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Up Up and Away!

At dinner with some friends the other night, I was offered a chance to go flying.  I've been in airplanes of all types before, but not ...

Saturday, July 21, 2018

Up Up and Away!

At dinner with some friends the other night, I was offered a chance to go flying.  I've been in airplanes of all types before, but not this one, and not here.  I leapt at the opportunity.  
Early afternoon the next day I received a message that my friend was going to be free all day.  My husband had made plans with his brother for that afternoon, but my son was free, so we jumped in the car and pointed towards the Gainesville airport.

We pulled up to the airport and met my friend for a preflight prep.  He explained what kind of airplane we were going to be flying in, a 1960's Piper Comanche.  A plane that was designed as a personal executive flier has held up amazingly!  This beautiful machine looked like it was moving as it sat in the hangar waiting to take us to it's playground.

We got in and put on the headphones so we could speak to each other as the plane hummed along, and waited as our pilot did his checks.  We maneuvered to the runway and he gunned the throttle.  We launched forward and quickly climbed into the sky.

It was a clear day and quickly we could see for miles as the runway behind us became a band-aid.
As we climbed he told us that we would be flying all over Muenster and the Red River.

In minutes we were on top of the inn! we flew some circles over our house and I snagged a few pictures from above.  Feeling like a bird looking down was really fun.  Though it was a bit hot and as we flew over the house the blue pool looked very inviting... had a brief thought of a very high dive.

We turned and came over the town a moment later.  It was bustling and our friends were working and eating and going about their lives as we looked down from above and had a lark.

We headed north and flew along the river.  It zoomed past us quicker than any boat had ever gone on those waters, and zoomed over a group of kids riding dirt bikes, trying so hard to grab just a taste of the air we were playing in.

After a while we headed back to the Gainesville airport.  We lined up and came to a smooth landing for a clean end to a fun trip.  

Thursday, July 12, 2018

A Star Spangled 1st 4th

We have a lot of fun each year with our annual New Year's Eve party, so this year we decided to start a new tradition.  Usually, we are slow around the 4th of July, so we have not tried to do anything with the inn. Modus Operandi has usually meant closing and going out to the lake.  But we had a thought that maybe people would like a break from the crowds for the holiday, so we decided to put together our type of party!

Our invitation was well received, and we were sold out quickly.  What we came up with was our take on traditional Americana celebration of our nation's independence.  Guests were excited to be a part of the fun and the staff was too. 

The day's events began at 3pm with the opening of the bar at the pool.  My second oldest son has almost as vast a knowledge of craft cocktails as I do food... so he says.  He was free and volunteered to serve as our master mixer for the day.  He was pretty excited because he loved his time "behind bars"... he was not in prison, but did bartend for a long time and also owned a music venue that was craft cocktail focused. 

The adult offerings included beer, ciders, wine, and tipsy watermelon squares to go along with his Margarita Bar.  Each of these was made with a secret blend of spiced salt rim and hand squeezed juice upon order with options including jalapeno, watermelon, sangria as well as tradicional margarita.  Admittedly, they were as good as they were potent.  So I was told.  By me. 

With libations firmly in hand, we started the day off with an intermittent schedule of games, events, refreshments and pool time for everyone to participate in as they chose.  The games included pretty decent prizes, so everyone was even happier to join in the fun.

The first of these was a water balloon toss that one couple was surprisingly good at and won with ease... they clearly had the youngest children.  The victors took home some beautiful German style art pieces depicting some local attractions along with a gift bag from shops in our town.

The next game was a more challenging one.  It was a foot race up the hill in front of the manor house.  But... not just a footrace, it was a 6 legged race.  To win, you had to bring one of our tiny donkeys up the hill and back with you.  As you can imagine, this was more of a challenge, as donkeys can be kind of an ass.  This one was won by a crafty gentleman who snuck a handful of feed out of the donkey's bucket! He won some custom made aluminum reusable insulated water bottles for himself and his date.

Next came Dinner.  This included smoked home ground sausage, smoked chicken, reverse seared, smoked steaks, and sides were smoked cream corn in husk boats, a fresh dill potato salad, bbq ratatouille, rosemary and pork ranch style beans. As we had all worked up an appetite we all devoured the meal before festivities carried on.

The last game of the day was a challenge game.  There was a board of red white and blue balloons in the shape of a flag that each contained dares.  Players picked and popped a balloon and read the challenge aloud.  This was a last man standing game, as players could choose to attempt the challenge, or drop out, and still had to complete it to advance to the next round.  I will say, that I wasn't expecting the tequila to factor in so much as it did as a performance enhancing drug. 

Players inhibitions were low and courage was high... this lead to some very memorable challenge acceptances.  We saw mustard, ketchup, cholula, and a raw egg all taken as shots, an arm shaved, feet smelt, and peanut butter both used as a face rejuvenator and eaten off another competitor among many other things!  In the end, the winner took home a 2 night stay at the manor for future use, and it was well earned.

This ate up the time for the sun to finally make it's way down the sky, so we made our way to the rear of the property for our own fireworks display.  My husband, son and our groundskeeper donned lighters and punks and set the night ablaze with morters and the like so that we could have a taste of the rockets red glare, bombs bursting in air, and all the proof in the night that our flag was still there.

As a nightcap, the bar made it's last drinks as we all made s'mores with homemade marshmallows and chocolate bars atop traditional graham crackers. It made for a perfect parking break to our First Annual Elm Creek Manor 4th of July Celebration.  Hope to see you all next year! ...or sooner.

Saturday, June 23, 2018

Where a Kid Can Be a Kid

We don't get a lot of tiny visitors around here, being an adults only hideaway, but, recently my grandson, Jack, from San Antonio, came to visit while we were closed for some remodeling.  I thought I would take the chance to get in some Grammy time!  With the first couple of days spent exploring around the property and getting dirty as boys so readily do, I made plans for that Saturday afternoon to take a fun country day trip. What I didn't know was how much fun I would have on a trip geared towards being a kid, but hey grown people still love s'mores, right?!

Now, Jack is incredibly smart, but a quiet boy.  He loves museums and history, with a mild obsession with the Titanic, so I had an idea to draw him out of his shell.  I knew we had a some local places, a few of which I have written about before, that he would really enjoy, and so we set out on our adventure.

To add a little ambiance, I made a call to my son, who lives up here.  He loves projects, and is restoring an old Ford 4x4 pickup.  At this point, it's running great, so I asked if we could borrow it for the day.  As Jack got in the big truck, he asked where we were going, and I told him we were going to get lost and find our way back... by which he was thoroughly confused, and said can't you just push the map button?  I explained that this was an old truck and there was no button for navigation.

As Jack peppered me with questions about where and why we were going and looked at wonder at the old truck with no A/C or TV screens anywhere.  You could easily see he was definitely not sure about the old beast.  But with the windows down and the radio up, we rolled down the highway.  After a few minutes, his wand was out the window surfing in the wind, and I knew he was coming around.

As we rolled deeper into the country outside of St. Jo, to the East, we stopped at a road side driveway.  There was a little gate leading into a pasture that had a number of installments placed where they could easily be seen from the road.  A man's retirement art project, these curiosities loom large on the scene.  As long as you are respectful, it's ok to step through and get a closer look at the pieces on display.  We weaved through them, Jack wide eyed as we walked.  The pieces incorporate a lot of interesting media, spanning from telephone poles to Volkswagens and airplane engines. 

Getting back in the truck, we pointed towards Nocona and Horton's Classic Car Museum.  Jack said he wasn't all that into sports cars, but I know little boys, of all ages, a bit better than that.  As we walked into the building housing 120 classic and modern muscle cars, he was slack jawed.  Strolling through the large bulding with so many cool and odd machines we were both taken aback.  The one that stood out the most was the spce ship looking "Mach 5", from the movie Speed Racer, which had a few props included in the display.

As we left Nocona and headed back to St. Jo for our next stop, the heat of the day had come on pretty heavily.  It is only about a 15 mile drive down a country highway, but as we pulled up to the town square, we were both ready for some A/C and a cold one.

We stepped into "Lonely Hearts Grill" next door to our next stop and grabbed a cool spot inside to relax for a moment.  When the server came to the table to take our order, Jack exclaimed "root beer!"  he said that they in fact had the "best root beer on the planet", Sioux City Root Beer.  I could see the look on his face said "I'll be the judge of that".  Alongside the slice of homemade pie we split, he seemed content with that description.

Refreshed, we made our way to the International Ordinance Museum.  This was an easy slam dunk, taking a boy to a tank and cannon museum, but I actually really found it interesting!  They had all sorts of old memorabilia and even a Japanese anti-aircraft prop cannon from the movie Pearl Harbor.  The owners were onsite and had lots of interesting anecdotes and stories that left jack wide eyed and me surprisingly intrigued.

With the day dragging on and time to start cooking dinner looming, we headed back to the manor.  When we gave the truck back to my son, Jack was going on and on about the root beer he had found and the tank that got blown up by a trick shot through a viewing window into the ammo stock inside.  I felt warm knowing I had found a way to melt his quiet exterior for a bit.  he also said he like the old truck because the A/C was broken and we got to drive with the windows down.  Then the phone rang and the radio on the truck shut off so it could be answered, to which Jack, perplexed, retorted "how did the truck get Bluetooth, it was made before they invented phones?!"









Saturday, June 16, 2018

I Get By With A Little Help From My Friends

Our business is simply sharing our home with guests, which is a very intimate experience, and so we have made many new friends over the years.  For my husband and I, one of the best parts of our job is the opportunity to meet people from all over the world in our home.  We take every opportunity we can to travel and learn more about places far and wide to bring a taste of these treasures home to share with our guests.  Having made so many friends over the years, we often find ourselves spending our personal time with past guests, sometimes traveling with or even to them.  One such time that was very special to us happened pretty recently.

A couple who has been staying with us for years and have become great friends of ours decided to include us in a very special moment.  we aer planning a trip together this summer, and while going over some details, The gentleman came to us with an idea he had.  His wife was retiring and he had told her he was going to take her away for a relaxing weekend with us the weekend of her retirement.  He decided to throw a surprise retirement party for her and enlisted our help.

The plan was to pick her up and take her to the inn, where she was expecting to spend the weekend reading by the pool.  In reality, He had taken over the whole property and filled it with her friends and their children!

The day of the party, we had everyone come to the house early and had hidden them all up in the library of our personal suite in the manor.  The cars she would recognize we stuck in the barn or somewhere out of sight.  As they were driving in, they were planning on stopping at a winery in St. Jo to give us time to get everything ready, but they had gotten a late start.

We got a text from her husband that they were running late, so we made an excuse for her to need to skip the winery.  Then we got a call from her daughter that they were running late, too, so we called them back and asked them to stop at the grocery store on the way because I was stuck in the middle of cooking and couldn't leave, and my husband was out and his phone had died.  I was really worried because she knew we would never ask a guest to do that, but we were desperate for an excuse to buy time, so as they say in football, I called an audible!

Fortunately, it worked.  She came in and they came up to the house for social hour, and was blown away by the surprise!  All of those people that meant so much to her were there to help her celebrate such a big milestone, and we too got to be a special part of that.  The look on her face was worth all the planning and sidesteps along the way to make this happen right.

That night we all went into town and had a private party at Doc's in Muenster, where the revelry went on into the night. The next day they men all went golfing so the ladies could relax in the sun and enjoy poolside service and all the onsite amenities and spa services.

Saturday night, after the day of outdoor fun for everyone, they all met back up for dinner in the dining room as we do it here at the manor.   With many toasts and cheer all around, the evening went great and was a perfect crescendo to the congratulatory event for her long career. It was such an honor to get to be a part of this weekend for people who have come to mean so much to us over the years!




Tuesday, June 5, 2018

Where There's Smoke, There's Meat



With the first official tip o' the triple digits scale, Summer is here.  As too many conversations between my husband and sons and son in law have aluded to, this means BBQ time.  Not just cooking our, but going to get it from other places, too.  Not that I mind terribly, as being Texan means an inherent love of meat and fire combined, but it is an overwhelmingly common topic these days. So this being my blog of the things that go on in our innkeeping life, I will share our newly compiled list of places to get your Que on around here!

The Usual Suspects: http://www.smokehousebbqlindsay.com/
                                  http://www.dieterbrosbbq.com/
If you live anywhere around north Texas, it seems you have a preference on one of the two side by side BBQ joints in Lindsey, TX, about 7 miles east of us here in Muenster.  In my opinion, they are very similar as far as the bbq goes, but the boys always look at me like I'm crazy when I say that.  They always start in on me with "one has this and the other that, and I wouldn't know the difference between..." guys, I'm a professional chef, you know?!  There is Dieter Bros.Pit Bar B Q, and next door is Smokehouse BBQ.  Both places are sit down style restaurants and both have beer, but Smokehouse has a full bar.  Dieter Brothers also has german food on the menu, and both places offer an old BBQ pit staple: Pizza.  I know.  Me either.  I say go to both and form your own opinion and i will respect it!

The Sleeper: https://www.facebook.com/pages/Jazs-Bbq/407975039215484
My oldest son prides himself on being in the know about all the secret spots (he lived in Austin a bit too long I think). Somehow, he can sniff out hidden gems like a hog to a truffle.  It's weird.  With this skill in place, he did it in Gainesville, TX where he found a BBQ shack in the middle of a neighborhood well off the beaten path.  He was driving around and his radar went off and he just showed up later with a bunch of meat and sides.  He told us of a magical place called Jazz BBQ that he stumbled upon and when he got there, all they had left was Brisket, which is his favorite anyway.  That was his barometer for how good the rest must be, that they sold out before he was able to get some.  Mine was the brisket.  It was good... real good.  Tender and juicy and smokey, like it should be.  I'm not saying he's right about his method, but that doesn't mean the BBQ was bad either.

The New Guy: http://www.redriverstation.com/home.html
 A new place just opened to quite a bit of fanfare last week.  Being a new place in the area, the whole population decended upon it and as is less common, they liked it!  It's called Red River Station in St. Jo, TX.  This place is pretty cool.  It is a BBQ joint and "the Yard" where you can eat and drink and watch live bands play, and they have really good BBQ to go with it.  Just the classics here, though, no pizza.  The Ribs were fall apart tender and so smokey good!

These are the ones on our staples list right now, but I'll update the list soon with some more local joints!

Wednesday, May 23, 2018

Remembering to Remember


I'm looking forward to the big weekend coming up.  We are going to be swimming at the pool, and the lake, and enjoying a campfire with our friends.  My son is going to be smoking a brisket one night, and my husband is making steaks another. It's the widely recognized kickoff to the Summer. These and a few other plans are in the forefront of my mind, but as I was going over a list of the things I am going to be doing, a conversation I had a couple of years ago seems to take over.

I happened upon an older gentleman named John I have known for some time.  He and his wife were usually at the bar area of a restaurant that used to be open in town.  He was a veteran of the Vietnam war and didn't talk about it much, or anything else really. I knew he was because he always wore a hat with a US Marine insignia on it and someone had mentioned when he served. It was Memorial day and I told him I was thankful for his service and told the waitress to put their tab on ours. 

Unexpectedly, he stopped me, and he said with a slightly sad look on his face, "I appreciate the thanks, but that's not what this day is about.  There is Veteran's day for that.  Most people don't know it, but today is for honoring the fallen soldiers."

That rang true to me, as I thought of my family and friends that had served, and those that had given the greatest sacrifice.  I said a prayer of thanks for those who had given so much so that we can be here to enjoy all the things this country has to offer, and I appreciated the parades I had seen just a little more than I had before, and I made a point to put a flag pin on my shirt.  Those are just little things, but they have really big meaning. 

There are a lot of people who have some negative things to say about our home, but they can, because of these men and women.  It's nothing new anymore, in the 60's they burned flags, and today they kneel at football games, but that same spirit of defiance was what our forefathers so vehemently fought to protect, and our fighting men and women carry on that fight.  I for one am going to just be thankful I can enjoy a BBQ with my family and not be worried about anything more dangerous than the extra jalapenos I see my son sneaking into the beans.





Saturday, May 12, 2018

Around the World in 80 Minutes

One of the bigger draws in our neck of the woods is about 15 miles away, but it might as well be 1000.  Around here, most things go just a little slower.  The banks still have banker's hours, and most of the town shuts down by 10pm.  The contrast of Winstar World Casino and Resort is a bit stark, to say the least.
   

When you look at it, it stands out, impressive against the backdrop.  Turn your head in one direction and there is Thackerville, a tiny Oklahoma border town, turn it the other way and you there is the whole world looking back!  Winstar World Casino is the largest casino in the whole world.  Including Vegas.  It is a giant loop of casino and resort that is divided up into different regions of the world as you walk along.  You can go from New York to Italy to Beijing in steps, not flights.

Years ago, before the casino was built, people in the small towns around here thought of Thackerville as the backwoods.  People in a town with 2 stop lights used to joke about them as being "small town".  At some point, however, developers started buying up large chunks of land, which shot up all kinds of flares in a place where everyone knows everything that goes on in the area, or so they thought.
At first nobody knew what to think for sure, though, because of confidentiality agreements and corporate land grabs.  Rumors circled, and the leading one was that Disney was the purchaser.  A small tie to one of the purchases linked back to a company that was owned by the mouse, and the fire was started.  Everyone was blown away by the thought of middle America Disneyverse.  Then suddenly... nothing.  The rumors faded away, and life moved on as things seemed to stop moving with the Thackerville mystery project.  Years passed and people forgot about the project as kids grew up and they had kids, and football seasons came and went.  Then all of a sudden, there was construction.  Big construction.  In a whirlwind, there were buildings going as fast as they could be built.  Mostly like big circus tents at first, then replaced by more permanent structures.

What they thought would be a playground for families became, well, actually a playground for families.  They built a casino for sure, but there were giant park like pools, and a coliseum style venue where you would have once expected a banjo to be played that now housed performances from the likes of Hall & Oates, Willie Nelson, Lil' Wayne, and Weezer.  There are all kinds of restaurants to enjoy and tons of activities.  As I've mentioned in previous blogs, I love seeing live music, so having a world class act performing minutes from our front door is as my kids say, pretty awesome.

Winstar is always a lot of fun for us to visit in our downtime, and our guests always come back with great stories.  People watching is for sure a guilty pleasure I indulge in and if you do too, there are few places you can see such a varied amount of people in one place.  I have seen grannys in zany t-shirts sitting next to gentlemen in 3 piece suits.  The Bond-like juxtaposition to the mob-mom from the Goonies on vacay at the slots is something to behold for sure!  

Thursday, May 3, 2018

Sibling City Rivalry

I really enjoy getting around to the small towns here in the north Texas hill country, as you may have gathered if you have read my other blog posts.  Most think all these little places are the same, but that is so far from the truth.  Each of these hamlets has a certain specific charm, and soul.  There is a certain sport in learning what that is, as many small towns are skeptical of outsiders.  It is a foreign concept for most people from large cities on the outside looking in at these tiny communities to know what it is like to know almost everyone that lives in your town.  There is a certain finesse required to get to know what these places are all about from the locals' perspectives.

One of these towns is our neighbor to the West, St. Jo.  Muenster and St. Jo have a certain familial tie and consequently, a bit of a sibling rivalry.  Many of the larger families in the area are spread from Lindsay, Valley View, and Gainesville to the East to St. Jo and Nocona to the West, and all the little spots around and in between.  But, people from St. Jo and Muenster, while often related, will still poke some tongue in cheek fun at one another.  The jovial nature of the people around here can be found in the name itself.  When I first heard of St. Jo, I assumed it was named after a patron saint or something like that.  Curiosity eventually caught up to me so I checked it out at the Stonewall Saloon Museum on the town square.  Originally, St. Jo was a trading post at the head of the Elm fork of the Trinity river, where the California and Chisolm trails both had access to it.  One of the founders, named Joe Howell, was a tea totaller, and thus was given the name "St. Jo" as a joke.  Which stuck to the town name!  All jokes aside, though, St. Jo is nestled in a gorgeous countryside and has so many unexpected little nuances to offer, that people often never get to take in all the great things about it.

If you are in the area doing some shopping, which there is plenty of at all the cool shops in town, make sure you hit the square.  This spot features some great places to see and spend.  If you want to see some history, the Stonewall Saloon Museum has just what you are looking for.  For shopping, there are some great options, like Panache, Gypsy Trail, The Vintage Market, and Trailtown Treasures.

One of the more widely, albeit niche, famous things about St. Jo is a little place on the square called C.T. Chappell Boot Shop. This shop has been here for 3 generations of boot makers!  Highly lauded, it is written about and cited in Texas Monthly as well as in many books about boots, boot making, and leather work.  There is a certain prestige in having a pair of these boots.  Any ol' tenderfoot, fresh off the Uhaul with California tags can stroll into Allen Boots off Congress street in Austin and walk out with some $1,500 Lucchese's and turn a head or two, but a pair of Chappell's boots are a real rare commodity.  Each pair is hand made to the owner's foot and by Carl himself.  They also offer seminars on boot making if you are so interested.  If this piqued your interest, you should call ahead before you expect to take a pair of your own home as there is a wait list, but, the store is something to behold whether he is making your pair or not!

After shopping, don't miss taking in the scenic surroundings on one of the great drives around the countryside in St. Jo, you can head to the Devil's Backbone, a ridge that Kiowa and Comanche used in the past as a lookout because the view of the area was so vast.   Just south of town, is a place called the Running N Ranch.  Amarillo has it's more well known Cadillac Ranch, but we have our own local eccentric artist putting in cool art pieces for the world to see. Earl Nunnely retired and started spending his golden years creating! It's a private property, but the owner is used to people coming by, a lot of bikers, especially, and even moved his fence so people could stop and check out the art installations.

If you are starting to work up a hunger from your day, make sure you check out Lazy Heart Grill on the square.  They have great food, but my favorite thing comes after dinner, Buttermilk Pecan Pie or a jar of Bannana Pudding!  This is such a cute place to kick back and fill up.  I like coming on weekend nights because they usually have a cowboy or two singing songs on the mic!  If you get lucky, you might catch one of our local butchers, here in Muenster, Kelly Bob, he plays there often.







Monday, April 23, 2018

Hometown Is Where the Heart Is

When we have guests stay with us, one thing we strive to provide is a feeling that they are at home while away. We can offer lots of little homely touches, and be as welcoming as possible, but one thing that really draws you in is where we are.  It occurred to me that I should share a bit of what our home is like for us. So much of why we love it here, as much as the beautiful surroundings, is in the community we are a part of.  I want to take a moment to five you a taste of what our town is like from the inside looking out.

People always talk about living in a small town with similar cliches.  You could rob the whole town blind during a football, basketball, or baseball game, and if someone goes to state, you may not even find the town.They say if you sneeze at the post office, someone will say gesundheit at the bank, and it is true.  In such a small community, everyone knows pretty much everything about everyone, but they also care about everyone, and everyone has an opinion on everything.  It's nice, though, whenever something great is going on in your life, everyone congratulates you, and when there is tragedy, everyone is there to make sure you are doing alright. 

So many times I have found myself in some small need and not even had to ask for a hand because someone was already there to help.  That's just the nature of people here in Muenster, they have big hearts and are always ready to give. 
We have a lot of groups like the Jaycees, school alumni associations, Knights of Columbus, etc... that are always throwing a fish fry or a crawfish boil to raise funds for a charity, and these people love to give.  Heck, even our fire department is volunteer!  It is not at all uncommon for an item like a jar of grandma's pickles to go for thousands of dollars at a charity silent auction at the community Thanksgiving or Christmas dinner.  Though in all fairness, homemade pickles are pretty dang good.



Guests often ask what we do, living in Muenster.  For such a small town, there are a lot of things going on around here, and most of it is to raise money.  People here are really athletic, so the fun runs are really popular as well as the bike race at Germanfest.  It seems like every other week has some sort of event from concerts to alumni/student games to festivals like Germanfest and Oktoberfest that all the nonprofits in the area throw, so life here is a little more exciting than you'd think!


People here won't give each other directions with road names or numbers, but more commonly things like "It's north of town, take the turnoff about 4 telephone poles past Mike's house".  This sounds crazy, but it works well here.  Everyone knows Mike, and where he lives.  When we lived in Houston, years ago, I didn't know my neighbors, let alone the whole town.

When we first moved here, my son had parked his truck at the bottom of a hill down by the creek. A rainstorm came through and he couldn't get it up the hill because of the mud.  Our new neighbor saw what was going on and came right over with his tractor and pulled him up to the road.  Nobody really thinks about it, that's just the way its always been.
     

Tuesday, April 17, 2018

The Sound of Summer

As things are starting to even out to a warm temperature and soon escalating to a hot one, I can feel my soul longing for one of my favorite Summertime things, outdoor live music.  Having children who lived in Austin and San Antonio over the years, I have had the chance to enjoy shows all over the state, and been blown away, but what we have to offer locally can definitely hold it's own.  Of these, Gainesville has one of my favorite offerings with Gainesville Summer Sounds (http://www.gainesvillesummersounds.com/). 
One of the more underrated towns in Texas has to be Gainesville.  Most just drive past on Hwy 82 or I-35 which both cut through the town, and along both lie most of the same things you see as you pull through most small Texas towns.  Some fast food, gas stations, grocery stores, etc... would belie what is just off the beaten path.  Downtown Gainesville is easily one of the more charming civic centers you can come across in this state full of hidden gems. 
With such a beautiful soul to showoff, Gainesville has a short 3 set series of monthly concerts in the Summer situated right on town square, next to the courthouse.  They pair well known and surprisingly popular acts with some of our amazing local talent for family friendly shows that are just perfect. 
These shows are no small affair, with the local people coming out early to set up camping chairs in the blocked off streets and blankets in the lawns of the square.  It feels electric even before the musicians start playing as the warm day winds down and starts to cool while the event just warms up.  Families are settling in and starting to have fun, and the whole place is so vibrant with joies de vivre!
Before the bands even kick off, the vendors are up and running so people can "pregame" and get food and drinks.  There are a lot of options with restaurants around and vendor tents set up to serve the crowd.  Even though we tend to go and grab snacks here an there, I always pack a basket with some treats.  It has become a bit of a tradition to pick up some brisket from our secret place, https://www.facebook.com/pages/Jazs-Bbq/407975039215484, on the way to town, and Big Red.  It should be noted that I cannot stand Big Red, but my son insists is Texas BBQ tradition, which he takes very seriously... I usually just take a sip of his to honor tradition.  Just like his single black eyed pea on new years day, to honor tradition.
With our bellies lined and a cold one in our hands just in time, we are ready for the music to kick off.  When it does, the place goes crazy.  Kids are running around like it's the 50's, chasing fireflies as the sun starts to set, and everyone is dancing or swaying to the songs. As the first evening breeze starts to blow, I think "This is what I love about Summer"!