|Heritage Tourism Connection
Raising awareness of the importance of historic preservation to the tourism industry
|Vol 3, Issue 2
||April/May/June 2010 |
|Spring into Preservation
Spring is here, and it's a busy time of year for preservation activities. May is National Preservation Month
, and May 8-16 is National and Texas Travel and Tourism Week. Just a few of the Texas Historical Commission's (THC) many heritage tourism highlights of the season include the release of its latest regional travel guide (Texas Hill Country Trail Region
), the 2010 Annual Historic Preservation Conference
and the annual Historic Sites Free Day. B
ut preservation is not all hard work and no play, as we share in this issue of Connection, which delves into one of The National Trust for Historic Preservation
's five heritage tourism principles
: "focus on authenticity and quality." This theme is illustrated by two stories that celebrate our great state's culture of dancing and eating, plus one account of an undertold wartime story. It is our strong belief that authenticity and quality go hand-in-hand with preservation and heritage tourism, and they are the vital ingredients in Texas' many real stories told by real places.
THC Heritage Tourism Staff
|Dancing in History's Footsteps |
by Rob Hodges, Brochure Development Coordinator in THC's Marketing Communications Division
Couples twirl across the dance floor at Luckenbach Dance Hall. Photo credit: Texas Dance Hall Preservation, Inc.
Come nightfall every Friday and Saturday, Texans threw on their best duds, piled the family into horse-pulled wagons and traversed bumpy, dirt tracks until reaching the nearest wood-frame structure overflowing with music, dancing and revelry. Inside, people stayed warm in the winter
by shuffling across the wooden dance floor, or encouraged cool summertime breezes
to waft in through large, open windows on
all sides of the building (some German-
and Czech-built dance halls are octagonal
or even 12-sided). Besides quenching
many a physical and emotional thirst, rural dance halls provided entertainment,
tradition and a sense of community and pride.
More than 100 years later - despite monumental changes to the family vehicle - we are still drawn to the rural dance halls of our ancestors for many of the same reasons. A musical and cultural lineage can be easily traced, though it is circuitous - much like those now-paved country roads. From the 1880s until World War II, rural dance halls flourished; after that, urban migration surged, and focus on rural areas waned. There are about 400 dance halls statewide, but only around half still function as such, with roughly a quarter maintaining a regular schedule.
Patrick Sparks, co-founder of Texas Dance Hall Preservation, Inc.
(TDHP), maintains that the dance halls should be thought of as an important statewide entity, instead of individually. "If you look at them as a collective resource, they have a lot to offer for economic development," he states. "There's a heritage and cultural angle, as well as a tourism angle and a market for music and bands. It's similar to other tourism models, but so uniquely connected with Texas and who Texans are."
His nonprofit's mission is to sustain that unique heritage by providing technical and logistical support for restoration and rehabilitation efforts, promoting public awareness of the dance halls and raising funds for their preservation. Sparks has been thrilled to see the recent media exposure and public interest in the dance halls, and he offers four motives behind the resurgence:
- There is a move toward nostalgia or reconnecting with the past. "Generationally, you reject the culture of your parents and embrace more of your grandparents' traditions," he says.
- There is a general trend toward authentic experience. "Young people today are not necessarily into one genre of music - many like whatever is authentic," Sparks says. "They recognize that there is so much authentic history, culture and musical heritage in the halls."
- Social dancing is on an upswing. "Texans have always loved to dance, but the rest of the country is really into it now," he says.
- Urban migration is reversing to some extent. Sparks notes, "Some people are returning to rural areas as a lifestyle choice, or buying second homes in the country."
Exterior of Kendalia Halle. Photo credit: Texas Dance Hall Preservation, Inc.
Whatever the reason for the current revival, TDHP wants to develop it as a sustaining trend, rather than a cyclical fad. To that end, the organization is in the process of performing condition assessments for the restoration or rehabilitation of Hruska Hall (aka Park Hall) of Fayetteville, Turner Hall of Schulenburg and Nada Hall of Nada. But Sparks believes the best method of preservation is for people to discover the halls and dance in them. As he says, "Once people know these halls exist, then they can pick one anywhere in the state."
TDHP is encouraging that discovery by hosting the first annual Dance Across Texas, a month-long series of fund-raising dances held on weekends in April throughout the state. Participating dance halls include Club Westerner (Victoria), Kendalia Halle (near Boerne), Luckenbach Dance Hall (near Fredericksburg), Nada Hall (near Eagle Lake), Schroeder Hall (near Victoria) and Swiss Alp Hall (near Schulenburg). Proceeds will help TDHP further its mission to advocate, provide technical assistance and market Texas dance halls. So do your part: check the schedule
, pick a hall and scoot across an old dance floor!
|Captivating Crystal City|
by William McWhorter, Military Sites Program Coordinator in THC's History
Remains of the Crystal City Family Internment Camp swimming and
Crystal City lies on the southwestern fringe of the Texas Hill Country Trail Region in the "Winter Garden District" and has developed a reputation as the "Spinach Capital of the World." Approximately 120 miles southwest of San Antonio and 93 miles northwest of Laredo, Crystal City is the county seat of Zavala County.
Of notable interest in the unassuming community is a World War II site that has a significant undertold story. When the U.S. entered the war in 1941, an immediate fear was the possibility of enemy agents in the country and the Western Hemisphere. During World War II, Crystal City played a unique and noteworthy role serving as the site of one of four U.S. Department of Justice, Immigration and Naturalization Service confinement sites in the state for enemy alien detainees. Converted from an existing migratory labor camp, Crystal City Family Internment Camp was the largest facility of its kind in the U.S. and the only one built exclusively for families. The government organized the camp in Crystal City to hold mainly Japanese nationals arrested in the U.S. and Latin American countries until they could be exchanged for American and Allied detainees. Although intended for Japanese, the camp also held German and Italian detainees. At the end of the war, the government paroled the internees or sent them to their home countries, and the camp officially closed in February 1948. Unfortunately, this nationally significant site is endangered today due to a lack of public awareness and access.
The city currently owns the property, utilizing the former camp's footprint for its high school. In 2007, the THC recognized the site's local and national importance by placing a historical marker there. The site is certainly worthy of continued research due to the camp's ability to tell real stories about how World War II-era Crystal City residents and detainees experienced the war effort on the Texas home front. In an effort to improve lives through history, the THC partnered with the city and received a National Park Service Japanese American Confinement Sites Program grant to interpret the site. The planned interpretive actions will increase heritage tourism through a professionally researched travel brochure on the camp's history, as well as an onsite interpretive trail of kiosks focusing on the camp's war-time significance. Additionally, the site's history will be accessible to a worldwide audience in 2011 through a new page on the THC's web site.
|Follow Your Taste Buds South |
by Lane Hollingsworth, Texas Tropical Trail Region Executive Director
Employees roll tamales by hand at Hillcrest Tortillas, Inc. Photo credit: Valerie D. Bates.
When you go on vacation or travel somewhere unfamiliar, you want to experience the unique culture and atmosphere of the area - a desire that is easy to fulfill in the especially diverse, 20-county Texas Tropical Trail Region of South Texas. One way many travelers experience the tradition and heritage of this area is through authentic Mexican food.
Each month, the region's Board of Directors travels to a different community to showcase the history and life that make up our section of Texas. In June 2009, we visited Hebbronville in Jim Hogg County. The most memorable part of our day was touring the factory of Hillcrest Tortillas, Inc. Upon arrival at the family-owned tortilla and tamale factory, we were nearly knocked over by the overwhelming smell of fresh tortillas! Owner and founder Patricia Gonzales welcomed us by wheeling out a cart full of piping hot flour tortillas with butter. If, like me, you are used to heating up a tortilla in your microwave, then a freshly cooked, hot flour tortilla, smothered with melted butter is an unforgettable experience.
Gonzales told us about Hillcrest Tortillas, Inc. and how they strive to revive a "dying art in the Hispanic culture." She said the lack of enthusiasm for preparing homemade Mexican food is what also inspired their venture to produce quality tamales. "It seems that no one has time anymore to produce good, homemade-tasting flour tortillas and tamales," she added.
All over the world, certain foods are associated with specific destinations, and South Texas' claim to fame is authentic Mexican food. By providing countless people with flour tortillas and tamales, the Gonzales family is continuing a true Mexican culinary tradition. And, if my taste buds serve me correctly, they are doing a sublime job!
|Texas Hill Country Trail Region Brochure Launch |
Travelers can head for the hills to experience scenic beauty and small-town charm with the THC's latest travel guide, the Texas Hill Country Trail Region
. The THC's last of 10 regional travel brochures will be unveiled in Blanco on April 14 in the Uptown Blanco Courtyard from 11 a.m. to 1 p.m. (with a performance by the Jeremy Miller Band from 10 a.m. to 11 a.m.). The public is invited to attend the free celebration of the Texas mystique, with highlights that will include a reenactment by the Former Texas Rangers
, chuckwagon cooking and samples of delectable Hill Country cuisine. To RSVP for this event, contact Ann Branson, executive director for the heritage region, at 830.739.1362 or by email
The THC's regional travel guides tell the real stories of the real places of this great state. These brochures are products of the THC's nationally award-winning heritage tourism initiative, the Texas Heritage Trails Program
, which encourages people to get out and rediscover the state's historic, pre-historic and cultural wonders. The free guides are available for download
, or print copies may be ordered by calling 866.276.6219.
|2010 Annual Historic Preservation Conference |
Make plans to network, learn new skills and enjoy the sights and sounds of Houston by attending the THC's 2010 Annual Historic Preservation Conference, sponsored in association with Preservation Texas
. April 9 is the online registration
deadline for the conference held at the Westin Oaks Houston, April 22-24.
This year's conference will include four concurrent session tracks: resource fundamentals, resource development, preservation advocacy and public engagement. There is one featured professional content opportunity - "Section 106 Workshop for Professionals." This year's keynote speaker is American West historian and biographer Michael Wallis, whose notable works include Route 66: The Mother Road
, Billy the Kid: The Endless Ride
and The Lincoln Highway: Coast to Coast from Times Square to the Golden Gate
. Tours before and after the conference will include highlights of Houston's Art Deco and mid-century modern structures, the San Jacinto Battlefield and the Clayton Library Center for Genealogical Research. The conference will also feature events honoring recipients of the T.R. Fehrenbach Book Award and the THC's two most prestigious awards, the Ruth Lester Lifetime Achievement Award and the Curtis D. Tunnell Lifetime Achievement Award in Archeology. The conference marketplace features commercial and nonprofit vendors with products and services beneficial to the preservation community. More information can be found on the THC's web site
or by calling the THC's Marketing Communications Division at 512.463.6255.
|Historic Sites Free Day |
The annual Historic Sites Free Day will take place on Sunday, May 16 at 19 of the THC's properties
. The public will have an opportunity to experience the real stories of these real places for free admission all day, as well as special events and tours at many of the sites. Historic Sites Free Day will be held in conjunction with the National Trust for Historic Preservation's Preservation Month
and the National and Texas Travel and Tourism Week (May 8-16). For more information about activities at various sites on Historic Sites Free Day, see the THC Calendar
|Plan Ahead for Preservation |
by Tracey Silverman, Agency Planner for the THC
Every 10 years, the THC and our partners develop a Statewide Preservation Plan for Texas
. This is an important opportunity to lay a pathway for Texans to preserve, protect and leverage our historic and cultural assets for the betterment of our communities.
We want to develop a different kind of plan this time, one that works hard for Texans. We envision it being a dynamic, web-based tool loaded with resources, best practices, case studies and local applications. This plan will have an eye toward achievable goals and activities that we can all implement. But in order for this plan to be about you, we need your help.
Hopefully, you took the preservation survey that launched the planning process - more than 1,000 Texans did! Next, come to our Annual Historic Preservation Conference
this April in Houston, and help create the vision for preservation in Texas. We'll also be in your neck of the woods this summer, and we hope to see you at one of these statewide planning forums:
- Canyon - May 20, 1:30-4 p.m.
- Canton - May 25, 1:30-4 p.m.
- Beaumont - June 15, 1:30-4 p.m.
- El Paso - June 28, 6-8:30 p.m.
- Alpine - June 29 (evening reception); June 30 (planning forum, 10 a.m.-12:30 p.m.)
- Brownsville - July 15, 6-8:30 p.m.
- San Angelo - July 22, 1:30-4 p.m.
- Austin - July 28, 4-6:30 p.m.
Learn more or stay informed about the plan on our statewide plan web page. For questions or comments, call 512.936.9615.
|Heritage Tourism Listserv |
Are you interested in learning more about heritage tourism? Want the latest on educational seminars, workshops, conferences and other professional development opportunities relating to heritage tourism and preservation? Does timely information on grant opportunities for your heritage tourism program or project sound appealing? Want a heads-up on heritage- and preservation-based events and activities of statewide interest? If so, please join the heritage tourism listserv.
Once you become a member of this listserv, you not only receive information from us, but you also gain the ability to send out announcements and questions to more than 800 like-minded individuals who deal with heritage tourism issues on a daily basis.
If you would like to join, please contact Teresa Caldwell, Assistant State Coordinator for Heritage Tourism, at 512.463.5755 or by email
|Got a Story Idea?
Do you have a story or idea you think should be included in Connection
? Please give comments or suggestions to Rob Hodges at 512.936.2399 or by email