Day Trips & Beyond: May Events Roundup

Plus dispatches from SandFest, farewell to Gary Oliver, and more

It’s time to enjoy the May weather and rediscover two recently restored historic sites, plus lots of fun festivals around the state.

The 190-year-old Fanthorp Inn in Anderson served as a community center and waystation for more than 30 years in the early days of Texas. After a major restoration project, the former inn is ready to welcome visitors back. (Photo by Gerald E. McLeod)

Sam slept here. Down the road from the Grimes County Courthouse in a wooded neighborhood in the small town of Anderson sits the only authentically restored stagecoach inn from the 1850s in Texas. Henry Fanthorp began the Fanthorp Inn in 1834 in a two-room log cabin at the crossing of two stagecoach and mail routes. He enlarged the building into a two-story, 18-room hotel that operated until 1867. During this period nearly everyone involved with establishing the Republic of Texas stayed there at one time or another. Sam Houston is said to have stayed more than 13 times and gave Fanthorp a brass and silver cane. The town was named for Kenneth Lewis Anderson, the last vice president of the Republic, who died at the inn.

On Oct. 4, 1987, the structure opened as the Fanthorp Inn State Historic Site. As a living history museum, the inn illustrated living conditions in early Texas. One of its most popular side attractions were the stagecoach rides. In September 2023, the site was closed for a major restoration project. The original clapboard siding was stripped and repainted, a new cedar shake roof was installed, and all the windows were repaired with the 19th-century glass panes reinstalled. Work is finishing up and the historic site will have a soft opening the weekend of May 31. A grand reopening with living history reenactors and stagecoach rides is planned for Oct. 5, the historic site’s 37th anniversary.
Oct. 5, Grand Reopening, Fanthorp Inn State Historic Site, Anderson, 936/873-2633,

"Mother Nature" by Chris Guinto & Melineige Beauregard was the favorite of the judges, the crowd, and the other sculptors in the Master Duo category at the annual Texas SandFest held on the beach in Port Aransas in April. The couple from Hawaii won third place in Master Duo at the 2023 SandFest and first place in 2021. (Photo by Gerald E. McLeod)

And the winners are… The 2024 Texas SandFest in Port Aransas is now one for the record books. It was the biggest and most attended sand sculpture festival so far despite the windy and chilly weather. As always it was a weekend of music, food, and some really weird art on the beach. And the winners are:

1. Chris Guinto & Melineige Beauregard, “Mother Nature”
2. Joris Kivits & Seveline Beauregard, “Symbiosis”
3. John Gowdy & Laura Cimador Gowdy, “Imagination Is Everything”
People’s Choice: Chris Guinto & Melineige Beauregard, “Mother Nature”
Sculptors’ Choice: Chris Guinto & Melineige Beauregard, “Mother Nature”
Originally from Prince Edward Island, Canada, Abe Waterman was back to win his third first-place award in a row in Master Solo with "Sweet Dreams Are Made of This" at the 2024 SandFest in Port Aransas. (Photo by Gerald E. McLeod)
1. Abe Waterman, “Sweet Dreams Are Made of This”
2. Slava Borecki, “The Grandmother”
3. Benjamin Probanza, “The Watch of Life”
4. Damon Langlois, “The Dude of Vibes”
People’s Choice: Benjamin Probanza, “The Watch of Life”
Sculptors’ Choice: Abe Waterman, “Sweet Dreams Are Made of This”
1. Thomas Brown
2. Darrel O’Conner
3. Jim Butler
People’s Choice: Thomas Brown

The next Texas SandFest is set for April 25–27, 2025.

Travel Notes:

The public got their first look at David Best’s Houston Temple during the Art Car Ball in April. The one-of-a-kind wooden structure will be on view until it is burned on Nov. 6. (Photo courtesy Orange Show)

Temporary temple. Using recycled wood, hundreds of volunteers helped sculptural artist David Best create a 35-foot-tall open-air building. The Houston Temple will remain on the grounds of the Orange Show World Headquarters at 2334 Gulf Terminal Dr. in Houston, until Nov. 6 when it will be torched in effigy. The intricately designed structure welcomes people who have suffered the loss of a loved one to add the person’s name or message to the building as a cathartic experience. Best is known for the nine temples he designed for the Burning Man festival as well as other art structures around the world. This is his first temple in Texas.

The traditional grass house at Caddo Mounds State Historic Site outside of Alto will be part of the site’s grand reopening on May 18. (Photo by Gerald E. McLeod)

History reopens. The Caddo mounds west of Nacogdoches have survived for more than a thousand years, but in a few minutes in 2019 two tornadoes severely damaged the modern buildings at the site. There was one fatality and more than 30 people were injured while attending a cultural day at Caddo Mounds State Historic Site. The site’s museum was soon reopened in temporary quarters and the traditional Caddo grass house was rebuilt in 2022. On May 18 the $2.5 million visitor center and museum will have its grand reopening. The day begins with a ribbon-cutting and continues with activities throughout the afternoon. The ceremonial and burial mounds were the southwestern-most center of the great Mound Builder culture of the Mississippi River Valley. Fortunately, most of the items in the museum when the tornadoes hit were copies of artifacts found at the site.

A bronze American alligator is part of the Waco Sculpture Zoo along the Brazos River Park. Six of the real reptiles have been spotted in the river, but officials don’t think they pose a threat to people and pets using the hike-and-bike trail.

Waco Wally Gator. It really shouldn’t come as a surprise that alligators have been spotted in the Brazos River in Waco. The city’s parks and rec department has known about the reptiles for a couple of years and thinks the animals may have had human help getting to Waco. In a news release late last month, the Texas Parks and Wildlife Department said there were six sub-adults 1-4 feet long near Brazos Park East. Neither the city nor TPWD think the gators pose a threat to public safety as long as the wildlife are not harassed or fed. The Brazos River is the western edge of the American alligator’s range and they are an important part of the natural ecology.

Institutional memory. Several media outlets in San Antonio carried the news early last month that the University of Texas San Antonio plans to demolish the Institute of Texan Cultures building and move the museum to a temporary site. The building was the Texas State Exhibits Pavilion in HemisFair, the official World’s Fair of 1968. Since then it has been home to a dizzying array of Texas history exhibits. UTSA plans to sell or lease to the city its 13.5 acres in Hemisfair Park in downtown. Rumors are the Spurs are looking at the site for a new arena. ITC will close in May and move to the first floor of the Frost Tower at 110 W. Houston St. for at least the next five years while it looks for a permanent home.

Gary Oliver in Greece shortly after the One Knite in Austin closed in 1976. The co-owner of the famous Austin bar passed away on April 1 at the age of 77. (Photo courtesy Neel Lyles)

Goodbye to an artist. The April 10 edition of the Big Bend Sentinel announced that their friend and editorial cartoonist, Gary Oliver, passed away suddenly at age 77 on April 1. Many in Austin will remember Oliver as co-owner of the One Knite. From 1970 to 1976, the infamous dive bar in the rock building at 801 Red River that Stubb’s Bar-B-Q now occupies was the musical launching pad for some of the biggest names in Austin music. Michael Corcoran wrote of the One Knite on his blog: “In the early ’70s, when Austin was first getting a national reputation as a music town, the Armadillo World Headquarters and Soap Creek Saloon got most of the attention, deservedly so. But the scruffy downtown joints like Split Rail, Chequered Flag, Alamo Lounge and the One Knite are where the Austin club scene, the one that lives on today, was being born.” A native of Beaumont, Oliver traveled the world, often on a bicycle, and landed in Marfa in 1983. Over the last four decades he contributed in many ways to the community. He will be missed by his many friends and those who always enjoyed his sharp wit with a humanist perspective on the pages of the little West Texas newspaper.

Other May Events:

Jump to a region: Big Bend | Gulf Coast | Hill Country | Panhandle | Piney Woods | Prairies & Lakes | South Texas | Out of State


Fort Lancaster, home of the Camel Corps (Photo by Gerald E. McLeod)

Cinco de Mayo Celebration
May 4, Alpine,

Camel Corps at Fort Lancaster
May 4, Sheffield,

Marfa Invitational
May 10-12, Marfa,

Christmas Mountains Research Symposium
May 19-21, Terlingua,


Get your Texas-raised mudbugs while they’re hot. (Photo by Gerald E. McLeod)

Asian Pacific American Heritage Month
May 1-31, Houston,

Buc Days Festival
May 2-12, Corpus Christi,

Crawfish Cook-off and Car Show
May 3-5, El Campo,

Soap Box Derby Public Fun Day
May 4, Houston,

50th Annual Galveston Historic Homes Tour
May 4-12, Galveston,

Student scientists launch experimental rockets. (Photo by Gerald E. McLeod)

Rockets2024 Launch
May 10-11, Anahuac,

Festival de Cine Latino Americano
May 10-12, Corpus Christi,

Houston Art Bike Parade and Festival
May 11, Houston,

Songwriters’ Serenade
May 11, Schulenburg,

Maker’s Market
May 11, Rockport,

Guided Trolley Tour of Historic Victoria
May 11, Victoria,

Bird Banding
May 18, Lake Jackson,

Seadrift Free Film Screening
May 23, Corpus Christi,

Adventures in Beachcombing Guided Hike
May 24, Matagorda,

Fishing Expo
May 26-28, Fulton,


Fischer Hall outside of Wimberley will host a weekend of music.

New Folk-Old Folk
May 2-5, Fischer,

Rockets2024 Launch
May 2-4, Stonewall,

Blackland Prairie Day/Taylor Fest
May 4, Taylor,

O. Henry Pun-Off World Championships
May 11, Austin,

May 11, New Braunfels,

Trade Days
May 17-19, Fredericksburg,

Kyle Fair
May 17-19, Kyle,

Testicle Festival
May 18, Castell,

Emile Pandolfi in Concert
May 19, Fredericksburg,

Come and Taste It
May 23, Gruene,

The Kerrville Folk Festival spans 18 days of music. (Photo by Gerald E. McLeod)

Kerrville Folk Festival
May 23-June 9, Kerrville,

Memorial Day Weekend Stampede Rodeo and Parade
May 24-26, Bandera,

Crawfish Festival
May 24-26, Fredericksburg,

Crider’s Rodeo and Dance
May 25, Hunt,

Art Waddle
May 25-26, Boerne,

Shakespeare in the Park
May 31-June 1, Kerrville,


Lemur Encounters at Ringtail Ranch
May 18, Lubbock,


Conquering the Skies: The Evolution of Flight
May 1-Aug. 25, Longview,

Caddo Mounds State Historic Site Grand Reopening
May 18, Alto,

The Big Thicket National Preserve hosts a scientific look at the unique ecosystem of Southeast Texas. (Photo by Gerald E. McLeod)

Big Thicket Science Symposium
May 18, Kountze,

Gospel Bluegrass Festival
May 23-26, Palestine,

Alabama-Coushatta Pow-Wow
May 31-June 1, Livingston,


Big Barn Dance
May 3-4, Bryan,

Drowsy Chaperone – The Musical
May 3-9, Bastrop,

Music in the Park
May 3, 10, 17, 24, 31, Elgin,

Live Thoroughbred Racing
May 3-July 14, Grand Prairie,

May 4, Plano,

Warbird Weekend
May 4-5, Dallas,

Pick-your-own-blueberry starts at the end of May at Blueberry Hill Farms. (Photo by Gerald E. McLeod)

Blueberry PYO Opening Weekend (tentative)
May 27-29, Edom,

Scarborough Renaissance Festival
May 4-27, Waxahachie,

Old Settlers Music Festival
May 9-12, Dale,

Magnolia Days
May 17-18, Columbus,

Texas Mineral and Fossil Show
May 17-19. Plano,

Asian American Heritage Festival
May 18, Garland,

Texas Steak Cook-off
May 18, Hico,

Bluff SchuetzenFest
May 18, La Grange,

Black Heritage Celebration
May 18-19, Dallas,

Main Street Fest—A Craft Brew Experience
May 17-19, Grapevine,

Troubadour Festival
May 18, College Station,

May 25, Navasota,

Fiesta Charra
May 26, Lewisville,


Living History Event: Soldiers at the Alamo
May 4, San Antonio,

May 4, San Antonio,

Rock, Gem & Jewelry Show 2024
May 11-12, San Antonio,


World Championship Barbecue Cooking Contest
May 15-18, Memphis, Tenn.,

Dennis Hopper Day
May 17-18, Taos, N.M.,

Santa Fe International Literary Festival
May 17-19, Santa Fe, N.M.,

Cajun Heartland State Fair
May 23-June 2, Lafayette, La.,

Los Alamos Concert Series
May 24-Aug. 16, Los Alamos, N.M.,

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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