Focus on the Backroads » Photo Journeys

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    There is approximately 50,000 miles of Interstate Highway in the United States.....filled with cars traveling at an average of 75 miles an hour. Several years ago I began driving the BACKROADS throughout Texas and the surrounding states - discover many fascinating places and people. While traveling "off the beaten path" I have tried to capture the spirit of these forgotten roads in photographs.

    After sharing some of these journeys with folks I have met I've been encouraged to document my travels.........I invite you to FOCUS ON THE BACKROADS!

    "To often......I would hear men boast of the miles covered that day, rarely of what they had seen"
    Louis L'Amour



During the 19th century a type of fiddle music began to emerge in Texas.  Other string instruments like banjos and guitars joined the fiddles.  Fiddle sessions sprung up everywhere from living rooms, porches, and also in local Texas Dancehalls.   The influence reflected the diverse population of the post Civil War Texas including, African-American, Appalachian, Cajun, Czech, German, Irish, Mexican, Polish, and Scottish.  What evolved was a wonder art known as TEXAS FIDDLING!

November 7th, thanks to Texas Folk Life and Texas Dance Hall Preservation, Inc., The 2nd Annual FESTIVAL OF TEXAS FIDDLING took place at La Bahia Turn Verein, in Burton, Texas.  This event brought together some of the best master fiddlest in Texas including; Brian Marshall, Ed Poulard, Howard Rains and Tricia Spencer, Mark Rubin (Upright Bass) and many other exceptional musicians.   These musicians not only played they discussed technics and the history of the many different forms of fiddle music.

That evening,  folks attending the festival were in for a treat… Hot Club of Cowtown, a western swing band, provided the music for an evening dance.

It was the perfect ending of a musical journey through an important part of our Texas history.

We should thank both Folk Life of Texas and Texas Dance Hall Preservation, and applaud these fine musicians for their efforts to keep Texas music and our historic dance hall preserved for generation to come

The festival was held at La Bahia Turn Verein, community/dance hall a beautiful historic building, which will be the subject of another blog entry – what an interesting history this old building has.

“The music comes from the fiddler’s heart, through his strings and straight into your heart.” Father John Angus Rankin, Cape Breton musician

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It is impossible to FOCUS ON THE BACKROADS without the music of the backroads.

The Ranch 95.9 and Masha Milam Music presented their annual Texas Country Music Festival, celebrating the radio stations birthday, which features some of todays biggest names in Texas country music.  RANCH BASH is an annual  one day music festival held this year at Panther Island on the banks of the Trinity River, just north of Downtown Fort Worth.  Past festivals have featured Stoney LaRue, Kevin Fowler Jack Ingram, Wade Bowan, Casey Donahew, Ray Wylie Hubbard, Josh Abbott, Reckless Kelly, Green River Ordinance, Bob Schneider, Cory Morrow, Roger Creager and many more.

This years line up was no disappointment!  Featured were many new and established artist.  Included were  Ransom Rhodes, Tyler and the Tribe, Stateboro Revue, Zane Williams, Shiny Ribs, Will Hoge, Uncle Lucius, Mike Ryan, Cody Jinks, and Reckless Kelly.  This line up proved once again that Texas is the music capital of the world!

Ranch Bash 2015 could not be stopped by the rain – it was moved into THE SHACK at Panther Island.  Ranch Bash was a fantastic event and the good news is if you were unable to attend – MARK YOUR CALENDARS FOR NEXT YEAR.    Next year join us again as we celebrate the artist and their music that are the soundtrack of our travels down THE BACK ROADS.

Ranch Bash 2015 is summed up with a quote Arthur Freed……..Singing in the rain,  just singing in the rain;  What a wonderful feeling, I’m happy again!

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On January 30,1886, a group of Dallas business leaders chartered a private corporation; The Dallas State Fair and Exposition, which was to become THE STATE FAIR OF TEXAS.  Immediately there were was a disagreement over where to locate the site – resulting in a split into two separate groups; on the Dallas State Fair and the other The Texas State Fair and Exposition.  They opened within a day of each other both with exhibit facilities and a racetrack.  Both events attracted large crowds that exceeded 100,000 but revenues for the fairs did not meet expenses; the two groups merged in 1887 becoming the Texas State Fair and Dallas Expostition.

Thousands would visit the fair every year to see the exhibits and women competed for prizes in baking, preserving, and needlework.  There were also appearances by such notables as John Philip Sousa, William Jennings Bryan, and Booker T. Washington.  President William Howard Taft visited there fair in 1909.  In the early 1900s car races and stunt flying shows became the top attractions.  Over 1,000,000 people visited the fair in 1916.  In 1918 the fair was cancelled because of World War I and was converted into a temporary army camp.

The 1920s brought development to the fair grounds.  The Music Hall was completed in 1925 and staged many Broadway shows for the first time in Texas.  In 1930 the racetrack was razed to permit construction of a 46,000 seat stadium that would be know as the The Cotton Bowl.  Texas and OU played the first Red River Rivalry at the stadium in 1932.  The first Cotton Bowl Classic was played there in 1937.

Some other historical State Fair of Texas dates:

  • 1952 Big Tex made his first appearance as the official fair greeting – since that time he has greeted millions of visitor to the state fair
  • 1956 the Trailblazer monorail began operating at Fair Park .  It was the first commercial operated monorail system in the US
  • 1956 Elvis Presley performed at the Cotton Bowl
  • 1960 the Dallas Texas of the AFL and the Dallas Cowboys of the NFL played their first seasons in the Cotton Bowl
  • 1964 the monorail closed and was replaced by the Swiss Sky Ride
  • 1985 the Texas Star opens and was the largest ferris wheel in North America
  • 2010 fairgoers spent over $37 million – a new fair record
  • 2012 Big Tex caught fire all the remains on his frame was his right arm
  • 2013 the new Big Tex was unveiled the day before the fair opened

Through all the years and The State Fair of Texas is still considered  to be one of the most attended and best state fairs in America.

Howdy Folks, and welcome to the STATE FAIR OF TEXAS………Big Tex

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The vision to build the Baker Hotel began in 1922 when the good folks of Mineral Wells, Texas raised $150,000 in an effort to build a large hotel/resort owned by  local shareholders.  The vision began over the concern that outsiders were profiting off the growing fame of the area’s mineral water.  They recruited the help of Theodore Brasher Baker, a Texas hotel magnate who had designed and built many grand hotels including the Baker Hotel in Dallas and the Hotel Texas in Fort Worth.  With the help of Architect Wyatt Hedricks the hotel design was based on the Arlington Hotel in Hot Springs, Arkansas, which was famous for its water and baths.

Construction began in 1926.  During a trip to California Baker stayed in a Hotel with a swimming pool and decided the Baker Hotel need one out front.  An Olympic size pool filled with the curing mineral waters was to become the first swimming pool built at a hotel in Texas.

The hotel was completed in 1929.  Total cost for the project was $1,250,000.00.  It rose fourteen stories, had 450 guest rooms, two ballrooms, a beauty shop, a bowling alley, a gymnasium and of course an outdoor swimming pool.  It was the first skyscraper to be built outside of a major metropolitan area.  The hotel opened to the public on November 9, 1929.  Although at the time Mineral Wells had a population of only 6,000 people the Baker Hotel became a major convention facility.  It could accommodate  2,500 attendees.  Some notable guest at the time included Glenn Miller, Lawrence Welk, Clark Gable, Judy Garland, Dorthy Lamour, Will Rogers, Roy Rogers, The Three Stooges, Mary Martin, Helen Keller, Jack Dempsey, Marlene Dietrich, LBJ, and many others.  It is rumored that even Bonnie and Clyde may have spent time at the Baker.

In 1934 Theodore Baker filed for bankruptcy and passed control the hotel to Earl Baker, his nephew.  The hotel thrived  during the 1930s but suffered ups and downs throughout the 1940’s and 50’s.  Earl Baker announced that he would be closing the Baker after his 70th birthday and he officially did so on April 30, 1963.  It was re-opened in 1965 when a group of local investors leased the structure from the Baker family.  In 1972 the Baker closed it doors for the last time.

There are currently plans to restore the Baker Hotel to it’s previous glory.  Visit


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Norwegian settlers began settling in Bosque County in 1854.  Most of their time was spent clearing the land, building homes, harvesting crops, and providing for everyday life.  Most of these settlers were Lutheran and Sundays were days of rest and gathering to worship in their homes.  In 1886 St Oafs Kirke (The Rock Church) was built.  Rocks were hauled by church members from the surrounding mountains.  The church was built on land that was purchased for $25.00.

Services began while the church during the construction although it had only dirt floors and planks placed on kegs were used for pews.  In 1895, St Olaf Kirke was dedicated now with wood floors, pews, a wood stove, gas lights, stained glass windows, and pump organ.  In 1897, the Ladies Aid Organization purchased the Swedish bell which still hangs in the bell tower.  Today the simple rustic charm of this church still exist.

St Olafs Kirke is now used for special services at Easter, Christmas Eve, and other planned events.  It is also available for wedding, baptisms and funerals.

St Olaf Kirke is yet another reminder of the strong community spirit that existed as folks  from other countries settled in Texas.  This historical church is worth a drive down the backroads!


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