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Written by Jane Kellogg Murray

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During the early 20th century, Galveston Island—still recovering from the devastating hurricane of 1900—launched an event to strengthen the city’s tourism economy and offer an official kick-off to summer. The highlight of the day was the Bathing Girl Revue, which by 1926 had evolved into the International Pageant of Pulchritude—the precursor to Miss Universe—and had become such a success that on the weekend these events were held, the island’s population grew to three times its size. The pageant fizzled during the Great Depression, but after Hurricane Ike in 2008, the city resurrected the fun, inviting travelers to watch as competitors line up along the Seawall and don their best 1920s beach fashion. The fun returns this year on Saturday, April 28, during the island's Third Coast Music Festival (April 26-29).

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Each spring in far west Texas, the desert landscape of the Franklin Mountains comes alive with a field of golden yellow Mexican poppies, and for the 12th year, El Paso will celebrate the occasion with a free festival at the El Paso Museum of Archaeology. During the festival, visitors are encouraged to explore the museum—which features 14,000 years of prehistory in El Paso, the greater Southwest, and northern Mexico—and hit the surrounding trails to take advantage of the natural beauty of the Franklin Mountains.

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Every April since 1998, Fort Stockton has played host to the adrenaline-charged event known as the Big Bend Open Road Race, a rally-style competition regarded as the most challenging open-road race in the United States. Here's why: Of the eight or so open-road courses in America, none has so many turns and elevation changes as US 285 between Fort Stockton and Sanderson. That makes for exciting driving, whether you're going the speed limit or not. More than 100 racers are expected to show up to test their mettle—and put the pedal to the metal—on this scenic stretch of highway April 25-28. Best of all, you can participate in almost any vehicle—whether you drive a flashy Lamborghini, a PT Cruiser, or a 50-year-old Studebaker. The car show is followed by a parade of race participants, and the public can join an end-of-the-race after party. 

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For more than 60 years, the Associación de San Antonio has been entertaining Fiesta crowds with a traditional Mexican rodeo, or charreada, during A Day in Old Mexico. The event—a celebration of the national sport of Mexico and the grandfather of modern American rodeo—offers patrons the chance to take in a rich custom and tradition. On April 22, charros will don the traditional traje de charro complete with embroidered pants, sombreros, and boots, all while dazzling the crowd with variations of horse reining, bull and bronco riding, artistic roping skills, escaramuzas (female side-saddle riding), and more team sports.

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Before his death two years ago, artist Ellsworth Kelly gifted the Blanton Museum of Art at the University of Texas at Austin with the design concept for his most monumental work—and the only building he ever designed—a 2,715 square-foot freestanding structure named for the city in which it resides. The museum will host an exhibition exploring the concepts of Kelly’s last great work from Feb. 18-April 29, coinciding with the building’s grand opening.

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What started as a big party in 1983 has grown to a festival of massive proportions today—each year, some 75,000 people don their finest green apparel and head to Dallas' Fair Park to celebrate St. Patrick’s Day at the largest Irish festival in the southwest. The weekend of March 2-4 will be filled with live Irish music, Celtic myth storytellers, a bevy of Irish cuisine from local chefs, sheep herding and horse demonstrations, and plenty of canines dressed up for the holiday—many Irish dogs will be available for adoption from local shelters.

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In its 50th year of celebrating all things Irish, San Antonio’s River Walk will once again be magically transformed into the “River Shannon” with an eco-friendly green dye for St. Patrick's Day weekend, March 16-17. Thousands flock to the festivities to indulge at the Irish food court and watch Irish entertainment, including world-class bagpipers and local Irish dancers.

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 The weekend's best bets include winter birding opportunities across the state—from the Laguna Madre to Guadalupe Mountains National Park—and cultural festivals like the Denton Black Film Festival and Celtic Fest in San Marcos. 

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 In case you need the motivation, here are 10 reasons to get out of bed this weekend—from the Luckenbach Blues Festival to a traveling Broadway show.

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Make this three-day weekend count with our picks of the best festivals, parades, and historical happenings across the Lone Star State—from one of the largest MLK Day parades in the country to the kickoff of the legendary Fort Worth Stock Show and Rodeo.

Three hundred years ago—before Davy Crockett became a household name, before the Chili Queens served hearty bowls of red on San Antonio’s Military Plaza, and long before Fiesta San Antonio became an annual 11-day party attracting some 3.5 million visitors to the Alamo City—Spanish missionaries founded Mission San Antonio de Valero, best known these days as the Alamo.

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Bootstrap your way into the new year with these Texas traditions old and new—the largest fireworks display of its kind in the Central time zone, polar bear plunges in the Gulf of Mexico, and San Antonio's dazzling New Year's celebration as it kicks off its tricentennial year.

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