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The Austin Symphony presents Elf in Concert

The Austin Symphony presents Elf in Concert

Elf Official Facebook

As part of the Sarah & Ernest Butler Pops Series, The Austin Symhony will present Elf in Concert, conducted by Peter Bay.

In the film, Buddy was accidentally transported to the North Pole as a toddler and raised to adulthood among Santa’s elves. Unable to shake the feeling that he doesn’t fit in, the adult Buddy travels to New York, in full elf uniform, in search of his real father.

The audience can relive this heartwarming holiday classic on a giant screen as every note of John Debney’s score is played live to picture.

Photo courtesy of Zach Theatre

ZACH Theatre presents Holiday Heroes

ZACH Theatre presents Holiday Heroes

Back by popular demand, the original Holiday Heroes returns with some new songs and surprises. In this hilarious fun holiday sing-along, everyone gets into the holiday spirit with Ernie and Rufus. At the joyous, toe-tapping good time, audiences can celebrate the season with singing, laughter, and holiday cheer for all.

Springs Family YMCA presents Annual Cookie Fest

The Springs Family YMCA is bringing back a favorite holiday tradition with its annual Cookie Fest. The event will include various activities, such as pictures with Santa, a moon bounce, games, face painting, crafts, and, most importantly, cookies. Guests can purchase a cookie box and fill it with as many cookies as they can.

Photo courtesy of Texas Parks & Wildlife

Texas state parks beckon this holiday season with festive events and peaceful escapes

Silent nights

If roasting s'mores and hiking in the great outdoors sounds fun, pack up your family and visit one of Texas’ state parks this holiday season.

Texas state parks and historic sites are ringing in the holidays with a number of festive events. There are drive-thru light tours, special holiday hikes, arts and crafts for the kiddos, and more.

Reservations fill up quickly, so be sure to visit an individual park's website before you head out. And check the Holidays in the Parks page for many more fun options, pricing information, and more information.

Austin/San Antonio-area parks

Bastrop State Park
Follow ornaments with clues through the park every day in December during the annual Fa La La Through The Forest Scavenger Hunt. Enjoy the Lost Pines Christmas Parade, a collaborative event with Bastrop and Buescher Parks, at 6 pm December 10. Tour the inside of the historic Refectory and see how the Civilian Conservation Corps celebrated Christmas away from home during A Lost Pines CCC Christmas 9 am-12 pm December 17.

Lyndon B. Johnson State Park & Historic Site
Visit the popular attraction during December to learn how the farm staff get ready for das Weihnachten (Christmas). Return to the park at 5:30 pm December 18 for the 53rd Annual Tree Lighting, a holiday tradition started by President and Mrs. Johnson.

Garner State Park
Join the Buffalo Soldiers program and friends as they stop into Garner State Park before leaving for Christmas break during the Marching Towards Christmas event 10 am-2 pm December 10. Christmas activities will include hand-dipped candles, frontier Christmas painting, Christmas-themed hard tack in Dutch ovens, and stories of the Buffalo Soldiers.

Buescher State Park
On the Fa La La in the Forest Scavenger Hunt, you can follow ornaments with clues through the park to secure a prize at the end, December 1 to January 1. Enjoy the Smithville Festival of Lights and Lighted Parade, a collaborative effort between Buescher and Bastrop parks, on December 3.

Hill Country State Natural Area
See how art, history and state parks are connected; learn some basic watercolor techniques and paint a card or two to take home during the Watercolor Christmas Cards event 2:30-4 pm December 3. Come back for Horses in History & Ornament Craft from 2:30-4 pm December 22 and learn how horses played important roles in the lives of vaqueros, native people, ranchers and more. Then, play a round of horseshoes and paint a horse ornament to take with you.

South Llano River State Park
At Christmas at the Ranch, 2-5 pm December 3, guests can warm up with hot chocolate and cider, listen to live entertainment, enjoy crafts and cookie decorating, and anticipate Santa's visit while taking in the twinkling lights and Christmas decorations at the historic Ranch House that now serves as Park Headquarters.

Dallas-Fort Worth-area parks

Tyler State Park
Enjoy Reading Ranger Campfire Stories around a cozy campfire at 3 pm December 3. Head back December 9-10 for A Pineywoods Christmas, when you can stroll or drive through the Lakeview and Big Pine campgrounds to take in campers' elaborately decorated sites and take a Winter Wonderland Hike.

Lake Tawakoni State Park
Drive through or stay at the park and decorate your campsite with your favorite Christmas decorations to receive your second night of camping free during your stay. There will be a decorating contest, complete with awards, as well as a reading of The Night before Christmas — all part of Twinkle Tour 2022, 5-8 pm December 3.

Daingerfield State Park
Drive through the park lit up like Santa Land during the 10th annual Christmas in the Park drive thru lights tour December 14-17 (times vary). Marvel at the decorated campsites and lights, and enjoy hot chocolate and cookies while waiting for a chance to visit with Santa.

Eisenhower State Park
Help those in need and spread holiday cheer — and as a bonus, get free entry to the park — by bringing one unwrapped donation item to the park’s Holiday Donation Drive through December 19. Visit December 9-10 to visit the Light Up the Park drive-thru lights event, featuring milk and cookies with Santa. This year, the park is taking unwrapped toys to donate instead of collecting entrance fees for the event.

Cleburne State Park
Enjoy Pancakes With Santa and make pinecone bird feeders 9-11 am December 10.

Cedar Hill State Park
Search for birds taking their winter break at the park during their Winter Birding Walk, which takes place 7:30-8:30 am December 13. Explore Christmas on Penn Farm on December 17: Learn about the history and pioneers of the Penn Family and the farm they built 150 years ago.

Lake Mineral Wells State Park
Experience Christmas, cowboy style, at Cross Timbers Cowboy Christmas, December 3. Park ranger and cowboy poet David Owens will gather guests around a campfire at the Lone Star Amphitheater for an evening of cowboy culture through songs, stories and poems.

Dinosaur Valley State Park
In partnership with Toys for Tots, the park is hosting Christmas in the Valley, a full day of ranger-led events, programs, family friendly activities, arts and crafts, food and more. Bring a new and unwrapped toy for free admission for the whole family. The event takes place 1-4 pm December 17.

Houston and Gulf Coast-area parks

Brazos Bend State Park
Holiday in the Park is an all-day affair on December 10. Events include a self-guided "Elf Hike," Christmas crafts, "Pup Parade," s'mores, and more.

Goose Island State Park
See the park in lights, enjoy holiday activities, and camp for free when you decorate your campsite during Christmas in the Park on December 17. Guests are invited to "Santa's Village" at the CCC Recreation Hall for holiday crafts, games, hot chocolate around the campfire, and to drop off letters to Santa in the North Pole Mailbox.

Lake Corpus Christi State Park
Get in the holiday spirit with the second annual Holiday Light Drive Thru, 6-9 pm December 10. Visitors can enter the park for a drive through the lighted areas of Javelina and Opossum Bend camping loops, plus the Old Pavilion.

West Texas and the Panhandle-area parks

Franklin Mountains State Park
On December 3, make ornaments and holiday cards with recycled materials as part of the Art in the Parks series. During Cookies and Cocoa, you can decorate and take home your own Christmas treat while sipping on a cup of hot chocolate 2-4 pm December 23. Come back on Christmas Eve for a guided, two-mile Santa Hike at 11 am.

Hueco Tanks State Park & Historic Site
Bring your family out for Home for the Holidays guided family hike on December 10 and moderate hike on December 17.

San Angelo State Park
Enjoy a drive-thru tour of lights and optional pictures with Santa and Smokey Bear during Holly-Days in the Park, 6-8 pm December 10.

Photo by freestocks on Unsplash

Affluent Austin suburb cashes in with one of the biggest holiday budgets in the U.S.

Santa Baby

As the most wonderful time of the year approaches, holiday shopping budgets are in the spotlight, and a study from WalletHub puts one affluent Austin suburb on the "nice list," where Santa doesn't need a whole lot of help.

According to WalletHub, Cedar Park boasts a jolly big holiday budget of $2,855 per person this year, the 14th highest in the U.S.

Each year, WalletHub calculates the maximum holiday budget for over 550 U.S. cities "to help consumers avoid post-holiday regret," the website says. The study factors in income, age of the population, and other financial indicators such as debt-to-income ratio, monthly-income-to monthly-expenses ratio and savings-to-monthly-expenses ratio.

Despite nationwide focus on inflation strains, holiday spending is expected to be healthy, and higher than last year.

"The seeming social upheaval in recent times may lead households to spend more in an attempt to take some control of the environment which they can control," says Robert Wright, University of Illinois, Springfield professor emeritus who was among five experts consulted for advice about holiday shopping.

Only one Texas city outranks Cedar Park in holiday spending: the Dallas suburb of Flower Mound, with a budget of $3,531 — the third highest in the U.S.

While Flower Mound was the only Texas city in the top 10, there's plenty of Lone Star holiday cheer to be found in the report. In total, 15 Texas cities landed in this year's top 100 heftiest holiday budgets:

  • Flower Mound, No. 3, $3,531
  • Cedar Park, No. 14, $2,855
  • Sugar Land, No. 15, $2,793
  • Allen, No. 17, $2,670
  • League City, No. 20, $2,541
  • Pearland, No. 36, $2,172
  • Frisco, No. 37, $2,150
  • McKinney, No. 45, $2,070
  • Plano, No. 50, $1,999
  • Carrollton, No. 55, $1,837
  • Richardson, No. 58, $1,823
  • The Woodlands, No. 71, $1,733
  • Austin, No. 78, $1,705
  • North Richland Hills, No. 81, $1,658
  • Lewisville, No. 90, $1,630

Austin boasts the biggest holiday budget among Texas' major metros by far. Fort Worth ranked No. 318 with a budget of $986; Houston landed at No. 366 with a budget of $890; Dallas ranked No. 401 with an average holiday budget of $845; and San Antonio came in at No. 431 with an average budget of $803.

Finally, at No. 553 with a budget of $487, sits the Rio Grande Valley city of Pharr. It's the lowest-ranked Texas city and comes in just a few spots ahead of last place Hartford, Connecticut, with a budget of only $211.

Photo courtesy of The Little Gay Shop

The Little Gay Shop & Eastside Pop Up present Holigay Market

At the Holigay Market, presented by The Little Gay Shop and Eastisde Pop Up, visitors can eat, drink, be merry, and shop elf-made goods from a village of over 50 local vendors and makers. It'll be lit. There will be free coffee from Luna Espresso & Oatly (while supplies last) and a photo booth with Drag Santa featuring Gothless Jasmine.

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Mobile vet company brings its no-rush, stress-free services to Austin homes

Home Is Where the Vet Is

Austin, one of the largest no-kill shelter cities in the United States, already knows a lot about adopting instead of shopping. A puppy is a wonderful addition to the family, but senior dogs need love (and are loved), too. As many have learned firsthand, taking care of a senior pet can be challenging — with higher medical bills, potentially heavy lifting as joints stiffen, and tough decisions to make about what kind of care is necessary — but also incredibly rewarding.

November is National Senior Pet Health Month, calling for awareness about an older pet’s needs, and providing opportunities to celebrate wins all over local news. In Austin, one of those wins came in scrubs. The Vets, a mobile veterinary service that makes house calls, expanded into Austin in 2022 (after launching the year prior), eventually bringing the national count to 16 locations including Houston and Dallas. Texas and California are tied for the most locations, at three each.

“Among the top reasons that pet owners avoid or postpone their visit to the vet clinic include the stress of transporting their pet, restrictive pet carriers, and crowded waiting rooms,” explained a statement from the company. “Our no-rush visits give your pet the time to bond with our vet and you the opportunity to ask questions. And you always have the option to rebook the same vet to help grow that special relationship over time.”

This team provides care for every stage in a pet’s life, and most of their needs, too; that’s everything from routine wellness exams, microchipping, nutrition consulting, and even emergency services including those with specialized equipment like ultrasound machines. When the time comes to ease a pet’s end-of-life transition, the team also offers at-home euthanasia, dramatically reducing stress for both pets and people who don’t want a sterile environment or a tearful drive home.

The American Veterinary Medical Association lists many needs for senior pets, including increased medical care, vaccinations, and pet parents that are observant about environmental concerns like house structure and stimulation. With a home vet, pet owners might consider asking for opinions on how to streamline some of these interactions, without having to worry about having to write notes, try to remember potential issues in the space, or miss any important details a professional would see right away.

A good vet can make animals comfortable no matter what, but The Vets emphasizes the stronger relationships that its team can build in a comfortable, stress-free environment. In addition to a more convenient and comfortable experience, this can also mean better care for a pet that doesn’t have an entire puppyhood to adjust.

More information about The Vets, including scheduling, is available at thevets.com.

Austin-area pig rescue wins Airbnb contest to build one-of-a-kind pig-themed guest house

This Place is a Pigsty

KVUE — From tens of thousands of entries from around the world, 100 aspiring designers, architects, DIYers, and makers from more than 20 countries and regions have been chosen to bring their unique space ideas to life as part of the $10,000,000 Airbnb OMG! Fund.

One of those winners is Tracey Stabile, director of the Central Texas Pig Rescue (CTPR) in Austin. Tracey and Dan Illescas, founders of Central Texas Pig Rescue, will receive up to $100,000 to create a one-of-a-kind pig-shaped guest space. Over the course of the next 10 months, they will design, construct, and outfit the space to be guest-ready by summer 2023.

"Basically the OMG! Fund contest was a way for people to be really playful and kind of invent a really cool dwelling that would be something that's totally notable to people and be a destination," said Stabile.

Stabile said Airbnb left all of the freedom of creativity up to them. They went through several rounds of design and planning and review.

"Each step of the way, we were like, 'We're one step closer.' It was very exciting. Just getting those emails at each milestone and seeing that we were actually contenders in this contest. Then the fact that we, of course, won and now we're going to be able to build this amazing thing that we absolutely never would have been able to build under other circumstances. It's just an amazing opportunity," stated Stabile.

Stabile said she wanted to build something that was a little bit unpredictable and wanted to avoid some of the shapes that people might expect. The current pig sanctuary in Smithville, about 45 minutes outside of Austin, is home to over 200 pigs that were saved from abandonment. The sanctuary houses a mix of all different types of pigs, mostly potbellied pigs, and is 100 percent volunteer run and 100 percent donation based.

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Read the full story and watch the video at KVUE.com.

University of Texas launches $10 million seed fund with investment in vaccine storage pioneer

Sprouting Ideas

Planting a seed seems like a quaint activity, but the University of Texas at Austin doesn't do anything small. Its new $10 million UT seed fund is going into incubation soon, thanks to the efforts of Discovery to Impact, the team leading the University's "research commercialization and innovation efforts."

Except for its scale, this project is no different from any other seed investment, which inputs capital into a business in the form of a lump sum, in exchange for a portion of the business. In this case, the recipients are "promising new startups built on university-owned intellectual property," according to a press release. In total, UT Austin estimates that this intellectual property, or research enterprise, totals $800 million, a number it commits to "dramatically expand."

“By investing in these early-stage companies, we will be addressing a crucial gap in the capital market and enabling development of impactful technologies, while encouraging investors to consider opportunities coming out of the university,” said vice president of business strategies and operations Jim Davis in the release.

Discovery to Impact helps launch startups and stays on board through the many growing pains many startups experience, helping to accelerate "new products, services, solutions and cures." This means choosing and collaborating with three or four new companies each year, and when divided, the seed does appear rather small: companies can expect no more than a $250,000 investment.

The first seed will be planted in Jurata Thin Film, in order to grow solutions that streamline vaccine and biologic development and distribution worldwide. As many who followed COVID-19 vaccine news are aware, one major problem in distributing a vaccine is keeping it cold and stable. Jurata, based on the work of UT College of Pharmacy professor Maria Croyle, makes "thin films" (look up this keyword to see how unique Croyle's contribution is) that preserve vaccines for up to three years at room temperature. This is excellent news for communities with fewer resources or more arduous shipping needs.

The company is still relatively young, although not brand-new, having been founded in 2019. Its leadership has more experience; CEO Sheila Mikhail and co-founder Jude Samulski have previously collaborated on Asklepios BioPharmaceutical Inc. (AskBio) and Bamboo Therapeutics Inc.

The UT Seed Fund investment, along with other funding, will help bring about a pilot-scale manufacturing line that can create 1,000 doses of loaded thin films per hour, plus studies to ensure the safety of the formulation under the tongue, inside the cheek, and via intramuscular injection.

“Jurata is very excited to be the first recipient of UT Seed Fund,” said Jurata’s senior director of business development, Megan Livingston. “UT has been extremely supportive of our technology and development, and we look forward to continuing our relationship through this investment.”

A similar seed fund already exists at the University of Texas at Dallas, with larger sums for each business. More information about research at UT Austin is available at utexas.edu.