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Written by Jane Kellogg Murray

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Texas leads the nation in cattle production and projects a rough-and-tumble mystique about ranch life. City slickers and old ranch hands alike can celebrate this heritage at the Ranch Hand Festival, Nov. 16-18 in Kingsville and on King Ranch—the largest ranch in the Lone Star State. Downtown Kingsville gets festive Friday evening by lighting the Christmas tree followed by a street dance. Head out to the working King Ranch on Saturday morning for the Ranch Hand Breakfast—a hearty cowboy and cowgirl breakfast fit for a hard day’s work, served outdoors—plus team-roping demonstrations, storytelling, music, bird-watching tours, and wildlife tours. The festival caps off Saturday evening with a holiday-themed performance by the Kingsville Symphony Orchestra and a headliner country concert.

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November is peak season for butterflies in South Texas and the Lower Rio Grande Valley. The National Butterfly Center in Mission has documented sightings for more than 200 types of native and migratory butterflies and is the premier location in the U.S. to witness such vast butterfly diversity in the wild. The center invites promising naturalists of all ages to learn more about butterflies and their natural garden habitats at the Texas Butterfly Festival’s Community Day on Nov. 3. Open to the public, the event offers a Hungry Caterpillar playscape for little ones to climb, and “wild things” arts and crafts to keep their hands busy. You can also learn how to make banana brew, an irresistible beverage for butterflies that uses dark beer as its secret ingredient. Who knew butterflies liked beer? Professional naturalists and butterfly enthusiasts can stick around for expert-led educational field trips Nov. 3-6.

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As Texas’ summer heat subsides, more than 2 million visitors will say “howdy” to Big Tex, the towering 55-foot cowboy, as they enter the State Fair of Texas. Gates are open Sept. 28-Oct. 21 in Dallas’ famed Fair Park, host since 1886. Some visitors seek out deep-fried banana pudding, while others find glory in the cooking competitions. Carnival rides will spin you around while stunt dogs do the flipping in one of the fair’s numerous family friendly shows. Watch a chainsaw carver transform a piece of timber into art, or view the nightly fireworks and dancing water show. No state fair trip is complete without seeing the year’s butter sculpture representing the theme “Celebrating Texas Innovation.” Admission includes 75 concerts by regional performers and headliners on the main stage during the 24-day event. Some of the star power making an appearance this year include Ludacris, Casting Crowns, and Hunter Hayes.

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Escape the urban pressures of traffic and deadlines, and head down to the fifth-generation Graff 7A Ranch in Hondo during weekends from Sept. 15 to Nov. 25. The South Texas MAiZE is a 7-acre maze cut from 12-foot high sorghum. The maze is divided into two parts and takes 15-30 minutes to complete each side. Bring a flashlight if you plan on exploring after dark. Campfire sites can be reserved for an additional fee. Explore the farm on a tractor-pulled hayride, pet and feed the ranch’s Boer goats, and watch squealing pigs race. During the month of October, the pumpkin patch creates an ideal backdrop for fall family photos. Climb on giant hay bales, become human popcorn on the two corn popper pillows, or slide down the giant MatterCorn. Owners caution that the last two weekends of October are the busiest, so expect longer lines.

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Celebrate a Texas icon of function and fashion Oct. 5-6 in downtown Victoria. Entering its eighth year, the annual Bootfest kicks off with a Saturday morning 5K. Afterward, trade your running shoes for boots and head to De Leon Plaza to see boot crafters, Western artisans, and a trick roper display their talents. The festival includes two days of free live music on the main bandstand, with ’80s and classic rock tribute bands on Friday night and Texas country favorites on Saturday night, including Mason Lively, Cameran Nelson, William Clark Green, and Reckless Kelly. 

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Fredericksburg’s history is tied to its roots as an 1840s German pioneer settlement. The city’s early design resembled German villages along the Rhine, and German remained the prevalent language until the 1900s. Oktoberfest in Fredericksburg will honor this German heritage along its hauptstrasse, or main street, Oct. 5-7. Brass tubas and euphoniums will kick off the celebration on Friday evening with OkTubaFest. Saturday activities begin at the Oktoberfest Kraut Run—a benefit for literacy programs—where kids ages 4 to 10 complete an obstacle course. Afterward, join hands with hundreds of other revelers for the chicken dance, then indulge in popular German fare like bratwursts, wiener schnitzels, German potato salad, and pfeffernüsse (a popular tiny spice cookie); German import beers will be offered along with Texas craft brews and at least one Mexican import. Polka bands and yodelers will provide a festive soundtrack to the weekend.

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On Sept. 29, grab your helmet and join a community bike ride through Fannin County that includes routes for all ages and skill levels, from a 13-mile fun ride out to Bonham State Park, to a 100-mile ride for the aspiring Tour de France champions. The 29th annual Autumn in Bonham Bike Rally includes routes that travel along areas with challenging elevations, river crossings, and gravel roads, and offers one of the few 100-mile rides in the state.

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Don’t be deceived by the convenience store variety of kolaches. You can devour authentic fruit or cream cheese-filled kolaches, recipes brought to Texas by Czech immigrants—as well as klobásník, with popular Texas stuffings like sausage—at Caldwell’s annual Kolache Festival on Sept. 8. The festival encourages attendees to “be Czech for a day.” Demonstrations celebrating Czech heritage will be staged by the Burleson County Czech Heritage Museum and other local historians and will feature traditional items like a corn grinder and bobbin lace. The town has hosted the event for more than three decades and promotes popular events like a quilt show, street rod and classic car show, the famed kolache-eating contest, and the crowning of a state champion kolache baker after a judged competition. New this year is a showcase of “glampers” and vintage trailers that highlight how to brave the elements in style and luxury. There also will be a hospoda—a Czech gathering place—serving craft beers and wine for a break while shopping the more than 250 expected arts, crafts, and food vendors.

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Kyle brands itself as the “Pie Capital of Texas,” so it should come as no surprise that the southern suburb of Austin will celebrate all things pie at the Kyle Pie in the Sky Hot Air Balloon Festival Aug. 31-Sept. 2. Suspend your low-carb diet and purchase a sweet slice in the pie café as you watch more than 25 hot air balloons glow on the ground at dusk on Friday and Saturday, and ascend at daybreak on Saturday and Sunday. The pie offerings extend into savory, with vendors also offering pizza and Frito pies in addition to fruit-filled pastries. Claim victory in the pie-eating contests, or resurrect Grandma’s recipe for the baking competition. On Saturday, the festival will attempt to break the Guinness World Record for the most people named Kyle in one location.

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This weekend, head to the oldest continually running fair in Texas, the largest single-day 100-mile bicycle ride in the nation, or Texas's first and only cat convention (yes, you heard that right).

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Rounding up this weekend's best events—from the Texas Ranch Roundup in Wichita Falls, to Austin's annual Bat Fest.

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Rodeos, Romeos, and river racing—find all that and more fun things to do this weekend across Texas.

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