Outdoor options in Bell County


The newest issue of Bell County Living was just recently released from the presses. I had the pleasure of having an article on the Nolan Creek Project featured in their outdoor section of the publication. Feel free to check out several spreads and the full article below! And if you’re looking for some great outdoor activities, check out some of the ones I’ve mentioned toward the end of the article:


As an avid outdoor adventurist, the Nolan Creek Project is a pretty exciting addition to local Bell County. The Nolan Creek Project expansion was completed September 2016 after construction originally began in 2014. Outdoor adventurists in Bell County now have something to look forward to this summer season.

The Nolan Creek area of Belton has always been a popular social spot in Belton for many generations, especially during 4th of July festivities. The modern Nolan Creek project was conceptualized by Belton City Council, and the first leg of the Nolan Creek Hike & Bike Trail through the downtown area was a catalyst. This project brought more people downtown, and with the completion of the Gin complex, momentum picked up.

This project was prepped for completion after help from donors such as Texas Parks & Wildlife, CGI Group, HEB and several other small donors. Even the former Belton Mayor, Jim Covington, was excited when the state grant was awarded to the project. With several phases to finalize the project, the end result cost $521,000. The cascades, which provide rolling water behind The Gin, now called Creekside Park, were put into place by January 2015. Once these features were completed, the city saw tubing and kayaking activity increase along the creek with more waders taking advantage of spending time on the river. The second phase included a put-in location, complete with parking, near Chisholm Trail Senior Village on Martin Luther King, Jr. Avenue. That particular area of the project could not begin until the new MLK bridge over Nolan Creek was finished in July 2016. By mid-September, the put-in location was completed around the same time as the new Nolan Creek Nature Trail.

The project’s completion in September 2016 was celebrated with a day of festivities that included tubing down the river with both local citizens and current Belton Mayor, Marion Grayson. She creatively coined the term, the Mayor’s Floatilla, for the experience. The unique ribbon-cutting event made history with Mayor Grayson lifting her “golf club paddle” into the air and slicing it through the ribbon strung across the creek by the Belton Area Chamber of Commerce. Once the Mayor and her floating crew arrived on land, inner tubes were passed out to the public for their own tubing experience. The city spent a couple hours taking people through the drops, and families enjoyed their time spent on the water.

Fun things to experience along Nolan Creek

There are now various activities visitors can experience along Nolan Creek since the expansion project has been completed. These include wading, tubing, kayaking, picnicking, bird watching, fishing, hiking, and biking.

Fishing: Twice a year, the creek is stocked with trout, and families are invited to come fish them out. Family, Fishin’, Fun is one of the best events of the year. Many residents and visitors gather at the creek in hopes of of catching a big trout.

Hiking, tubing and kayaking: Most people are aware of the Hike & Bike Trail with its fabulous 10-foot sidewalks. The new Nolan Creek Nature Trail is one of the best-kept secrets in Belton. Located on the UMHB side of the MLK bridge over Nolan Creek, it provides an ideal location for a picnic as well as a quarter-mile nature trail. To unload tubes and kayaks, visitors can use the small parking lot there as well. From this spot on Nolan Creek, it takes about two hours to float to the cascades downtown in Creekside Park, which is behind the Gin.

Picnicking: Picnic tables are located in Harris Park and Yettie Polk Park and both offer access to the creek.

Swimming– Some people prefer not to swim, while others are totally comfortable with it. It is recommended not to ingest the water as it is rated for kayaking, wading and tubing. If people want to make an informed decision about recreating in Nolan Creek, it is recommended to begin with visiting www.beltontexas.gov/creek.

Places to eat and shop near the Gin at Nolan Creek: Not only are there outdoor activities in Belton in this area, but for those who aren’t so in love with nature can definitely spend the day having their own version of fun. Visitors can eat at The Gin at Nolan Creek, grab some coffee at Amor Ciego coffee company, browse to their heart’s content at The Mercantile or My Giving Tree Gift Shop and Gallery, book a spa day at Woodhouse Spa and even have dinner at Coronas de Oro.

I personally enjoy my own walks along the Hike and Bike Trail which feeds into the campus of the University of Mary Hardin Baylor. For families looking for summer fun, there’s also a Splash pad along the Hike & Bike trail located across from the Harris Community Center. Picnic tables, restroom facilities, fishing spots, playgrounds, basketball courts and horseshoe pits provide some great Saturday activities.
For more information, please feel free to contact Matt Bates, Director of Parks and Recreation for the City of Belton at mbates@beltontexas.gov or call at 254-933-4862.

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The Creative side of Central Texas


Locals shop at Ten Thousand Villages and admire local art

After I relocated back to my home state of Texas during the holidays, I have had the opportunity to write for our local newspaper, The Belton Journal. My first assignment was the perfect fit for me. I covered an Artist event at The Hub in Temple, Texas. Imagine my surprise when I saw that The Hub was also home to one of my former volunteering efforts, Ten Thousand Villages.

It is such a great thing to have a fair-trade and ethical shopping opportunity right near my home town. If the words fair-trade sound foreign to you… go here for some more info! If you’re in the Central Texas area, you should definitely check it out. I have included the article I wrote for the Belton Journal below if you want to read about the event earlier this year:

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The Hub in Temple hosted the first Artist Meet & Greet on Friday, January 13. Eighteen local artisans shared their creative work with the community. This included watercolors, acrylic and oil paintings, metal work, photography, custom leather handbags, art glass, sculpture, pottery, quilts and jewelry. Artists involved hailed from Belton, Temple, Waco, Salado, Troy, College Station and surrounding areas.  

In addition, a variety of central Texas arts organizations were represented such as Central Texas Art League, Temple Cultural Arts District, Waco Cultural Arts Fest, Bell Fine Arts Association and the Brazos Valley Art League.

While art lovers were treated to wine and food, they mingled amidst the booths as the artists shared the inspiration behind their pieces. One of the artists featured was a local veterinarian, Beau Whitaker, who specializes in western graphite pencil art.

“My inspiration comes from my everyday job,” says Beau. “I am an equine veterinarian, so I work all day, every day with horses and the western subjects I draw. Living and working on the Four Sixes Ranch also had an impact on my art.”

Another artist, Darrell Crisp, a wildlife photographer who focuses on endangered animal species as his subject, donates a portion of his proceeds to Habitat for Humanity, The Nature Conservancy and Land trusts in Molokai, Hawaii.  

His wife and supporter of this event, Karen Crisp, remarked, “We are excited because now there is a venue in the Temple/Belton area for artists to showcase their work in a synergistic creative explosion. These types of events are helping to revitalize Temple like Waco has done, and there is now a creative hub within The Hub.”

Joe and Pam Shepperd are the visionaries behind the Hub concept and construction. They approached Bonnie Chapa, President and Founder of Central Texas Art League, about organizing an event after seeing her artwork in The Belton Journal.

“The Temple Cultural Arts District is beginning a movement, and the Hub has joined in this endeavor,” said Bonnie Chapa. “People begged for more art events, and we listened.”

The Hub in Temple resides in a turn of the century building that was once a harness shop. It opened December 1, 2016 and houses 22,000 square feet of retail space, including an event rental space and Sweet Eileen’s vintage cafe and ice cream shop. For upcoming events with the Hub, visit their website at www.thehubtemple.com or call 254-598-2293.


So if you’re in the Central Texas area, check out The Hub in downtown Temple, Texas!

-lme

20th Annual Texas Western Swing Showcase


Here is an article I had the opportunity to write on the 20th Annual Texas Western Swing Showcase that was published this spring in the Belton Journal:

Photo Credit: C.A. Cash at Shot-in-Texas

Photo Caption: Krysten Harris plays live onstage with Bobby Flores

Just a Swingin’ at the 20th Annual Texas Western Swing Showcase

Texas heritage came alive as feet shuffled on the dance floor while performers entertained at the 20th annual Texas Western Swing Showcase at the Bell County Expo Center on Friday, March 3 and Saturday, March 4. Bobby Flores and Judy Rountree co-produced the event for the first time this year. The musical lineup featured Jeff Woolsey & the Dancehall Kings, Bobby Flores & the Yellow Rose Band, Future Stars of Tomorrow Showcase and Coby Carter & 5 Miles West.  

“If we are going to preserve the music, we have to get young people involved,” said Judy Rountree, the Marketing, Promotions and Publicity contact for Bobby Flores and co-organizer of the 20th Annual Texas Western Swing Showcase. “We don’t want to lose it. It’s a part of history. We need to preserve the history of music as well. This music is jazz on cornbread.”

The Future Stars of Tomorrow showcase on Saturday afternoon featured young musicians ranging from age 11 to 30.  They hailed from various locations across the state of Texas. All but one of the young performers in the showcase has attended Bobby Flores’s Annual Summer Music Camp Retreat for traditional country & western swing music held in Eastland, Texas. This camp is connected to his music school, the Bulverde Academy of Music.

“Most of it’s upbeat and it’s just the type of music you wanna dance to,” said Caroline Grace Wiseman, guitar student, performer and singer, 11 years old.

Another future star of tomorrow was Krysten Harris, the 2017 Ameripolitan Music Awards Western Swing Female Artist of the year.  Krysten was also named 2016 Western Music Association Entertainer of the Year, Two time Western Music Association Female Performer of the Year in 2014 and 2015 and the 2015 Western Music Association Western Album of the Year for “Down the Trail.” She currently performs in the United States and abroad.

“I love Western Swing, and it’s a sound not everybody is doing,” said Krysten Harris backstage a few acts before her set.

Photo Credit: C.A. Cash at Shot-in-Texas

Photo Caption:R.J. Smith, fiddler in the Bobby Flores and the
Yellow Rose Band, coaches and mentors Max Ryan Cook before he goes
onstage at the 20th Annual Texas Western Swing Showcase

Vendors included musician merchandise tables and Wildorado Silverworks, a jewelry company based in Amarillo, Texas.

“This whole Western Swing is like a big family,” said Norma Jean Leigh, co-owner of Wilderado Silverworks. “Everybody looks out for everybody.  We all pray for everybody.”

Texas Western Swing is the official music of Texas. Not only did the event showcase the official music of Texas, but attendees frequented the dance floor to partake in Texas dance favorites including the two-step, waltz and more. One highlight of the event included a drawing for a cabin for two on the 8th Annual Bobby Flores’ Western Swing Caribbean Cruise.  Lorenda Baldwin of Angleton, Texas, was the winner for the cruise setting sail on January 13, 2018, for seven days from San Juan, Puerto Rico to five ports in the Virgin Islands on the Royal Caribbean Cruise Lines.

Bobby Flores, a 47 year veteran of the music industry, is a 2002 Grammy Award winning musician.  He is a multi-instrumentalist, vocalist, producer, arranger, composer and first call session musician.  Bobby has been featured on over four hundred albums, singles and CDs, including performances with numerous, major label artists.  Bobby also composes music for radio and television commercials airing throughout the U.S., Australia and Europe.
To learn more about the Texas Western Swing Showcase as well as performers and upcoming events, feel free to visit www.texaswesternswingshowcase.com.  To learn more about Bobby’s Bulverde Academy of Music and other events, visit the school’s website at www.bulverdeacademyofmusic.com, and visit Bobby’s band site at www.bobbyfloresband.com.

Ambrosia Tea Room


Tea for two was the theme for a lazy, late lunch one Saturday afternoon on the first of April 2017. My mom and I visited Ambrosia Tea Room in Salado, Texas for our midday meal. Upon entering the tea house, one can quickly observe the care and attention to detail that has been placed into the creation of the tea room. Each room has relics of days gone by, of a sweeter time, menus don feminine fonts and shabby chic adequately describes some of the final touches. One of the decorative highlights is the glass tea cup chandelier hanging above the register in the main dining room.

Lunch was unique and delicious. We both drank the sweetened cranberry tea, and it reminded mom of wassail. A springtime wassail if you will. I had the turkey, cream cheese, avocado and cranberry spread on a croissant while mom had the same on wheat and a side of zucchini soup. The sandwich was the ideal pairing of sweet cranberry, rich cream and a little salt with the turkey. The perfect touch was what they call the “Ambrosia Salad,” which came in a little dish on our plates. It’s the amazing mixture of heavenly fluff composed of strawberry yogurt, whipping cream, cheesecake mix and probably some kind of magic 🙂

If you haven’t been to this place, you definitely need to check it out on a shopping day out in Salado, Texas.  They have also been the recipients of the KWTX Clean Plate Award! Ambrosia Tea Room is located at 102 N. Main Street, Salado, Texas 76571.