Quantcast
Courtesy photo

Election day is November 8, 2022, but early voting starts Monday, October 24 and runs through November 4.

Texans will be voting for governor, lieutenant governor, attorney general, agricultural commissioner, and land commissioner, among other slots.

In the race for Governor between incumbent Greg Abbott and challenger Beto O'Rourke, Abbott has so far led in polls, but an October poll by Beacon Research shows the gap narrowing to 2 percent.

O'Rourke has received endorsements from top Texas newspapers Houston Chronicle and the Fort Worth Star-Telegram, as well as Willie Nelson, Kacey Musgraves, and Harry Styles. Abbott received an endorsement from bottom Texas newspaper Dallas Morning News.

In the Lieutenant Governor race, candidate Mike Collier, running as a Democrat against incumbent Dan Patrick, has earned a number of high-profile endorsements from Republicans including State Rep. Lyle Larson and former Texas Lt. Gov. Bill Ratliff. Collier is a former Republican who ran against Patrick in 2018.

In the Attorney General race, Democratic challenger Rochelle Garza is running against incumbent Ken Paxton.

Paxton was most recently in the news for fleeing his home to avoid a subpoena in a lawsuit from nonprofits that want to help Texans pay for abortions out of state. KVUE in Austin has a list of all of Paxton's various legal woes over the years including charges of bribery, intimidation, extramarital affairs, and his involvement in the January 6 insurrection.

Information on early voting can be found at votetexas.gov.

Registered voters can go to any polling location in the county. A list of 50 early voting locations is available on the county website. Registered voters should bring one acceptable form of photo identification to the polls such as Texas Driver License, Texas Election ID card, Military ID card, U.S. Citizenship Certificate, or U.S. Passport.

Registered voters without a photo ID can sign a Reasonable Impediment Declaration and present a supporting form of ID such as a voter registration certificate, a current utility bill, bank statement, government check, or a birth certificate.

Photo courtesy of the St. Elias Mediterranean Festival

Join an 88-year dabke line at Austin's Mediterranean Festival this fall

Weekend By The Sea

Believe it or not, the Mediterranean is not that far away. It’s quite a hike to get there, but it’s nearly identical in latitude — a great predictor of harmonious culinary styles and ingredients. Austin and Cairo are less than a quarter of a degree apart.

The 88th annual St. Elias Mediterranean Festival is closing that gap longitudinally on September 30 and October 4, with food, cocktails, and more. The open-air festivities are loud and certainly not as reserved as many would guess at an Orthodox church. “He’s Baptist, so he’s not supposed to be drinking,” says a festival attendee in a video from 2012, arm around the giggling rule-breaker.

Along with food vendors, who in past years have represented Lebanon, Palestine, Greece, Eritrea, Russia, Romania, and likely many more countries, other craft vendors will run their own bazaar. It’s all set to live music, with both performed and social dancing (like dabke, the Middle Eastern line dance in which participants hold hands), something incredibly rare to run into for Austinites who aren’t regularly involved in these communities.

Nothing is truly Mediterranean without wine, and the festival is known for its wide and sometimes exotic selections. Cocktails will be provided by Absolut and Aperol — the aperitivo maker most associated with the citrusy, bubbling spritz from Italy — and no one is allowed to get tired of dancing with Arabic coffee nearby.

A press release quotes a member of the family that owns and operates Twin Liquors, a current sponsor that has worked with the festival since it started in the 1930s. “Medfest is more than a tradition for our family, it’s ingrained in our culture,” said David Jabour. “We’re honored to continue to play a role in the festivities this year, and look forward to seeing friends and families celebrate with food, cocktails, music, and dancing.”

The nearly 90-year-old tradition has garnered a reputation in its hometown for its uniqueness and high spirits, and is welcoming to anyone interested in the culture. Kids are welcome, and encouraged to join with photos from past years including face painting and a bouncy house.

The 88th annual St. Elias Mediterranean Festival will take place on September 30 from 6 pm to 11 pm, and on October 1 from noon to 11 pm. Tickets ($5 donation) will be sold at the door at St. Elias Orthodox Church on East 11th Street, except for opening to 4pm on Oct 1, which is free.

Photo courtesy of Defend the Dream

Former Longhorn and pro football star transforms reading spaces in AISD

Reading Huddle

There’s much to discover at the library, and now Austin Independent School District kids are getting a specially dedicated space, thanks to the Defend the Dream Foundation.

Derrick Johnson, a former Texas Longhorn who played with the Kansas City Chiefs and garnered prestige in both positions, started Defend the Dream in 2012 to connect low-income and inner city youths with better resources and opportunities. He moved back to Austin in 2019, and committed to supporting the nonprofit even further.

On September 15, the foundation will present Austin’s first Discovery Den to Oak Springs Elementary School in East Austin near Airport Boulevard. Defend the Dream has been installing Discovery Dens in other schools for years, transforming school library spaces into well-stocked, football-themed reading areas with bright colors and lots of seating.

The low-tech, low-convolution goal is to create a comfortable and engaging space to encourage reading. In this case, it’s nearly $58,000 of donations for a “multi-functional space,” with donated furniture, bookshelves, and new flooring. In addition to a more exciting atmosphere, this donation covers more than 1,000 new books, selected for diversity, in an effort to modernize the current library selection.

In April of 2022, Defend the Dream announced a partnership with Horns with Heart, another nonprofit that uses the social and media pull of University of Texas student-athletes to promote community outreach and charity. The latter organization will help build the dens and assign reading ambassadors to keep up the activity.

“When I moved back to Austin a few years ago, I wanted to continue my work with Defend the Dream and help those in need be able to reach their full potential,” said Johnson in the April press release. “Partnering with an organization that supports my Alma Mater, UT, was a no brainer. Horns With Heart really pinpoints the heart of what I believe in - people helping others in their own community.”

Defend the Dream will continue with similar projects across the district after the Oak Springs Discovery Den is handed off on September 15, from 9 am to 10 am. More information about Defend the Dream is available at derrickjohnsonfoundation.org.

Photo courtesy of The Cathedral and Ventana Ballet

10 ways to make your community proud this Hispanic Heritage Month

Everybody y su madre

Unlike many months of celebration, National Hispanic American Heritage Month is not tied to one calendar month. It starts on September 15, a sort of super-Independence Day, encompassing celebrations for Costa Rica, El Salvador, Guatemala, Honduras and Nicaragua, followed by Mexico on September 16, and Chile on September 18. It then runs through the second Monday in October for Columbus Day or Día de la Raza, and ends October 15.

Redubbed Latinx Heritage Month by some celebrators, in both cases it honors both personal and communal histories, and contributions to life in the United States year-round. Texans are accustomed to many Mexican traditions and cultural fusions, but this month also stretches to family ties in the Caribbean, Central America, and South America, making for an endlessly diverse opportunity to get to know Austin businesses, artists, and community members.

These 10 recommended events cover traditional Mexican and Tejano music and dance; as many accordions as possible; contemporary theater; Austin community leaders and their work; tireless food trucks from across the cultural gamut; and more. Ride a bike to learn about history, or get moving with some social dancing. The best part is, most of these are happening on different days and times, so there should be plenty of time to explore what Hispanic Heritage Month means to you.

"Cultivating Community through Art: Sam Coronado's Series Project and its Continuing Legacy" opening reception
The late Sam Coronado, a former Austin Community College professor whose pioneering Chicano art movement works are celebrated by the Smithsonian, advocated for cultural diversity through screen printing. This retrospective display draws attention to other artists Coronado taught or inspired, both in Austin and farther removed. An opening reception on September 15 from 6 pm to 8 pm gives a free first look at the exhibit, which runs through December 8. No RSVP required.

Austin Latino Heritage Bike Ride
This September 17 bike tour is modeled after the Black History Bike Ride, making 15 stops over 7 miles of Latino community markers. The event description specifies “counter narratives,” suggesting that this tour may include familiar landmarks in a different context, taught in a series of history lessons as the group progresses. The group stops first at A.B. Cantu Pan American Recreation Center, and finishes up at ESB-MACC's 15th Annual Viva México: A Quinceañera! Celebration. The organizer is posting updates on Instagram and Facebook.

"Salsa for the Soul!" fundraiser for Latinitas, AVANCE, and Con Mi Madre
Three major Austin organizations for women, girls, and families — Latinitas, Avance, and Con Mi Madre — are teaming up on September 17 to throw a salsa-centric fundraiser at the Latinitas headquarters. Corazon Latino Dance Studio will teach a dance lesson to get visitors up to speed for a live set by DJ Kickit. Tito's Handmade Vodka and Maudie's Tex Mex have food and beverages handled. Also joining the party are local vendors, and some guests will win raffle prizes. Tickets ($35 or less) available on Eventbrite.

ESB-MACC's 15th Annual "Viva México: A Quinceañera! Celebration"
The Emma S. Barrientos Mexican American Cultural Center is 15 years old, so it’s quinceañera time. This will be the last onsite event before the MACC undergoes construction. The annual event is pulling out all the stops on September 17 with a range of live music from traditional performers to a DJ collective, panels about identity and community, an artisan market, and a lowrider car show. The free event runs from 5 pm to 10 pm, with food trucks on hand. Register on Eventbrite.

“Night Birds — An Intimate Celebration of Art + Dance”
Reprising a popular 2021 event, The Cathedral and Ventana Ballet are teaming up once again for Night Birds, a 360-degree dance performance. The scores are by Hispanic composers, representing (originally or retrospectively) nocturnal birds on September 22 and 23. The Cathedral is also completely re-curating its display for the first time since opening in 2019, featuring works from local Hispanic women and nonbinary visual artists, for the entire month. Tickets (starting at $45) available on Eventbrite.

Teatro Vivo and Austin Public Library's Victory
The Little Walnut Creek Library really is little, but it’s big on community. In the heavily Hispanic Rundberg neighborhood (head to this H-E-B for specialty items), it’s hosting bilingual theater company Teatro Vivo on September 24 from 10:30 am to 11:30 am. It’s a Hispanic Heritage Month celebration, but it’s also a way to start a conversation about Victory, the after-school tutoring program in collaboration with AISD. Admission is free and snacks are provided. This event is for all ages.

Squeeze Box Market Day
A short drive from Austin into Kyle will be worth it for this event for squeeze box lovers — that’s the accordion, for traditionalists. On September 24, from 10 am to 6 pm, Mary Kyle Hartson City Square Park will be filled with accordionists playing Tejano music and anything else that might suit the instrument. This is a special Hispanic Heritage Month edition of Kyle Market Days, with all the same local vendors as usual. Guests are invited to bring lawn chairs and coolers. No RSVP required.

Makuyeika Colectivo Teatral: "Andares"
A conversation about heritage would not be complete without Indigenous voices. Makuyeika Colectivo Teatral, a theater collective that focuses on Mexico’s Indigenous stories, shares a multilingual piece on September 24. The stories told by one live musician and three actors will be in Spanish and Indigenous languages with English supertitles on the stage, representing everyday Mexico and scenes from its “remote corners.” Tickets available at texasperformingarts.org.

Mariachi Herencia de México
One mariachi performer is especially interesting during this month of heritage; famous ranchera singer Pedro Infante’s granddaughter, Lupita Infante. The younger singer and her huge band of 14 musicians from the United States and Mexico promise “a vibrant celebration of Mexican music and culture” at the Long Center on October 13 at 8 pm. The group is based in Chicago, but employs some Texans making a homecoming on this tour stop. Tickets ($29-64) available at thelongcenter.org.

Sazon Latin Food Festival
Restaurants all over Austin are offering specials for this month, but they’re hard to track down. The Sazon Latin Food Festival is eliminating the guesswork, bringing together a dozen food vendors together from Caribbean, Central and South American cuisines to close out Hispanic Heritage Month on October 15. This fiesta will take place at Ani's Day & Night, a relatively small venue for so many vendors, so visitors are encouraged to register now on Eventbrite and arrive early for the 5:30 pm to 9 pm food market.

Getty Images

Austinites invited to sign book of condolences for Queen Elizabeth II this week

Royal Condolences

After the passing of Queen Elizabeth II, Texans joined those around the world in mourning the death of the longest-serving monarch in United Kingdom’s history.

Now, those wishing to express their condolences in written form are invited to sign a book of condolences coming to Austin on Thursday, September 15.

According to a release, the British Consulate General in Houston will be making the official book of condolences available for the public in Austin and the surrounding area to sign.

Texans will find the book in the Office of the Texas Secretary of State in the Texas State Capitol building (Room 1E.8).

Consul General Richard Hyde will be accompanying the book, which will be available to sign from 11 am -3 pm on September 15.

For those in Houston, the book remains available in the lobby of 1301 Fannin St. from 10 am to 1 pm Tuesday through Friday.

In Dallas, the book will open on Friday from 11 am to 3 pm in the lobby of Dallas City Hall.

For those unable to make any of these locations in person, a virtual condolence book is open at royal.uk.

Photo courtesy of H-E-B

H-E-B rings up new debit card with cash back perks for customers

Here Everything's Debit

As if Texans couldn’t already get nearly everything at H-E-B, they can now get even more with H-E-B, at other stores. The ubiquitous grocery store announced big news on September 12: It’s slipping its own debit card into users’ wallets, offering cash back on qualifying H-E-B purchases.

The H-E-B debit card, ready for applicants now, opens up a few avenues to grocery shoppers, most notably 5 percent on “thousands of products from H-E-B.” Specifically, the cash back applies to H-E-B brand items from pantry items to prepared foods, kitchenware, and more. Shoppers don’t have to do anything to claim the extra funds — they just appear right back in the account.

Further, it is one more card to carry, but it may replace or duplicate one other. H-E-B debit will be accepted anywhere Mastercard is accepted, and essentially functions just like any debit card from a bank: it offers “an optional, high-yield savings account,” direct deposits, and free H-E-B ATM withdrawals.

“At H-E-B, we’re always looking to provide Texans more ways to save,” said H-E-B Group vice president of marketing Ashwin Nathan in a press release. “With the H-E-B debit card, customers can have a more rewarding shopping experience that allows them to keep more money in their pockets while enjoying valuable benefits and perks.”

Maintaining the card is almost as simple as keeping it on hand, with no fees and multiple options to add funds, including cash at H-E-B and directly from other debit cards. While there is no full overdraft program (which allows the grocer to claim no overdraft fees), there is a $20 “purchase cushion” on qualifying purchases that gives the shopper 30 days to make up the negative balance. Users can more carefully track their spending through the H-E-B Debit mobile app.

So far, there is no sign that users can use the account without the physical card, so once it comes in the mail, shoppers should remember to bring it along.

More information on H-E-B Debit accounts, including a list of qualified brands for cash-back purchases, is available at hebdebit.com.

Ad Placement 300x100
Ad Placement 300x600

CultureMap Emails are Awesome

H-E-B unveils merch for super fans, plus more hot Austin headlines

Hot Headlines

Editor’s note: It’s that time again — time to check in with our top stories. Here are five articles that captured our collective attention over the past seven days.

1. H-E-B unveils merchandise for brand super fans, available exclusively at one store. Kerrville was chosen to launch the company's new line of H-E-B-branded merchandise in celebration of its 117th anniversary.

2. Austin bar transforms into a magical winter wonderland this holiday season. Don your favorite elf socks and meet the lovely citizens of “Tinseltown.”

3. Draft 'Vision Plan' for Zilker Park unveils land bridge and more possibilities. Austinites are invited to comment on a vision plan that will inform the future of Zilker Park.

4. Austin ranks among world’s 100 best cities in prestigious new report. Austin is the No. 43 best city in the world, according to a new study. (And yes, we beat Dallas.)

5. Austin airport launches new SkySquad travel assistants in time for the holiday rush. Austin-Bergstrom International Airport is keeping lines moving during a period of heavy travel with a new team of airport assistants.

Steven Spielberg opens up personal history in The Fabelmans

Movie Review

For over 40 years, director Steven Spielberg has been delivering some of the most popular blockbuster movies of all time as well as a bevy of Oscar-quality dramas, a combination that’s unique to him. For his latest, The Fabelmans, he’s decided to go more personal than ever, telling a thinly-veiled version of his own childhood.

Sammy (played mostly by Gabriel LaBelle) is one of four children – and the only son – of Mitzi (Michelle Williams), a concert pianist, and Burt Fabelman (Paul Dano), a computer engineer. From an early age, Sammy is enthralled by the art of filmmaking, first remaking a train crash sequence from The Greatest Show on Earth, and gradually moving on to more adventurous stories.

Burt’s advancing career, which moves the family from New Jersey to Arizona to California, causes stress for various members of the family, most notably Sammy and Mitzi. Sammy must deal with anti-Semitic bullies, while Mitzi falls deeper into a mental health crisis. Sammy’s movies continually offer a respite for the family, though, giving him a creative outlet and the rest of them a chance to forget their troubles for a while.

Written by Spielberg – his first writing effort since 2001’s A.I. Artificial Intelligence – and Tony Kushner, the film is heavy on emotions but presented in a way that those feelings don’t always translate. Spielberg is no stranger to depicting fraught family situations in his long career, but in showing ones from his own family, it feels like he pulled back, not wanting the scenes to be overwrought or schmaltzy.

The result is a story that isn’t as universal as some of his other films. As the film is told from Sammy’s perspective, it’s easy to get caught up in his pursuits and various discoveries as he gets older. The mindsets of the rest of the family are less clear, even though his parents and sisters are ever-present. Mitzi’s state of mind is a concern from the start, but it’s not always treated as such by other important characters.

Just as Sammy’s movies are an escape for his family, so too are they some of the best parts of the film. Sammy figuring out the process and secrets of filmmaking is informative and often thrilling, especially if you’re a cinephile. Spielberg has been considered a master for so long that watching him revisit the days when he was learning as he went is catnip for movie lovers.

In addition to being a dead ringer for a teenage Spielberg, LaBelle is a fantastic actor. It’s no easy feat to carry a movie on your shoulders, and LaBelle makes the assignment look easy. Williams’ performance will likely be more polarizing; she employs a very mannered speech pattern that works in some situations, but not all. The film also includes memorable short appearances by Seth Rogen, Judd Hirsch, and David Lynch.

Spielberg has provided the moviegoing public with such pleasure over the years that he deserves to have a movie that’s mostly for him. The initial viewing of The Fabelmans left this critic wanting, but perhaps it will gain more traction on a second screening.

---

The Fabelmans is now playing in theaters.

Photo by Merie Weismuller Wallace/Universal Pictures and Amblin Entertainment

Gabriel LaBelle in The Fabelmans

Texas billionaire Tilman Fertitta acquires award-winning California resort

tilman goes laguna

Fans of Tilman Fertitta's nationwide hospitality brands are in for a treat. The Billion Dollar Buyer has just secured an award-winning, 30-acre resort in sunny Southern California.

Fertitta has purchased the acclaimed Montage Laguna Beach Resort Hotel, a premier beachfront property in the sunny SoCal getaway destination. Notably, the Montage Laguna Beach Resort Hotel is one of only six hotels in the U.S. to score the Forbes Triple Five-Star hotel status. The Montage has also been included among Travel + Leisure’s Top Hotels in the World.

Image courtesy of Montage Laguna Beach

Fertitta's newest purchase overlooks the ocean in Laguna Beach.

“I am truly thrilled to acquire this world-renowned property and add one of America’s most iconic trophy resorts to our luxury hotel portfolio,” Fertitta noted in a statement. “I have been traveling to Laguna Beach for over 30 years. It is one of my favorite places to visit and one of the most beautiful areas in the world. The Montage is a stunning oceanfront property and one of the premier hotel brands in the world.”

Press materials didn't list the property purchase price, but Law360 reports that the deal is in excess of $660 million.

The Craftsman-style resort sits on a coastal bluff overlooking the Pacific Ocean. Impressive amenities are highlighted by the 20,000-square-foot Spa Montage, which offers eucalyptus steam rooms, dry redwood saunas, ocean air whirlpools, fireplace lounges, a state-of-the-art fitness center, a movement studio, and a lap pool.

More outdoor fun includes two pools and direct beach access, a museum-quality fine art collection, and more than 20,000 square feet of indoor and outdoor meeting space, per press materials.

Every resident space — the 260 guestrooms, including 60 suites, beach bungalow-style rooms, and multi-bedroom villas — boast stunning views of the Pacific.

Dining destinations offer chef-driven interpretations of coastal California flavors inspired by region. The property is designated and included in the distinctive Legend Collection of Preferred Hotels & Resorts Worldwide.

“We are thrilled that Tilman is the new owner of this one-of-a-kind property and welcome him into the Montage family,” said Alan Fuerstman, founder, CEO, and chairman of Montage International. Mary Rogers, the Montage's GM added, “The staff is thrilled to be working with Tilman. Everyone here at the property is tremendously excited about his purchase and look forward to continuing to provide a world-class experience to all of our guests."

Aside from his palatial Post Oak Hotel in Houston, Fertitta also owns 14 other hotel properties around the country, including the award-winning San Luis Resort in Galveston, plus five popular Golden Nugget casino and hotel locations.

Another feather in Fertitta’s luxury portfolio cap is the iconic Huntting Inn, one of the most charming and historic locales in East Hampton, New York.

No stranger to California, Fertitta's presence there includes Catch Seafood and Catch Steak, Mastro’s Ocean Club and Mastro’s Steakhouse, Morton’s The Steakhouse, Del Frisco’s Double Eagle Steakhouse, The Palm, and more — all part of his 60 brands and more than 600 concepts nationwide.