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June 18, 2009
Texas State Parks Showing Patriotic Fervor
AUSTIN, Texas — From two diamond anniversary celebrations and fireworks extravaganzas to live music performances and bicycle parades, more than a dozen Texas state parks are planning a host of special events to commemorate the Fourth of July holiday weekend.
Two of Texas’ oldest and best known state parks — Palo Duro Canyon in the Texas Panhandle and Caddo Lake in the northeastern corner of the state — will celebrate 75 years of welcoming the public to some of the Lone Star State’s most spectacular natural wonders. Both parks were developed in 1934 by the Civilian Conservation Corps, one of President Franklin D. Roosevelt’s most ambitious public works programs instituted during the Great Depression era.
Palo Duro Canyon State Park’s 75th anniversary celebration stretches over two days, with Saturday, July 4, events including a special daytime program on the canyon’s history and the Independence Day version of the renowned outdoor musical drama, "Texas!" that night. Park entry fees are waived.
On Sunday, in the same Pioneer Amphitheater, music fans will be treated to a rare concert by Texan-born music legend Boz Scaggs and his band. Amarillo’s famous Big Texas Steak Ranch will cater both events. Tickets for both nights’ entertainment can be purchased by visiting http://www.texas-show.com/ or by calling (806)655-2181.
Caddo Lake State Park & Wildlife Management Area will commemorate the park’s opening on July 4, 1934, from 10 a.m. to 3 p.m. with a special program on the CCC and Caddo Indians that will include traveling exhibits, the unveiling of a time capsule buried 15 years ago and collection of items for burial in a new time capsule to be recovered at the park’s 150th anniversary in another 75 years. Local park supporter Mary Jane Sanders, who attended the original park opening in 1934, has been invited to share stories of the park’s early days.
The state park gets its name from 26,000-acre Caddo Lake, a sprawling maze of cypress swamps, bayous and slough that once comprised the only natural lake in Texas until it was dammed below. It was the state’s first planned CCC park project with land acquisition beginning in 1933. The original recreation hall and cabins still stand. Cabin 1, renovated in 2001, will be open for tours during the celebration. Several local organizations, including the Caddo Lake Institute and City of Uncertain, will have booths set up at the event. Day use fees will be waived on July 4 for visitors attending the 75th anniversary event. For more information, call (903) 679-3351.
The seat of Texas independence — Washington-on-the-Brazos State Historic Site between Navasota and Brenham — will host a full day of 4th of July events from 10 a.m. to 10 p.m., culminating with "Fireworks on the Brazos" presented by H-E-B. Festivities will include strolling Western entertainers, a Kid Zone, free music concerts at the amphitheater, a performance by the Brenham Children’s Chorus and at 7 p.m. free Blue Bell ice cream and Coca-Cola. The celebration event is free, but tour fees apply. Call (936) 878-2214 for details.
Another Texas Parks and Wildlife Department-operated site — the Texas Freshwater Fisheries Center in Athens — will host "Fireworks at the Fishery" on July 4. What is touted as one of the largest fireworks displays in East Texas will follow a day of free fishing. Call (903) 676-BASS for more information.
Several state parks will be hosting traditional holiday activities. Kids can decorate their bikes for 4th of July parades through Inks Lake, Martin Dies Jr. and Purtis Creek state parks, and participate in sack races, egg relays and three-legged races at the World Birding Center at Estero Llano Grande State Park. (See detailed listings below)
"Fourth of July in the 1900s" at Lyndon B. Johnson State Park and Historic Site will feature traditional German family holiday fun such as horseshoes, washer pitching and stickhorse races. Historical houses and buildings will be open for guided tours by interpreters dressed in period clothing during the 10 a.m. to 3 p.m. event. Call (830) 644-2252 for information.
Other state parks hosting July 4 festivities include:
- Cedar Hill SP — Celebrating Our Flag — Honor America through the retirement of our country’s flag. Learn some of the history of the Star and Stripes; experience what it means to retire Old Glory in the proper manner. This will be an evening of patriotic poetry and music as we remember our struggle for independence and the men and women who serve our country to keep us free. This will be a great family program to experience on July 4th. Held at Penn Farm. 7-9 p.m., (972) 291-5940. (972) 291-3900.
- Franklin Mountains SP — Independence Day Celebration Hike — After your cookout, hike the Upper Sunset Trail and enjoy the fireworks from afar! 7-9 p.m.; fee $7 adults, free for children 12 and under; reservations required, deadline one day prior (915) 566-6441.
- Inks Lake SP — Happy Birthday USA Bicycle Parade — Kids, bring your bikes to the playground near the Park Store to decorate them for the parade. Parents and grandparents, you are welcome to attend and assist the kids. Make sure to bring your cameras and camcorders to record this memory-making event! We will parade through the park roads and show off the bikes. 10-11 a.m. (512) 793-2223.
- Lake Texana SP — Fourth of July Fun & Games — Bring your picnic lunch and join us for some horseshoes, washer toss, volleyball, sack races, water balloon toss, dunking booth, and other fun games. Accessible for the mobility impaired. 2-4 p.m. (361) 782-5718
- Martin Dies, Jr. SP — Fourth of July Patriotic Celebration — Enjoy a fun-fill exciting day celebrating Independence Day with a decorated bike parade and patriotic events such as soaker-ball splash, paddle-ball count-down, beanbag toss, and temporary tattoos, with participants in all events winning prizes. A sing-along live concert is provided by park staff. All events are free and are sponsored by the Friends of Martin Dies, Jr. State Park. 2-4 p.m. (409) 384-5231.
- Purtis Creek SP — Parade in the Park — Meet at the amphitheater and decorate your bike (materials provided or bring your own) then parade through the park. Prizes awarded to the best decorated bike. Meet back at the amphitheater for refreshments and games. 9 a.m.-noon (903) 425-2332.
- World Birding Center — Estero Llano Grande SP — 4th of July Fest — Pack up your favorite picnic foods, friends and family and head to the park for some holiday fun. You can compete in the classic picnic games of sack racing, egg relays and three-legged races. Also, the first 50 children to sign up will be able to paint their own birdhouses to take home. Accessible for mobility, visually and hearing impaired. 10 a.m.-3 p.m.; reservations required (956) 565-3919.
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