Port Isabel Lighthouse was one of eight state historic sites welcomed by the Texas Historical Commission last month. The lighthouse was previously managed by the Texas Parks and Wildlife Department.
The properties were transferred on the recommendation of the Texas Sunset Advisory Commission. The action will allow both the THC and TPWD to improve efficiency by focusing each agency on its core mission – THC’s role as the state historic preservation office, and TPWD’s as steward of the state’s impressive natural resources and hunting, fishing and outdoor recreation attractions.
“Our primary goal as stewards of these sites has always been the preservation of these iconic landmarks for the enjoyment of current and future Texans. We entrust the future care of these notable parks to the capable hands of the THC and know they will continue these high standards of maintenance and operations going forward,” said Carter Smith, Executive Director of TPWD. “TPWD is proud to have been the caretakers of these historic sites for many decades, and we will continue to care for the hundreds of historic buildings, archeological sites, and other cultural resources that exist within state parks and natural areas across Texas.”
The City of Port Isabel held a celebration on October 2 with other city organizations, the THC vice-chair and the public to announce the transfer.
“We’re all looking forward to the exciting future that this partnership brings. The Lighthouse is important and vital to us. The City of Port Isabel and the Port Isabel Economic Development Corporation have been partners with the State for many decades and are happy to continue in that role,” says Calvin Byrd, Port Isabel Economic Development Board Chair.
“We’re happy to co-host this event with the Texas Historical Commission and Commissioners on this important day and invite the public to join in the celebration,” added City Manager Jared Hockema.
The Port Isabel Lighthouse, originally called Point Isabel, was constructed in 1852 to guide ships through the Brazos Santiago Pass into the Laguna Madre. Built at the direction of President James K. Polk, it was also used for the protection of Fort Polk, once located along the coast where Port Isabel now sits.
Opened as a state park in 1952, it is the only lighthouse now open for viewing in the State of Texas. The lighthouse Keeper’s Cottage on the grounds now houses the Port Isabel Chamber of Commerce.
The lighthouse is open daily from 9 a.m. to 5 p.m. For more information on admission and its history, visit www.portisabellighthouse.com or call (956) 943-2262.
Other TPWD sites transferring to the THC include San Jacinto Monument and Battleground in Harris County; Washington-on-the-Brazos and Barrington Plantation in Washington County; Kreische Brewery and Monument Hill in Fayette County; Lipantitlán in Nueces County; and Fanthorp Inn in Grimes County.
“Texas Parks and Wildlife and their professional staff have done impressive work stewarding these historic places,” said Mark Wolfe, THC Executive Director. “We welcome this challenge to build on their legacy and continue the preservation of these unique sites for new generations of visitors to enjoy. We are pleased that we will be able to work with many of the same staff who have operated and maintained all the transferring sites. We welcome them and these sites to the Texas Historical Commission family.”
Additionally, the 86th Legislature turned management of the Star of the Republic Museum in Washington County (part of the Washington-on-the-Brazos complex) to the THC, effective Jan. 1, 2020. The THC is working with the site’s owner, Blinn College, on management logistics; the THC may assume operation of the museum prior to the beginning of the year.
The addition of the new sites means that the THC now manages 31 State Historic Sites representing nearly every era of Texas’ storied history—from the legends and culture of the original American Indian inhabitants of Texas, to the epic stories of the state’s revolution and independence, to the humble birthplace of one of the nation’s greatest leaders, President Dwight D. Eisenhower.
To learn more about these sites or to plan your next trip, visit StoriedSites.com.
The seasons may change but one thing doesn’t – the Texas Quilt Museum will always have interesting and unique exhibits which change out quarterly. Their fall displays include Fascinating Rhythm: Art Quilts by Katie Pasquini Masopust and Mama’s Got the Blue. They will both be on display until December 22.
Read more: Texas Quilt Museum exhibit showcases quilt legend, antique masterpieces
Every year, in an effort to not only preserve the local history but also to celebrate the local culture, Mission Historical Museum hosts folklife festivals that indulge in the local traditions. This time of year, it’s the Day of the Dead festival. The festival will be held on October 26 from 4 to 9 p.m.
This year’s Day of the Dead Festival: Noche de Calacas will consist of various attractions. Artisans and food vendors will take over the street and be selling items such as tacos de bistec, tacos de tromp, empanadas de pollo and de picadillo, brisket sandwiches, funnel cakes and more. This is a chance to enjoy what locals have to offer.
The event will also feature free face painting and carnival rides. Entertainment will be performed by Mission Parks and Recreation Folklorico and the Crescendo Music Institute. International entertainment will be provided by Mission’s very own sister cities, Francisco I. Madero, Coahuila, Mexico and Valle Hermoso, Tamaulipas, Mexico.
Featured attractions include an exhibition in the main building including a community altar exhibit, a traditional sand painting done by artists from Mexico, and an outdoor altar replicating the historic La Lomita Chapel. Installation of the sand art will begin October 25.
The Mission Historical Museum is a 501 c 3 non-profit organization that collects, preserves, exhibits and promotes the history and cultural heritage of Mission and its surrounding communities. We are located at 900 Doherty Avenue and are open Tuesday – Friday, 10 am – 5 pm and Saturdays, from 10 am – 2 pm. For more information on this program or any upcoming events contact the museum at 956-580-8646, check out our website www.missionmuseum.org
Join the National Butterfly Center on Saturday, November 2 – Tuesday, November 5, for the 24th Annual Texas Butterfly Festival, and see for yourself why USA Today calls Mission, Texas, “the butterfly capital of the USA.”
Renowned for a volume and variety of wild, free-flying butterflies that cannot be found anywhere else in the country, deep south Texas is home to the country's premier butterfly event, featuring field trips and educational activities for beginners to experts, private gardens and guided 'hot spot' tours, The North American Butterfly Photo Contest, and a free community day fun.
The three-day event starts off with the Running of the Monarchs 5K Trail Run and one Mile Fun Run. The run will be held across the National Butterfly Center’s grounds and gardens. Participants must pre-register for the event to receive a commemorative Monarch Medal. The entry fee is $24 for adults and $12 for children. All funds are used to support the environmental conservation work of the center. Seed bombs will be provided to participants to throw along the route of the run.
The community day will be held from 9 a.m. to 2 p.m. Visitors can learn how to make their own Banana Brew, attend arts and crafts session, hunt the hackberry trail, pin the tail on the Swallowtail, and more.
The National Butterfly Center is honored to host the festival and provide attendees a remarkable and rewarding outdoor experience. Registrants will spend three days exploring renowned public lands and private properties with world-class trip leaders, where you may reasonably expect to see more than 60 species in a day.
Last year, attendees from 23 states and four countries registered to experience one of the most biologically diverse areas in North America, with the assistance of expert guides. Come see for yourself why the Rio Grande Valley has earned worldwide recognition for its outstanding butterfly and birding spots, inviting thousands of visitors each year to discover its remarkable assortment of preserves, refuges, nature parks, trails, and more.
Whether you are an accomplished naturalist or a beginner enthusiast, the Texas Butterfly Festival is the place to be. Here, many eyes make for exciting discoveries, including U.S. records, super rarities, subtropical strays, seldom-seen species, 'life' and chase butterflies that may only be found in the Lower Rio Grande Valley (LRGV), where the river winds its way toward the Laguna Madre at the Gulf of Mexico. This unique region encompasses no fewer than 11 different types of habitat, from tidal wetlands to riparian forest, brushland scrub to prairie savanna, and is home to more than 1,200 different species of plants, 500 species of birds, 200 vertebrate species, roughly 300 species of butterflies, and over 90 species of dragonflies.
To learn more about the one and only Texas Butterfly Festival, where to stay, what to do, and how to participate, visit the website at www.texasbutterflyfestival.com.
South Texas archaeology is the presentation topic at the October 28 meeting of the South Texas Border Chapter of Texas Master Naturalists.
Guest speaker is Donna Otto, a 25-year member of the Texas Archeology Society, a member of the South Texas Archeological Society and a Texas Historical Commission Archeological Steward. She is a South Texas Border Chapter Texas Master Naturalist.
Read more: Texas Master Naturalist meeting focuses on South Texas archeology
It's a bird. It's a plane. It's Superman.
For the Rio Grande Valley, especially in Harlingen, it's a bird. The Rio Grande Valley Birding Festival is ready for blast off. Scheduled to begin on November 6, the festival will run through November 10.
Read more: Harlingen – Prefect place to celebrate birds
The Edinburg Scenic Wetlands and World Birding Center (EWBC) invites the community to enjoy free fun during the monthly Spectacular Saturday Series. On the last Saturday of each month, the entry fee is waived for all visitors from 8 a.m. to 6 p.m.
Read more: EWBC hosts Spectacular Saturdays and Butterfly Baiting
Put on your Indiana Jones hat and get ready for adventures in archeology at Palo Alto Battlefield National Historic Park on October 19 from 10 a.m. to 1 p.m.
At the 13th Annual Rio Grande Delta Archeology Fair, visitors can take part in activities, demonstrations and displays that show the Rio Grande’s connections to prehistory (the native peoples who lived here) as well as battlefield archeology and historic archeology.
The free event invites visitors to dig for buried treasure and figure out what it is and who left it behind. Living historians or reenactors, people who have studied the soldiers of the Mexican-American war and will be on hand to tell about their “life” in the Army. Members of indigenous tribes will teach how to throw a spear using an atlatl. Visitors can also try their hand with a metal detector. Numerous other demonstrations and activities are designed to keep visitors entertained.
The event is designed to introduce people to archeology, local archeological resources, and the value of resource preservation. Visitors can learn about the methods and tools archeologists use and find out about current research. The goal of the fair is to create a feeling of shared stewardship of archeological resources.
The event is cosponsored by are the Community Historical Archaeology Project with Schools program (CHAPS) from UTRGV, Southern Archeological Consultants, and the Brownsville Historical Association.
Palo Alto Battlefield National Historic Park is located 600 feet north of the intersection of FM 1847 (Paredes Line Road) and FM 511, between Brownsville and Los Fresnos. For more information, call (956) 541-2785.
The Rio Grande Valley Birding Festival, going on its 26th year, is nothing new to Harlingen, but this year they plan to shake it up a bit. The RGVBF is keeping things fresh and exciting with a change in location, new field trip destinations, and a few other changes that will be sure to excite the birder and all its attendees.
The festival will be held at the Harlingen Convention Center this year and expects to see hundreds of attendees. Last year the event saw 600 attendees that came from 41 states and six countries. Attendees come to see the many birds that are only seen in the Valley and take part in one-of-a- kind field trips.
Because of the Valley’s unique ecosystem comprised of coastal marshes and plains in the east, desert chaparral in the west and a lush corridor of riparian woodlands along the river, the Valley has 30 unique species of birds. The RGV is also major migration corridor because of the convergence of two major flyways, the Central and Mississippi.
The big numbers aren’t that bad for the Valley birder, and those that come and visit just to see the birds. Of 950 bird species in North America, the United States has over 800, Texas has 600, and more than 500 of those can be found in the Rio Grande Valley.
The birding festival began in 1994 when the Harlingen Area Chamber of Commerce and members of the birding community capitalized on the RGV’s biodiversity with an initiative to create this one-of-a-kind birding festival. Propelled by volunteers that first year, and funded by sponsors, the festival was a success and served as a model to many festivals across the country and abroad. Birding and nature tourism were making waves and the RGV was on the leading edge.
According to coordinators, last year’s event brought three million dollars to the local economy. According to a recent Texas A&M Economic Impact Study, ecotourism has an economic impact of nearly half a billion dollars on the Rio Grande Valley annually, extrapolating over 6,000 jobs in the Valley.
The success of ecotourism in the Valley has led other cities to create festivals and events where the wildlife is celebrated. The Valley also has the World Birding Centers, nine distinctly different nature centers, that draw thousands of visitors throughout the Valley.
In previous years, donations have been used on projects for the Red-crowned Parrots and Harris’s Hawks. Last year the Tejano Parrot Project was able to purchase telemetry collars and tracking equipment. Volunteers have been able to conduct weekly roost surveys in Brownsville, Harlingen, Weslaco and McAllen utilizing the tracking equipment on collared birds in three of those roost areas. Funds from this year will be used to purchase additional collars for birds in other Valley communities to continue gathering behavior information on these amazing parrots that visit the Valley.
The Harris’s Hawk project was able to use donations to purchase climbing equipment enabling researchers to access and band chicks in 22 nests. Donations this year will be used to study interaction of these banded birds with the adults from the same nests and to compare and analyze DNA samples extracted during the banding process.
A new project added this year is the South Texas Hummingbird Banding Project. This effort will provide the lower Rio Grande Valley with its first and only hummingbird bander. Buff-bellied Hummingbirds of the Rio Grande Valley will be the focus of this project.
Speaker presentations will be held on Thursday and Saturday afternoons that will give more details of these projects.
This year’s festival will include family activities and nature activities that will be held at the convention center on Saturday and Sunday. Activities include the Kiskadee Korner, a raptor show, a bird walk and the Birders Bazaar. Special events during the festival include a silent auction, a student awards ceremony recognizing artwork area students have drawn, a Star Party on Wednesday evening, and the American Birding Association’s 50th anniversary podcast bash.
Field trips include visits to the local Birding Centers, State Parks and refuges, McAllen Nature Center, Laguna Madre, Bahia Grande, local battlegrounds, a ride on the Riverside Dreamer, biking field trips, breakfast with the birds at The Inn at Chachalaca Bend, a butterfly field trip, South Padre Island, and more. Topics discussed during field trips include ornithology, parrots of the area, banding, Valley raptors, and photography. There will be workshops on how to do birding with technology, how to record bird sightings, learning to listen to the sounds around you, improving field identification skills, and so much more.
The festival will run from November 6 through 10 where visitors will descend on the City of Harlingen, eager to experience all that makes the RGV so special. There will be music, food, wildlife, habitats to explore, and of course, friendly, warm people.
There is a $25 registration fee for everyone attending. Field trips are designed for beginners to advanced. Prices for field trips range – all prices can be found online. Prices for seminars and keynotes range between $10 and $20, but a Kiskadee Pass is available for $30 which allows entry to all of those being offered in the auditorium. These tickets must be purchased during open registration, before the day of the event. Individual tickets for seminars and other events (excluding field trips) can be purchased at the door. The Bargain Bazaar and some other events are free and open to the public. Please visit their website to get a full list of details.
The Harlingen Convention Center is located at 701 Harlingen Heights Dr. For more information and full list of field trips, visit www.rgvbf.org.
The 32nd SandCastle Days was held October 2 through 6 where attendees had the chance to view sandcastles built by 12 master sandcastle builders. This year’s builders came from as far as the Netherlands and Canada.
According to Lucinda Wierenga, one of the organizers of the event, this year’s event appeared to set new records.
“The weather and tide cooperated, and the police had to direct traffic all of Saturday and well into Sunday afternoon,” she said. “But now it is quiet, and the gallery is lovely, especially right at dusk.”
Wierenga added that any who want to see what there is shouldn’t wait too long. With the sandcastles, mother nature will decide when to take them out.
The event features a group sandcastle built by all 12 participants and then a contest between them.
The top three sandcastle builders were first place, Abe Waterman (Canada) for his “Three’s the Charm;” second place was Wilfred Stijger (Netherlands) for “Catch of the Day;” and third place went to Greg Grady (New Hampshire) for his sandcastle “Cosmic Drop.”
Each year the event boasts live music, art booths, great food, and exciting evenings. SandCastle Days also includes activities for all ages and activities for families. Attendees also have the opportunity to participate in SandCamps where they can learn from experienced sandcastle builders. The event is free.
If you missed this year, do not despair, said Wierenga. Just mark the first weekend of October off on your calendar to be on South Padre Island.
If you can’t wait that long, visit SPI in December to see the Holiday Sandcastle Village, which is already in production by the very same artists who competed at SandCastle Days. The sculptures are being constructed across from Louie’s Backyard in the heart of the entertainment district and will feature a dozen holiday-themed sculptures as well as a musical light show.
For more information on SandCastle Days and their other events, you can visit them online at www.sandcastledays.com, or on Facebook.