Photo courtesy Black Barn Alpacas

After a dazzling debut earlier this fall, Black Barn Alpaca ranch has transformed from pumpkin patch to winter wonderland just in time for Christmas. Beginning this Saturday, December 10, the farm will host two weekends of holiday fun for the whole family.

Located just under two hours from Austin, the Floresville farm is home to 50 adorable alpacas. For the winter festivities, the 16-acre property invites guests to shop, eat, and play with Santa and his favorite alpacas.

General festivities will take place from noon to 8 pm both Saturdays (December 10 and December 17), and from noon to 5 pm both Sundays (December 11 and December 18). A host of unique craft vendors and local food and beverage purveyors will be on site, as well as plenty of family-friendly activities. Kids will have a chance to decorate their bikes or wagons for a special parade (4 pm on Saturdays and 3 pm on Sundays), and the winner will take home a gift card to a local business.

While the alpacas will of course remain the stars of the show, Santa will visit the ranch both Saturdays at 4:30 pm and Sundays at 2 pm. Guests can also join a host of carolers both weekends (5:30 pm Saturdays; 2:30 pm Sundays), because as Buddy the Elf says, "the best way to spread holiday cheer is to sing loud for all to hear."

Admission to the event is $10, which can be purchased online or at the gate. Kids aged 2 and under are free, and guests can also feed the alpacas for $5 per feed bag on a first-come, first-serve basis.

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Texas scores top ranking among best states for dating, says new report

Not-so-Lone Star

Couples, step aside – this Valentine’s day is for the unattached. Personal finance website WalletHub released their report of this year’s Best and Worst States for Singles, and the Lone Star State claimed the No. 1 spot in two out of six categories. Coming in at No. 4 overall, Texas ranked behind California (No. 1), New York (No. 2), and Florida (No. 3).

The report’s findings were determined by comparing dating economics, opportunities, and romance and fun across all 50 states. For date opportunities, the top four overall winners tied for No. 1 in the most restaurants per capita category, while Texas and California also tied for highest number of movie theaters per capita

Other categories in the report include online and mobile dating opportunities, median annual household income, share of single adults, gender balance of singles, and crime rate.

Besides holding a No. 1 spot for most restaurants and movie theaters per capita, Texas received the following rankings in other categories:

  • 9th – Median annual household income (adjusted for cost of living)
  • 17th – Mobile-dating opportunities
  • 23rd – Online-dating opportunities
  • 30th – Percentage of residents 12+ who are fully vaccinated against COVID-19

With the soaring popularity of virtual dating during and after the COVID-19 pandemic, one expert believes it gives people a better understanding of a potential partner before meeting face-to-face.

“People might go into in-person dates with more knowledge about the person and more confidence about who they are,” according to Dr. Andrew High, associate professor and Director of Graduate Studies at Pennsylvania State University. “Still, online dating is only one way to meet people, and there are plenty of opportunities to meet people in person.”

Individual Texas destinations also ranked highly for singles in another recent report from WalletHub comparing 180 U.S. cities. In that study, Austin earned the No. 7 ranking for single people, with Seattle taking the lead. Houston came in at No. 69, with San Antonio taking No. 83 and Dallas coming close behind at No. 87.

The full report and its methodology can be found at wallethub.com.

2 Hollywood celebrities dined at one of Austin’s best restaurants this week

Hollywood in Austin

If there are two things we already know about Austin, it’s that celebrities love it here, and Uchi is always the right choice. While most Austinites were cozying up at home last night, Alison Brie and husband Dave Franco were dining at the award-winning restaurant.

Uchi posted the news on Instagram earlier today, sharing an abbreviated clip from the pair’s morning interview with Fox 7 Austin.

“We went to Uchi last night,” Franco says. “One of the best meals we’ve had in a very long time.”

Responding to the shoutout, Uchi wrote: "What a great surprise to wake up to! (And no, we're not taking about this winter weather in Texas.) Thank you Dave Franco and @AlisonBrie for their kind words on @Fox7Austin this morning. Congrats on your new movie, we hope to see you again soon!"

But before you worry about more California transplants, take comfort in the fact that — at least for now — the celebrity duo were in town for a screening of their upcoming film Somebody I Used to Know. Written by Brie and Franco, directed by Franco, and starring Brie, the romantic comedy follows workaholic Ally (Brie) as she reunites with her ex-boyfriend Sean (Jay Ellis), which makes her question her life choices.

In another shout out to Austin icons, Brie shared a picture of her and Franco with Alamo Drafthouse founder Tim League on her Instagram stories, thanking both the theater and its founder for hosting the screening.

Somebody I Used to Know will premier on Amazon Prime on February 10.

Austin queer film festival falls in love with Black stories for February mini-series

Doubly Proud

Representation matters, and Austin Gay and Lesbian International Film Festival (aGLIFF) has been at it for 35 years. The flagship festival is months away — not even scheduled yet — but a February mini-series on February 16 will celebrate Black History Month in one 40-minute documentary and three award-winning short films at the intersections of Black and LGBTQIA+ identity.

The event, "Been Here: Queer, Black & Proud," is a collaboration between aGLIFF and _OFCOLOR, Beyond Brotha, JAT Creative, and the George Washington Carver Museum. The latter will host the screening, as well as a reception and performance by local drag performer Amber Nicole Davenport. Afterwards, there will be a discussion with director Nathan Hale Williams (All Boys Aren’t Blue) and community leaders.

All Boys Aren’t Blue (2021), the main billing, is based on a memoir and series of essays by George M. Johnson emphasizing “gender identity, toxic masculinity, brotherhood, family, structural marginalization, consent, and Black joy,” according to a release about the event.

The documentary stages a reading by three actors who embody the author at different times, joined by singer and actress Jenifer Lewis. The story focuses on youth (Johnson is still only in their late 30s), and holds special value for younger audiences who may be navigating similar topics from childhood to college.

Three short films follow the main screening:

  • The Funnel (2022) takes place on the South Side of Chicago during a housing crisis, exploring topics about romance, ancestry and displacement. Trina, the main character, is a poet who views the experience through generations of women.
  • How Not To Date While Trans (2022) boldly chronicles the dating history of a Black trans woman. The 12-minute film colloquially packs in important context about the trans experience through Andie’s rapid-fire, stream-of-consciousness narration to the audience.
  • Buffalo (2019) is written, produced, and portrayed by Paul Oakley Stovall (directed by Freddie Paull). The film turns the sexy delivery guy trope around into something sentimental and healing about a sexual awakening in the throes of grief.

The Funnel and How Not To Date While Trans are 2022 winners the Queer Black Voices Fund, aGLIFF's effort at responding to the 2020 police brutality protests and ongoing crisis. It aims to support "queer Black filmmakers, directors, writers, and actors," by ensuring that they are included annually in the organization's programming and lessening the financial load in applying and visiting Austin. The fund has raised nearly $20,000 by January of 2023.

Tickets (starting at $20 depending on date of purchase) for "Been Here: Queer, Black & Proud" are available at agliff.org. The screenings and surrounding events take place on February 16 from 6-9 pm at the George Washington Carver Museum.