Day Trips & Beyond: June Events Roundup

School’s out and June is the beginning of summer fun

Taste your way through Texas and beyond this summer, sampling Cajun cuisine, Southern specialties, and the Lone Star State's best barbecue.

Lloyd “Teddy” Johnson welcomes everybody to Teddy’s Juke Joint in Zachary, La. (Photo by Gerald E. McLeod)

The joint’s jumping. I read recently read that after completing filming of his latest movie, Master Gardener, in Louisiana, director Paul Schrader and company retired to a night of music, dancing, and eating at Teddy’s Juke Joint north of Baton Rouge. He’s not the first A-lister to find their way to this out-of-the-way roadhouse surrounded by towering pine trees. Lloyd “Teddy” Johnson, the bar’s owner, can give a long list of celebrities he’s met, but it’s the ordinary people who come to hear good blues and zydeco music that he enjoys meeting the most.

Teddy’s place isn’t the last of the Louisiana juke joints, but the number of roadhouses on the Old Chitlin’ Circuit has dwindled to just a handful. In the days of segregation, the juke joints were semi-secret, backwoods places run by and catering to Black people. Johnson makes it a point that all are welcome at his place in Zachary, Louisiana.

A big teddy bear of a man, Johnson and his wife opened the bar festooned in Christmas lights, Mardi Gras beads, and souvenirs in the house where he was born. A band takes the small stage three or four nights a week, and the rest of the time Johnson DJs from his extensive collection of blues records. Nancy’s red beans & rice and burgers are reason enough to visit.

See Doug Brousseau & the River City Allstars Friday nights at Teddy’s Juke Joint, Zachary, La., 225/892-0064, www.teddysjukejoint.com.

Po Po Family Restaurant outside of Welfare is the house of fried chicken and a thousand commemorative plates. (Photo by Gerald E. McLeod)

Smoking mountain. Last month, Mexico’s most famous and active volcano, Popocatépetl, spewed enough smoke and ash to close airports around Mexico City. It’s not particularly unusual. Volcanic threats from Mexico’s second-highest peak tend to happen at least once or twice a year. What does this have to do with Texas? Probably nothing, other than it reminds me of one my favorite hidden Hill Country restaurants.

Po Po Family Restaurant, outside of Welfare and west of Boerne, serves a great chicken-fried steak and other delectable homestyle dishes. Before traffic moved to I-10, the cafe in the hills was a popular stop on the old San Antonio-El Paso road. Now it’s a day-trip-worthy destination.

Like most highway diners, Po Po was built in stages. It began as Nelson Hall in 1929. Moonshine was sold in the parking lot, and hamburgers at the dance hall cost a nickel. A succession of owners added to the roadside joint as it evolved from honky-tonk to family restaurant.

Local rancher and owner Ned Houston, supposedly a descendant of Sam Houston, changed the name to Po Po after being awed by a visit to the Mexican volcano. In 1950, Luther and Marie Burgon took over the cafe under the towering oak trees. How they found time to travel is a mystery, but the couple amassed a sizable collection of commemorative plates. A few souvenir plates soon morphed into china from around the world donated to the collection. To date, more than 3,000 plates adorn the walls.

The food and the scenery are worth making the drive. The portions are big enough to share, but too good to relinquish even one bite. Fried chicken is the house specialty, and the steaks are hefty and cooked to order. Gerardo and Gennaro Locricchio, the current owners, have expanded the menu and added several trattorias around San Antonio to their family of restaurants. (Portions of this story first appeared in "Day Trips," Nov. 27, 2015.)

Po Po Family Restaurant, open Wed.-Mon., closed Tuesdays. 829 FM 289. 830/537-4194. Reservations recommended. popos.co/hillcountry

The rebuilt grass house stands near the new visitor center at Caddo Mounds State Historic Site. (Photo by Gerald E. McLeod)

Sacred ground. The final strands of straw were placed on the grass house at Caddo Mounds State Historic Site last winter. Approximately 18 feet high and 25 feet wide, the beehive-shaped structure is remarkably cool on a warm spring day. The switchgrass hut replaces one destroyed by an EF-3 tornado on April 13, 2019. One person was killed and several others were injured in the sudden storm that totally wrecked the visitor center. Most of the artifacts destroyed in the former museum were reproductions.

After the tragedy the Texas Historical Commission staff moved into a temporary building. A beautiful new visitor center is awaiting final touches before it opens later this year. In the meantime, the park on El Camino Real de los Tejas outside of Alto has added more trails to the three large mounds.

The Hasinai Caddo people selected this site for a permanent settlement around AD 800 and abandoned it in the 13th century. The word “Texas” comes from the Caddo word “taysha,” meaning “friend.” The mounds were built for burial and ceremonial purposes. By the time the Spanish arrived in the 1700s, the Caddo occupied much of what is now northeast Texas and beyond. The Spanish used them as a buffer to the French in Louisiana. The tribe was removed to Indian Territory (Oklahoma) in 1859. They now have their tribal headquarters in Binger, Okla. Caddo Cultural Day is Sept. 2.

Caddo Mounds State Historic Site, 1649 TX 21, Alto, 936/858-3218, Tue.-Sun., 8:30am-4:30pm, www.thc.texas.gov

Travel Notes:

It’s about time. Late in May the Texas Parks and Wildlife Commission voted unanimously to authorize TPWD “to take all necessary steps to purchase approximately 5,000 acres in Freestone County including Fairfield Lake State Park.” The park has been day-use-only since the owners canceled the state’s lease in February. State officials have known for nearly five years that the property was for sale and failed to act. No word on how much TPWD would have to pay or even if the new owners will sell a parcel on the southwest corner of the 2,400-acre lake. The heavily wooded park known for its fishing is about three hours northeast of Austin.

89 and growing. Over the next 12 to 15 years, Texas Parks and Wildlife Department says it will open six new parks and natural areas to the public. Parks in the works include Palo Pinto Mountains State Park near Fort Worth, the Dan A. Hughes Unit of the Devils River State Natural Area near Del Rio, Albert and Bessie Kronkosky State Natural Area near Boerne, Powderhorn State Park near Port Lavaca, Chinati Mountains State Natural Area near Presidio, and Davis Hill State Natural Area near Houston. Texas has 89 state parks, while California has 270 state parks. The state ranks 35th in the nation for state park acreage per capita. There are 11 other states with more than 100 state parks each.

Texas universe. By now you’ve probably heard that Meow Wolf, the Santa Fe-based house of immersive art, will open in Grapevine on July 14. At the end of May the art experience company announced the groundbreaking for its next location in Houston at 2103 Lyons Ave., just down the street from Saint Arnold Brewery. The interactive, immersive, and mind-bending art exhibition will open sometime in 2024.

BBQ on the mooove. You won’t find Butter’s BBQ in the little shack in Mathis anymore. The 2021 Texas Monthly Top 50 BBQ winner has moved into a brick-and-mortar about 22 miles east in Sinton at 713 E. Sinton St. (U.S. Highway 181). The new location gives pitmaster Andrew Soto more indoor dining space and more room for their smoker. The pits are open Friday through Sunday until sold out.

Speaking of BBQ… The mayor of Rockdale says he will reopen Brett’s Backyard Bar-B-Que as Brett’s Family BBQ on June 4 at 1703 W. Cameron Ave. in Rockdale. Another TM Top 50 BBQ winner from 2021, The Backyard was forced to close in February. Brett Boren, the mayor and pitmaster, says the new barbecue joint will open on Sundays only from 8am to sold out, at least at the beginning.

Smell the pits. You snooze, you lose when it comes to tickets for this year’s Tex-Mex BBQ Block Party in Houston on July 23. Ticket holders will taste unlimited samples of each vendor’s barbecue dish as well as enjoy Saint Arnold beer. The event will happen in the air-conditioned comfort of Saint Arnold Brewery’s Beer Hall.

Other June Events:

Hill Country Film Festival
June 1-4, Fredericksburg, www.hillcountryff.com

Agave Festival
June 1-4, Marfa, www.agavemarfa.com

The Kerrville Folk Festival offers camping, workshops, activities, and lots more beyond daily concerts through June 11.

Kerrville Folk Festival
June 1-11, Kerrville, www.kerrvillefolkfestival.org

World Atl Atl Day
June 3, Alto, www.thc.texas.gov/news-events/events/world-atl-atl-day

Corpus Christi Beer Festival
June 3, Corpus Christi, corpuschristibeerfest.com

Food Truck Championship of Texas
June 3, Graham, www.foodtruckchampionshipoftexas.com

Pick-your-own Blueberries
June 3-July 16, Palestine, www.visitpalestine.com/business/lake-creek-blueberry-farm

Children’s Art and Literacy Festival
June 8-11, Abilene, www.abilenecalf.com

Lavender Festival
June 9-11, Blanco, www.blancolavenderfest.com

Take in the delightful sights, sounds, and smells of Boerne's Lavender Festival June 9-11.

Czech Kolache Klobase Festival
June 10, East Bernard, www.kkfest.com

Craft Beer Festival
June 10, Fredericksburg, www.fbgcraftbeerfestival.com

Tomato Festival
June 10, Jacksonville, www.jacksonvilletexas.com/tomato-fest

Texas Blueberry Festival
June 10, Nacogdoches, www.texasblueberryfestival.com

Folk Fest
June 10, New Braunfels, www.texashandmadefurniture.com

Texas Water Safari
June 10, San Marcos, www.texaswatersafari.org

Abendkonzerte
June 13, Boerne, www.ci.boerne.tx.us/1104/concerts-in-the-park

Blue Hole Star Party
June 13, Wimberley, www.cityofwimberley.com/parksandrec

Grease up a muffin pan and get over to the Texas Blueberry Festival in Nacogdoches June 10.

Bentonville Film Festival
June 13-18, Bentonville, Ark., bentonvillefilm.org

Come and Taste It
June 15, Gruene, www.grapevineingruene.com

Peach JAMboree
June 15-17, Stonewall, www.stonewalltexas.com/peach-jamboree

CineMarfa
June 15-18, Marfa, www.cinemarfa.org

Juneteenth Celebrations
June 15-19, Galveston, www.juneteenthbirthplace.org

Where better to celebrate Juneteenth than where it all began? Galveston honors its connection to the holiday year-round, but June 15-19 will be especially festive.

Juneteenth Celebration
June 17, Bastrop, www.bastropjuneteenthcelebration.com

Summer Solstice Concert: Rudi & the Rudiments
June 17, Boerne, www.cavewithoutaname.com

Juneteenth Celebration
June 17, Buda, www.visitbudatx.com

Bird Banding
June 17, Lake Jackson, www.gcbo.org

Salado Springs Craft Beer Festival
June 17, Salado, www.barrowbrewing.com/salado-springs-beer-fest

Eastside Market
June 17, Waco, www.eastsidemarketwtx.com

Part of the Luling Watermelon Thump (June 23-26) is the coronation of the Thump Queen.

Watermelon Thump
June 23-26, Luling, www.watermelonthump.com

Water Lantern Festival
June 24, Fort Worth, www.waterlanternfestival.com/fortworth.php

Bison Calf Tour
June 24, Fredericksburg, www.roamranch.com

Fort Velasco Day
June 24, Freeport, www.visitbrazosport.com/event/fort-velasco-day

Yellow Rose Artisan Market
June 24, Seguin, www.yellowrosefiberfiesta.com

Rose City Airfest
June 30, Tyler, www.campvtyler.org/rose-city-airfest

Still Brewing Art
June 29-Sept. 3, San Antonio, www.samuseum.org


Gerald McLeod has been traveling around Texas and beyond for his "Day Trips" column for more than 25 years. Keep up to date with his journeys on his archive page and follow him on Facebook.

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KEYWORDS FOR THIS POST

Day Trips, Caddo Mounds State Historic Site, Po Po Family Restaurant, Teddy's Juke Joint, Texas Parks and Wildlife Department, Meow Wolf, Butter's BBQ, Texas Monthly Top 50 BBQ, Brett's Family BBQ, Tex-Mex BBQ Block Party, Texas Historical Commission, Fairfield Lake State Park

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