & Coffee Tastings at John Wayne: An American Experience
Coinciding the Fort Worth Stockyards Cowtown Goes Green Parade, the John Wayne museum will host a complimentary tasting. Stop by the John Wayne Stock & Supply store from 2-4 pm to sample the lineup of Duke Spirits, including bourbon, rye, and tequila, as well as The Quiet Man Irish Coffee made with John Wayne Gold Handle Coffee. Playing in the background will be Wayne’s movie The Quiet Man, which filmed in Ireland. John Wayne’s youngest daughter, Marisa Wayne, and eldest grandchild, Anita LaCava Swift, will also be on-site for a book signing of John Wayne: The Official Cocktail Book and DUKE: The Official John Wayne Movie Book.

St. Paddy’s Irish Whiskey Tasting at Hooligan’s Pub
After the mayhem of St. Patrick’s Day settles down, partake in a traditional Irish meal paired with Irish whiskeys at Hooligan’s Pub in Arlington. The tasting will include pours of Tullamore Dew, Busker, Proper Twelve, and Teeling whiskeys paired with a corned beef sandwich, sauerkraut, and pickles. Then wash it all down with a pour of Guinness at the end. The tasting is $49 and will be available from 5-8 pm.

Sunday, March 19

Mac Attack
It’s the only macaroni and cheese competition in Fort Worth, and it’s happening this Sunday at Tokyo Café. Founded by Tokyo Café chef Kevin Martinez, the culinary competition features 17 chefs and restaurants who’ll vie for making the best mac. Competitors include Fred’s Texas Café, Luckybee Kitchen, Mariachi’s Dine-In, Dayne’s Craft Barbecue, The Bearded Lady, Funky Picnic Brewery & Café, and more. Guests will do the voting, and the top three winners get a homemade trophy and ticket proceeds toward their charity of choice. Tickets are $35 and include two beers. Or pay $25 for no beer. Kids can get in for $10. The competition will run from 1-3 pm. A VIP ticket of $45 grants early entry at 12 noon.

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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.

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."

5 tips for stunning beach sand sculptures from 2023 Texas SandFest winners

Vacation mode

As summer fast approaches, sandy vacations to coastal destinations are on the horizon for many travelers. For those with kids in tow, sandcastle-making might top the list of beach trip must-dos.

But “playing” in the sand isn’t just an activity for children, as proven by the 22 professional sand sculptors from around the world who recently competed in the 26th annual Texas SandFest, held in Port Aransas in April. The internationally recognized event, started by Port A locals in 1997, is the largest native-sand sculptor competition in the nation; nearly 70,000 people attended this year.

Competition entries featured everything from mermaids to the Grim Reaper, all intricately carved, brushed, and chiseled from sand, ocean water, and perhaps a little diluted spray glue that sculptors say helps maintain detail. The competitors work on their masterpieces during the event, allowing spectators to witness their progress from start to finish.

“I do around five international sand sculpting competitions per year. It’s always a great challenge to compete a high level,” says Benoit Dutherage, a competitive sculptor from France who also creates snow sculptures in the French Alps during the winter.

Dutherage took first place in the Duo Masters category, along with his sand sculpting partner Sue McGrew, for their work called “Wish You Were Here.” Comprised of two loving faces (one mystically cut in half), the sculpture was a tribute to Pink Floyd.

“We like to reflect human emotions in our sculptures,” he says. “It is never easy to pick an idea among the thousands of ideas we have.”

Florida resident Thomas Koet, whose sculpture called “The Prospector” won first place in the People’s Choice category, intended to create something with horses and a cowboy as an homage to Mustang Island, where the competition took place. High tides just before the event thwarted his plans.

“The high tide washed away so much of the sand, I had only enough left for a mule or a foal,” he says. “So I decided to make an old prospector with a mule.”

Thinking out of the box when it comes to carving sand is just one of several suggestions Koet has for recreational sand sculptors. (“Who says it has to be a castle?” he says.) He and other winners from the 2023 Texas SandFest say they are always happy to see novices get creative.

Here are five of the pros' top tips for producing a beachfront masterpiece.

1. Think beyond the standard sandcastle
“Design and sculpt outside of your comfort zone,” says Abe Waterman, a sculptor from Prince Edward Island, Canada, who took first place in the Solo Masters division with his sculpture, “Sleeps with Angels.” The mega sculpture featured four angels at four corners holding a blanket carrying a sleeping woman. “While this may not lead to the best sculpture results, one will improve faster by doing this.”

Waterman noted that there are different types of sand depending on location. Some are better suited for detailed work while others work well for verticality. “But something can always be sculpted regardless of the sand quality, the design just may need to be altered,” he says.

Koet recommends picking something that will fit your attention span. “You can make anything you want,” he says. “You can make a cat, a shark, a monster truck, your high school mascot, a sneaker, or a shark eating an ice cream cone.”

2. Use the right tools
Forgo the cheap tourist shop plastic bucket and shovel set. “You definitely need proper tools to get a good result: A solid shovel, a few trowels – not too big – and a wall painting brush to clean your sculpture,” says Dutherage. “You’ll also need buckets.”

Think big painter’s buckets, he says, used to make what’s essentially “sand mud” consisting of lots of water and sand. Which leads to the next tip ...

3. Create a form mold
Consider this the secret to head-turning sand sculptures. Whether it’s a 10-foot-tall wooden box with sides that come off, or a plastic bucket with the bottom cut out, a “form mold” is an open-top vessel used to hold packed sand and water to create a carve-able structure.

“It’s a very useful thing to have in order to get a solid block, and to go high,” says Dutherage. “If you are a handyman, you can build your own forms. But a quick solution is to take a bucket, no matter what size, and cut out the bottom. Then put that bucket upside down on the sand. Add a few inches of sand, some water, mix with your trowel and compact that layer. Repeat until the bucket is full. Then gently pull the bucket up and surprise! You will get a nice block of sand ready for a sandcastle full of windows, arches, and gates.”

The compacted layers of sand and water almost act as cement, creating a sturdy base for carving. Dutherage says folks can easily repeat the form mold process to create multiple bases, either side by side or stacked.

4. Use plenty of water, for the sculpture and yourself
Benoit recommends adding even more water during the sculpting process.

“Bring a plant sprayer,” he says. “Sand needs to be wet to be sculptable.”

Even rain during sand sculpture building isn’t necessarily a bad thing. “One of the biggest misconceptions is that rain will destroy a sand sculpture,” says Waterman. “While this is possible, most often it just textures the surface.”

Water is also essential for the sculptor, as staying hydrated is key during the process, Waterman adds.

Texas SandFest

Texas SandFest

"The Prospector" took first place in the 2023 Texas SandFest People's Choice category

5. Practice, Practice, Practice
“The biggest misconception is that I do anything different than anybody who does it only for the first time,” says Koet, who’s been sculpting sand for 25 years. “Sure, I bring more and bigger tools and I spend much more time shoveling the sand high and mixing it with water. But there is no magic other than years of practice.”

Waterman, who admits sand sculpting has taken over his life, competes in up to 10 contests a year and also creates sculptures for exhibits and corporate commissions.

“Tricks and tips will only get a person so far,” he says. “But ultimately practice and putting the time in will get them a whole lot further.”

Benoit agrees. “Making a sand sculpture requires a lot of work and the more you practice, the better you will get,” he says. “But first of all, you have to enjoy the fun of it.”