A Global Roots Fundraiser for the Amala Foundation: Think Globally and Act Locally in Austin

On Sunday June 24th, I attended an inspiring night of community, music and art.

Entrance to CTC Garden. Photo by Lucas

It was the 6th Annual Global Roots fundraiser held at CTC Garden in East Austin to benefit the Global Youth Peace Summit. The event was presented by the Amala Foundation along with CTC International, Urban Roots, The Austin Junior Chamber of Commerce, The Khabele School, and Generous Art.

Indu Agrawal and Tammy Howard with the Amala Foundation. Photo by Lucas

It was certainly a lively and engaging night of live global music. The line up included Bamako Airlines, Minor Mishap Marching Band, Hard Proof Afrobeat. The evening was kicked off with ZaBoomBa: An Interactive Drum Experience, lead by Kenya Masala. He had the crowd drumming in call-and-response style that brought us all into focus.
It was fantastic.

Kenya Masala of ZaBoomBa leading the interactive drum experience. Photo by Lucas

Click here to see ZaBoomBa: An Interactive Drum Experience, lead by Kenya Masala

Vanessa Stone, Founder of the Amala Foundation, (seated left). Ryan Jordan, Executive Director, (standing). Photo by Lucas

There was a silent auction and an art show presented by Generous Art which included work by Jennifer Chenoweth whom I recognized from the East Austin Studio Tours. Aside from being an accomplished artist, she cooks a great Posole, but that’s another blog. Speaking of food, delicious Indian cuisine was available on sight, à la Austin trailer style. I enjoyed a plate of spicy lamb stew and rice among good company.

Face painting with Randi Southard and Laven Blumoff. Photo by Lucas

This year’s Global Youth Peace Summit, August 12-19th will unite 70 youth from 25+ different countries for an 8-day youth summit devoted to cultural exchange, heart-centered dialogue, healing, and exploration of self and world.

Face painting was enjoyed by Talia Masala and friend. Photo by Lucas

As of post date, The Amala Foundation raised $4,000 which will enable them to purchase airline tickets so that two Kenyan youth will be able to attend this year’s Global Youth Peace Summit. While they have yet to raise enough money to cover their passport, visa and scholarship fees, we trust that this funding is on its way ($2500 additional).

Maya Adjani. Photo by Lucas

It was a delight to meet Maya Adjani, of Breathe, Eat, Dance, Evolve and to sample her home-made raw chocolates.

If you feel inspired to help support these youth as well as other under-served, local and international children in their efforts to make a difference in their communities and in their lives, you can make a tax-deductible donation by visit: www.amalafoundation.org/donate.

For more about the Amala Foundation and the Global Youth Peace Summit
visit: www.amalafoundation.org

Blog by Lucas

A Big Ass Canvas for Austin

by Margie Eades

If you have seen a group of excited people painting on giant 6 x 8.5 ft. canvases in various high-traffic locations around Austin, you have likely witnessed the magic of Big Ass Canvas (BAC) in action. BAC was founded earlier this year by two incredibly passionate and energetic young men, Travis Huse and Zach Horvath. Their idea is to build a large canvas, put it in a public place with some paint and brushes, encourage passers-by to paint, and see what happens. While it might seem simple in principle, BAC is implemented with a distinct purpose: “to encourage community access to the creative process” while promoting local community organizations and causes like the youth mentorship program, Explore Austin, and the Seton Healthcare Family’s pledge to upgrade Austin’s University Medical Center Brackenridge.

Goodies from the Big Ass Party fundraiser for Explore Austin. The event featured several canvases, free pizza, live music from Mars at Midnight, and more.

Zach, an Austin native, and Travis, originally from Anchorage, Alaska, met through CouchSurfing, a popular social network for backpackers and travelers all around the world. Sharing a penchant for helping people and making new friends, the two came up with the idea for BAC and set up their first blank canvas on The Drag (Guadalupe St. across from UT campus) in May of 2012.

I met the boys nearly ten color-filled canvases later at the 101X Summer Cinema Series at Central Market North Lamar, then caught up with them again at their “Big Ass Party” at Lustre Pearl on Rainey Street, a fundraiser for Explore Austin. Both Travis and Zach are outgoing and charismatic and, as evidenced by the defining characteristics of their artistic social experiment, love learning and sharing ideas with people.

Moviegoers settle down for Drop Dead Fred at the 101X Summer Cinema Series at Central Market N. Lamar. BAC will be in attendance all summer long.

Zach is an ambitious entrepreneur (ZCLOCO, Action Catalyst) who has chosen an unconventional educational and career path. Within a matter of days he will be departing on an open-ended trip to Europe with hopes of exploring both the world and himself. If you want to catch Zach before he leaves, you will probably find him wearing a dress shirt and shorts, a tie tucked into his shirt (so it doesn’t get paint on it, of course) and some red rubber boots or other funky accessory.

Lean and tall, Travis is just as hard to miss. He’ll be manning BAC for the rest of the summer so be on the lookout for his signature bowtie and thick-rimmed spectacles. Travis is an Austin transplant, but spend one minute talking with him and you will realize that his enthusiasm for inspiring and connecting the Austin community comes from the heart.

Zach and Travis of Big Ass Canvas. Photo taken from the Big Ass Canvas website

Their outlook on life and their determination – and ability – to make a difference in the world is refreshing.

Check out my short interview with the men of BAC as well as a video about their project below:

Do you have any events planned for selling the canvases?

Zach: We are still working on that. It would be great to have a gallery event where we could invite people to check out the artwork and bid on the canvases.

Travis: Currently we are marketing the canvases privately but haven’t sold any yet.  However, we recently obtained permission to display the canvases in the downtown 2nd Street District which will provide exposure to people who support the arts and local Austin organizations. (Please contact bigasscanvas@gmail.com if you are interested in purchasing a canvas).

Have you had any negative reactions to BAC’s name? I’ve seen children working on the canvases and wonder if their parents have any problem with the word “Ass”.

Z: We’ve had one or two negative responses, but for the most part our name and tagline are a hit.

You will be at Summer Cinema and Blues On the Green throughout the summer – then what?

T: BAC will continue to do events all summer and is continually gaining recognition, including press from KUT News [link] and Study Breaks Magazine. Many organizations have expressed an interest in having BAC at their events to cross-promote and raise awareness for different projects. We love meeting other people who want to pool resources to achieve something awesome in Austin and look forward to seeing where BAC takes us.

Why did you specifically choose to support Explore Austin and Seton’s Brackenridge?

Z: We chose Explore Austin because we are both adventurous people who want to encourage kids to experience their world in new ways. It just seemed to fit when we were looking for an organization to support. Brackenridge and Seton chose us after they saw what we were doing with BAC.

It is always great to see people pursuing their own projects rather than falling into the traditional school and work routine – but it is not always easy to take the unconventional road. What are your musings on entrepreneurial life?

T: We decided to implement BAC because it was something we could get excited about even though it is a struggle to make it financially sustainable in the short-term. These passion projects are a way to do what you love even when it doesn’t fit in the confines of the traditional 40 hour workweek formula.

Z: If you look around and see that you are walking in the same direction as a huge mob of people, run the other direction. Nothing good happens when the crowd is doing the same thing. It’s always good to be your own person, to take risks, to embrace the unknown, and to break a few rules in order to make a change in the world.

What are your personal aspirations for the future?

Z: I want to a life that allows me personal autonomy while creating a product or running a business that enables me to make a difference in the world. I want to do cool stuff with cool people and inspire others to do the same, to break out and explore and be themselves and not be boring “normal” people.

T: It’s important to me to be doing something I love. Austin is a place where people support homegrown efforts and it’s a great place to be creative and meet creative types. These attributes combine to make a recipe for a strong community. That is the kind of world I want to contribute to.

Big Ass Party

“This is not a Medium Ass Party”. Guests enjoy drinks, food, music, and painting at BAC’s party at Lustre Pearl.

-M

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UPCOMING EVENTS & LINKS:

101X Summer Cinema Series – Free Movies at Central Market N. Lamar!
Full Line-up:
Wednesday, June 6: Mean Girls
Wednesday, June 20: Drop Dead Fred
Tuesday, July 3: Captain America
Wednesday, July 18: Casino Royale
Wednesday, August 1: Wayne’s World

Remember your blankets, lawn chairs and an appetite. Summer Cinema will have $2.50 Blue Moons and great food from Central Market. Movies start at sun down. Thank you to our amazing sponsors who make this event possible!

93.3 KGSR Blues on the Green – Free Shows at Zilker Park!

KGSR’s Blues on the Green returns to Zilker Park for it’s 22nd season!

Every other Wednesday during the summer, Zilker Park will be filled with thousands of people, blankets and lawn chairs, families and music lovers.
As Austin’s largest FREE concert series KGSR’s Blues on the Green is consistently ranked as a top annual entertainment event and has become a staple of the Austin lifestyle and a very casual and comfortable experience. JOIN THE BLUES ON THE GREEN TEXT ALERT CLUB – text “BLUES” to 43981 to be the first to learn about this years show line-up!EVENT DATES:
May 30th – Charlie Mars w/ Max Gomez opening
June 13th – Rhett Miller w/ Wheeler Brothers opening
June 27th – Ben Kweller w/ Amy Cook opening
July 11th – BoDeans
July 25th – Marci Ball w/ Nakia opening
August 8th – TBA

BIG ASS CANVAS

Website: www.bigasscanvas.us

Facebook: https://www.facebook.com/BigAssCanvas

Twitter: @BigAssCanvas

Follow Zach’s trip to Europe: http://www.zcloco.com/

The Beat of the Drum at Ruta Maya

Organic coffee served by day and fresh lime margaritas by night.  Count me in. The Ruta Maya Coffee Company on South Congress first opened in Austin in 1993 with the mission to create great coffee that returns a fair portion of the profit to the Latin American generators.  It has since expanded from a coffee shop to a live music venue and yoga studio; offering salsa lessons, wellness classes, and Tai-Chi and Yoga classes.

While I appreciate the downward dog and the ancient art of yoga, in devotion to my Latin roots, I had to opt for the margaritas and dancing.  Every Wednesday night at 9:00, the café transforms into a salsa club with live music from La Moña Loca, an eleven piece salsa orchestra with a traditional Cuban style.  This last Wednesday, I decided to strap on my dancing shoes, leave my insecurities behind, and go check it out for myself.

One of two bars at Ruta Maya

The parking lot was packed when I pulled up to the Pennfield location café, and at only a quarter past nine!  I was pleasantly surprised to find a large venue with two bars and an outdoor patio.  Art that is available for sale covered the colorful walls and the pungent smell of good quality coffee filled the air.  I navigated through the swinging dancers and ordered a margarita for a little liquid courage before hitting the dance floor.  The music, however, ended up to be enough.  You cannot help but want to dance to the exotic sounds of La Moña Loca. Once nicknamed “Congo Katie” by a childhood music teacher, I was immediately drawn to the sounds of the drums.   Even my boyfriend, who adamantly proclaimed before we left the house that he was NOT going to dance, was tapping his foot and nodding his head to the beat.

Not the professional dancer, I appreciated the presence of salsa instructor Esther Weekes, founder of Austin Casino Salsa, who teaches regularly at Ruta Maya as well as at her home studio.  While I did not make it early enough to attend her free lesson right before the live show at 8:00, she could still be seen on the dance floor throughout the night.

Esther Weekes and I during a quick dance break

I could tell by the many couples moving with ease that Ruta Maya had some devout regulars.  With the great venue, people, music and drinks, I could see why one would want to return each week.  I left that evening with slightly sore feet and a little bit of a sweat, but with a great attitude and a knowledge that I would most definitely be back.

Check out Ruta Maya’s upcoming events!

6/28 Thursday at 9:00 pm, Zydeco Blanco

6/29 Friday at 7:30 pm, Explosions of Euphony Concert

6/30 Saturday at 4:00 pm, Austin BabyGlow Disco

7/4 and every Wednesday at 5:00 pm ASL Happy Hour

7/4 and every Wednesday at 9:00 pm Live Salsa Dancing with La Mona Loca
and FREE (with café purchase) group salsa class with Esther at 8:00pm

7/6 Friday at 9:00 pm Fever in the Funkhouse

Blog by Katie

Dividing the Estate: A Picture of the South

on stage at the ZACH Theatre for its last weekend!
by Margie Eades
———–
May 29, 2012 – July 1, 2012

Written by Pulitzer Prize and Academy Award-winner HORTON FOOTE
Directed bySTEVEN DIETZ (Doubt, Shooting Star and Becky’s New Car)
———–

Last weekend I visited the ZACH Theatre for the first time ever for the opening weekend of Fully Committed. I was fortunate to have the opportunity to return less than a week later for ZACH’s production of Dividing the Estate, written by the celebrated Texan playwright, Horton Foote (1916 – 2009).

The play follows the familiar dysfunctions of a Southern family, exaggerated by financial troubles and imperturbable greed. The Gordon children and grand-children constantly bicker about the future of their family’s historic – and valuable – estate, while Mamma Gordon (excellently portrayed by Marijane Vandivier) prefers to reminisce on days of a bygone era with her elderly servant, Doug (Eugene Lee).

Stella Gordon (Marijane Vandivier) and Doug (Eugene Lee) remember the “good old days” in Dividing the Estate. Photo by Kirk Tuck

If nothing else, Foote’s play serves as historical record of Texas in the 1980s: a Texas where big money and big hair ruled society and a strange sort of veiled racism still tinged the Southern mindset. I would even go as far as to say that this production of the play presents an opportunity for a brutally honest analysis of present-day Texan mentality towards issues such as race.  It was painful to see the characters of Mildred (Janis Stinson) and Cathleen (Sharayah Reed), the estate’s domestic workers, reduced to the stereotype of the large, overbearing Mammy figure. Historically, the Mammy archetype is one of the two roles (the other being the sensual Jezebel stereotype) that have been imposed upon Black actresses throughout the history of popular entertainment.

Mammy Stereotype (from Ethnic Notions by Marlon Riggs 1986)

However Foote must have been aware of the weight of the topic he was dealing with when writing the roles of the Black female domestic workers into the play, right? He did write the screenplay for To Kill A Mockingbird (1962) after all. My concern on Friday night was with how many of Foote’s fellow Texans actually caught on to the seriousness of these depictions. With the audience’s hearty laughter at every cliché “Mmmhmm” and cheeky comment made by the cook and her helper, I had to wonder how many others in the audience were having the same considerations I was about the historical and racial implications of these women’s roles in the script. Perhaps the fact that young Cathleen is attending a junior college while Emily and Sissy Gordon and their thick-headed mother Mary Jo can hardly do simple division presents a more accurate statement from Foote about the status of African-Americans in the South.

Mildred (Janis Stinson) and Cathleen (Sharayah Reed) in Dividing the Estate. Photo by Kirk Tuck

Mary Jo’s character, defined by relentless greed and a bad case of “youngest child syndrome”, is responsible for setting the tone of the entire drama. Unfortunately on Friday night, the lively actress Barbara Chisolm was unable to perform due to a death in the family and was temporarily replaced by Lauren Lane. While Lane played her new role bravely and whined and schemed very convincingly, her reading from a script inevitably took away from the play as a whole.

Marijane Vandivier’s portrayal of Stella “Mamma” Gordon hit straight to home, as I already mentioned. Her facetious quips about “overly educated women” divorce, living through the Great Depression, God’s wrath, reinstating plantation life, and Baptists versus Methodists are quintessentially “Southern grandma”. Whether it is her quirky and stubborn feminine ways or her pursed pink lips and permed white hair, there is something in her character that will remind every Texan of their grandmother. Her comments alone are revealing of the philosophy on life native to the South and make Foote’s play and ZACH’s production worth seeing.

Catch Dividing the Estate in its last weekend on the Kleberg Stage. A few more performances have been added due to popular demand. Get your tickets while you still can!

-M

CsillaWear Arrives on Congress Avenue

Csilla at work in her new retail space.

As part of our effort to expand Austin Creative Alliances’ support of the greater creative community, we are happy to showcase one of our newest, local fashion designers.

CsillaWear at 504 Congress Ave. (at 5th)

I met up with Csilla while she was hard at work cutting fabric for her next pattern. It’s impressive to meet this “hands-on” designer that retains a craft we rarely see in American-made fashion. As a young girl watching her grandmother sew, Csilla soon learned the skill. She explains that her passion for clothing design began while in High School, when she began making her own wardrobe and her own fashion statement. It blossomed from there.

“For my summer job at a local high-end boutique and seeing those cool clothes in the boutique gave her the idea. I put two and two together and bought one yard of fabric here and there and made a new dress or top every day through that summer”.

As a student at University of Texas, Csilla studied Interior Design and subsequently moved to New York to pursue a fashion career. Beginning with studies at Fashion Institute of Technology, lead to an internship with Nautica and eventually full-time positions with Liz Clairborne and Macy’s. After years of working in the corporate world, Csilla felt it was time for a change. With the support of her sister and friends she took the leap and went out on her own. CsillaWear was launched in New York City.

A Night to Indulge in Fashion and Beauty: CsillaWear recently hosted a fitting party to introduce her line to the broader Austin community where woman were invited to try-on the variety of her styles.

Attendees who graciously modeled CsillaWear.

Csilla’s designs are inspired by fabric, movement and silhouettes. She chooses an array of lively, colorful patterns to create fun to wear, elegant designs. Her international background influences her sophisticated styles, while all her creations have a natural, easy fit. Perfect for Austin.

Makeup artist Lecia Harkins.

Professional hair stylist, Deborah Lira and makeup artist, Lecia Harkins of Russ and Company Salon www.russandcompanysalon.com were also on site for all to enjoy a fresh look along with these stunning designs.

If you are looking for fashion with ease, dress it up or down, this is the place to shop, you’ll want to add a few styles to your wardrobe. Stop by and meet the lovely designer behind CsillaWear. Located at 504 Congress Ave. (at 5th St), Austin, TX. Hours M-F 11- 6pm, Saturdays 11-4pm.
www.csillawear.com

Blog by Lucas

Fully Committed: A Night of Comedy at Austin’s ZACH Theatre

by Margie Eades

——————- 

June 14, 2012 – September 2, 2012
at ZACH Theatre’s Whisenhunt Stage

written by Becky Mode
directed by Dave Steakley
starring Martin Burke

———————————————–

One man, three desks, and forty-one characters could either be the ingredients for a long and confusing night at the theater, or for an entertaining hour and a half of the most unique theater experience you might ever have.

Perhaps as someone who was raised more on Russian ballet than comic theater, I am being overly enthusiastic, but I enjoyed every minute of Becky Mode’s Fully Committed which opened this weekend at the ZACH Theatre. The comedy features Martin Burke as the reservationist (and the Maître d’, and the chef, and the hostess, and all the guests trying to make reservations) for a trendy Manhattan restaurant who, like the rest of us, is just trying to do his job well and make it home alive at the end of the day. Yet there is more to the show than a series of funny impressions poking fun at the status driven socialites of New York. At its heart is Sam, a struggling actor trying to “make it big”, make rent, and make it home to see his widowed father for Christmas. While every character played by Burke is entertaining in his or her own right, the underlying plot is what takes Fully Committed from being any comedian’s nightly act to an engrossing story that the audience can connect with.

One of the things that makes this performance so special is the intimate Whisenthunt Stage – one of the ZACH’s two stages, with another addition of the new Topfer Theatre opening in September . Small but comfortable, the Whisenhunt Stage is an octagonal “theatre-in-the-round”  that makes you feel as if you are right in the office with Sam, even if you are sitting on the last row. This atmosphere allows more interaction between the audience and the actors – or actor in this case – which makes the experience more personal and enjoyable for both parties. During the performance it was obvious that Burke was thoroughly enjoying himself, feeding off of the audience’s laughter and even cracking himself up; the audience in turn was fully involved in every word, every inflection, every grimace and smirk of the performance.

Then again, how could we not have been totally engrossed in the play? Burke is handsome; he could make you fall in love with his twinkling blue eyes in an instant if he weren’t so busy running around the office answering phones! From the moment he rushed on stage, he was energetic and enthusiastic – so much so that he was sweating after only half an hour.

— “Sorry sir, we’re fully committed on that day”

— “Yer full o’ WHAT?!”

–“Uh, we don’t have any tables sir..”

From the restaurant’s fabulous French Maître d’ Jean-Claude:

–“Oh. My. God. She has a face like zee catfish.”,

to Naomi Campbell’s gay secretary Bryce:

–“You betcha I’ll hold!”

and other celebrities and wannabes in between, Burke is delightful and fascinating in his ability to switch between so many characters and not end up with some sort of identity crisis.

The script leaves room for improvisation and name-dropping. Such an instance pokes fun with a VIP reservation for Mort Topfer – “who the **** is that?!” -whose family the newest  theatre at ZACH is named after. Burke takes advantage of these opportunities to subtly and cleverly engage his audience with Austin related references. There are way too many characters to go on in detail; you simply have to see the performance yourself to enjoy its full hilarity.

A native of Austin, Burke has participated in dozens of local productions. He is most notorious for playing a Macy’s Christmas elf in the David Sedaris’ holiday favorite, The Santaland Diaries. Burke’s outstanding work has been recognized with numerous B. Iden Payne Awards, including one for “Outstanding Featured Actor in a Play” in Twelfth Night, directed by Robert Faires (Sneck Up! Productions, in association with VORTEX Repertory Company). Both The B. Iden Payne Council and VORTEX have participated in Austin Creative Alliance’s Sponsored Project program.

On Saturday as the lights were being dimmed, I counted only 4 empty seats in the entire theater. At the same time, I could not help but notice that less than a handful of the audience was under the age of thirty. A shame considering that my guest for the evening, my best friend’s 18 year old little sister and mass consumer of all things funny on Netflix, YouTube, Facebook, and any other popular or obscure website, absolutely loved the entire theater experience and found Fully Committed’s shenanigans and sentiments endearing.

My friend will be a sophomore at UT in the fall and has been wanting to do “more interesting artsy cultural activities”. Last Wednesday we attended the City Hall Council Meeting together to learn about the Imagine Austin Plan, for example. It is my hope, as a young adult who has grown up loving the arts, that producers andsupporters of the arts in Austin would continue to strive to reach out to young people like my friend and help them realize that the arts are for people of all ages.  If you need some incentive, ZACH offers discounted tickets for students an hour before every performance!

-M

Check out some of ZACH’s upcoming events below:

Upcoming Events:

Dividing the Estate

May 29, 2012 – July 1, 2012

Xanadu

July 17, 2012 – September 2, 2012

Fully Committed

June 14, 2012 – September 2, 2012

TOPFER THEATRE OPENING WEEKEND

ONCE UPON A DREAM

Thursday, September 27th, 2012
 Featuring:  JOHNNY MATHIS

ONCE UPON A DREAM will be a spectacular black-tie gala, which will showcase ZACH’s new Topfer Theatre in its greatest light. A cocktail reception in the theatre will be followed by a seated dinner on the People’s Plaza under a stunning custom tent. Then, Johnny Mathis himself will christen the Karen Kuykendall stage with an once-in-a-lifetime concert featuring his iconic songs. Tickets on sale soon!

DEEP IN THE HEART OF ZACH

Saturday, September 29th, 2012
 Featuring:  BRIAN STOKES MITCHELL, Broadway star of RAGTIME and Tony Award winner for KISS ME KATE, who will be joined at the end of his concert by ZACH performers in a rousing review that will include a special sneak peek at RAGTIME!

The Topfer Theatre and the entire ZACH campus will be ‘party central’ for our DEEP IN THE HEART OF ZACH! opening gala event. Besides concerts by Broadway headliner Mitchell, shows in ZACH’s other venues will take place concurrently all evening.

ZACH’s talented artists will be featured on the Kleberg and  Whisenhunt stages, while area bands perform on the Plaza.  VIP guests can attend Mitchell’s   first or second concert in the Topfer, then be free to partake in all the remaining festivities, and conclude with an exclusive post-concert reception.  All attendees will enjoy the opening ceremonies, food, drink, bands and ZACH performances. This progressive party will offer Austin’s choicest food vendors in a variety of food stations throughout ZACH’s campus.

Tickets on sale soon! 
Be on the lookout for an email from ZACH announcing more event details.

The 8th Annual Blanco Lavender Festival, June 8th-10th, 2012

by Margie Eades

When in the Hill Country, do as the Provençal French do.

That is just what National Geographic photographer Robb Kendrick did after realizing that the terroir of Southern France was similar to that of Texas’s Hill Country while shooting the lavender fields of Provence on assignment. In 1999 Kendrick and his wife planted what would be the first of five or so lavender farms that exist to this day in the area surrounding Blanco, Texas.

Just FYI, ours do NOT look like this…

In spite of the devastating drought that has been affecting Texan farmers for the past several years, three lavender farms in Blanco still welcomed visitors to their farms during the 8th Annual Blanco Lavender Festival. Thanks to the drought, the crop was small and the blooms were um, sparse, to say the least. However the festival drew a large crowd with activities like lavender picking and lavender wand making, as well as attractions like baby Nubian goats (triplets!) and lavender margaritas, sausages, and ice cream.

Garth Brooks – Long Neck Bottle

I got out of bed and on the road Saturday morning at about 8:30 AM. Blanco is a pleasant one hour drive from Austin and I had plans back in Austin at 1PM so I wanted to be as intentional with my time as possible. The festival started at 9AM and there were three farms to hit; I planned my trip so that I would make a loop of all the farms and be headed back to Austin by 12:05. My route allowed that I could pass through the artisan market in Blanco’s town square, but I decided early on not to stop there because of my time constraint.

The 3 farms participating in the festival – and an artisan market in Blanco’s town square.

The drive down U.S.290 was a treat in itself. It was early enough in the morning that I could zip down the highway with all the windows down, sunroof open, my hair tied back with a bandana, blasting country music with cool wind and gentle sunlight on my skin. Surprisingly, the wildflowers were still out in full force like I never would have imagined. Hot pink bubbles emerging from dusty rock walls, purple thistles scattered here and there, and fields of lanky sunflowers accompanied by the usual dark red and soft pink flowers that somehow survive along the highway. I guess the springtime rain and the relatively mild heat we have had this spring/early summer have allowed them to thrive well on into June**.

I missed Miller Creek Farm right at the intersection of 290 + 281 so the first farm I arrived at was Hill Country Lavender. To be honest, it was a disappointing first impression. The plot was small, the “lavender chair massages under the beautiful live oak tree” had not begun yet (I was there at 9:30), and because the plants were so distraught from the drought, no picking was allowed. The farm’s one redeeming quality was the delicious looking produce offered in the open air store at the entrance to the farm and the pleasant-looking shaded seating area accompanying the produce stand. I am sure there were more attractions later, but I needed to move on to the next stop.

Lone lavender bloom at Hill Country Lavender

I lost some time backtracking up 281 to Miller Creek Lavender Farm, but the friendly folks at Miller Creek made it worthwhile. Upon arrival a man greeted me with “there are no rules except to have fun, alright?” and cheerfully directed me where to park. An antique car club had stopped by (later it would be the ROT Rally bikers), giving the men something to look at while the women and children explored the rows of lavender.

Antique cars at Miller Creek Farm

I sauntered around checking out the shop, the oil and watercolor paintings by a talented female artist, and tasting lavender jellies and lavender margarita mix (mixed with champagne and way too sweet in my opinion), before deciding I wanted to learn how to make a lavender wand. First, I had to cut my own stems of lavender from the field – yay! It cost $5 to pick a small bunch (15-20 stems), which I felt was reasonable considering the impact of the drought. Being out in the quiet field was extremely relaxing and reminded me of the 4 months I spent studying in the sunny and tranquil South of France last year. Walking back to the activity tents I made friends with a woman named Betty who travels with her husband to the festival every year from Lockhart. They bring their camper and make a weekend of it – one of her favorite parts is the live music that takes place every day in the town square.

Cutting lavender stems with my new friend Betty.

Weaving the ribbon between the stems of my lavender wand was equally simple and calming, and plenty of other visitors sitting around the table – from toddlers to grandparents – felt the same. I was impressed that the couple leading the activity had come all the way from Houston to share the craft with us, and they seemed surprised at the large turn out at the festival this year.

Lavender wand making at Miller Creek Farm

Before heading on to the third and final farm, I whizzed through the butterfly garden where a gardener introduced me to the Horsemint flower – it smells like oregano! It was lunch time so I decided to dish out $4 to try a lavender sausage. Not bad, but it did not taste anything like lavender.

It only took about 10 minutes to get to downtown, which was bustling with traffic, and hop onto TX Ranch Road 165 in the direction of Wimberley Lavender Farm. That was a fun, winding drive, but I was in a bit of a time crunch so it was a little more like a roller coaster. Wimberley’s advertised attractions were baby Nubian and Nigerian fainting goats available to pet, as well as a “lavender bejeweled pony” (beats me…) and goat cheese products. This last farm was definitely the most picturesque, but unfortunately I did not have much time to enjoy it. I had passed a colorful flower farm on the way and wanted to squeeze in one last stop there before heading back to Austin.

I forgot to look around for the bejeweled pony – though I am pretty sure I would have noticed if it was there – but the adorable little goats made my day. Also fun to see on the farm were some stolid longhorns, though their nearly anorexic bodies struggling to support their mighty crowns were a sad manifestation of the strain borne by the parched Texan earth.

Goats at Wimberley Lavender Farm.

A longhorn at Wimberley Lavender Farm

★★★

On my way out, I had just enough time to stop at the charming cerulean barn I had spotted when I turned from Hwy 165 onto FM 2325 on my way to the Wimberley farm. It turned out to be the Arnosky family farm which specializes in fresh-cut flowers – gorgeous ones I might add – and vegetables grown right there on the corner. I did not get to talk to the owner, who was busy helping a family identify a plant they had found growing in their garden, but I am sure the farm has a fascinating story. I would love to go back there someday – and would recommend that you check it out too if you are ever in the area.

Arnosky Farm.

Just as planned, it was 12:05 when I got back on the road to Austin. Perfect timing and a perfect little day trip to cheer my soul. Even with the drought, I had a wonderful time at the 8th Annual Blanco Lavender Festival. See you again soon, Blanco! ☆

-M

** check out Shirley’s blog for wildflower photos and more formal wildflower information

It’s not too late to check out Blanco’s offerings! Several of the farms have “U-pick” Lavender Days throughout the month of June as well as other farm attractions throughout the year. See their individual websites for more information.

http://www.millercreeklavender.com/happenings.html

http://www.wimberleylavender.com/

http://www.heronsnestherbfarm.com/index.html

http://www.hillcountrylavender.com/

http://www.texascolor.com/

More pictures, click for a slideshow. All photos by Margie Eades: