Best Summer Events in Dallas

Things to do in Dallas

School is out and the heat is on, which means it is finally summer. Whether it’s trying new foods, listening to great music, or enjoying a performance there are plenty of options all summer long. Here are a few ideas for things to do in Dallas:

Laugh, cry and cheer for your heroes at Shakespeare in the Park at the Samuell-Grand Amphitheatre. This summer’s performances include “The Merry Wives of Windsor” and “Quixote.” The second performance is a special celebration of the anniversary of Miguel de Cervantes and William Shakespeare. Attributed to Shakespeare, “The History of Cardenio” is said to be based on an episode from Cervantes’ “Don Quixote.” The team from Shakespeare in the Park promises a Texas makeover for this summer’s performance, in celebration of the state’s cultural landscape. “The Merry Wives of Windsor” opens June 11, with “Quixote” following June 21. Tuesdays and Wednesdays are “pay what you can” nights, with a suggested donation of $10.

Bring out your best costumes for this year’s Tour de Fat by New Belgium Brewing Company. Festival organizers say to expect the unexpected with circus performers, magicians and comedians all together in one space. Events include a fashion show, and a slow ride where the slowest racer wins. Those who participate in the costume contest have the chance of winning a New Belgium Cruiser bike.This year’s headlining performance is the Texas-based rock band Jamestown Revival. Tickets are $25, and proceeds go toward the bicycle advocacy group Bike DFW.

Grab a large blanket and relax outdoors at the Reunion Lawn Party held the last Saturday of every month this summer. The first one of the summer is a FC Dallas takeover, featuring a live DJ and The High Definition Band. There are plenty of lawn games available on site if you forget to bring your own. A variety of food trucks and craft beer or wine options are also available for purchase. The event is free to attend and takes place in downtown Dallas at the base of Reunion Tower.

Celebrate joie de vivre during Bastille Days Dallas. The two-day festival is a celebration of French National Day on June 14. Originally named, Bastille on Bishop the festival has grown from a few hundred participants to the thousands in 2015. Look out for a street performance by the Danielle Georgiou Dance Group, or the Circus Freaks performing ensemble. The family-friendly festival invites people to wear French-inspired costumes or their best fashion forward ensemble. Both Bastille days are free to attend, the only ticket needed is for adults who wish to drink wine.

Bust a move at the Dallas Hip-Hop Dance Festival July 28 and 29. Dancers from all over the U.S. come to compete in the festival, which falls on National Dance Day. The event includes a main competition and a variety of workshops by choreographers throughout the day at the convention. Past choreographers include Sean Bankhead, Keith Clark and Tricia Miranda. This year’s faculty include Nika Klujn, Lee Daniel and Trevor Takemoto. Look out for intense competition at the Krump vs Popping battle, which costs $20 to battle and $15 to spectate at the final round. Winners of the dance battles walk away with trophies and cash prizes.

Get a taste of Dallas at this year’s DFW Restaurant week. More than 125 restaurants in the area are participating with two-course and three-course options. There is also a special lunch option priced at $20 per person. The week starts with a Kick Off Festival August 3. The festival promises appearances by top restaurants, a variety of wines and a performance by Linda Elder. Participating restaurants donate 20 percent of the price of each meal to the North Texas Food Bank in Dallas. More information about the week will be available online at

Join in what’s called the “Woodstock of gaming” known as QuakeCon. The festival has taken place for the past 20 years and draws gamers from around the world. The video gaming convention features a Bring Your Own Computer area for people to playing against and with each other during a Local Area Network (LAN) party. While the main draw is the competition, people can check out various workshops, upcoming video games and video game exhibits at the free event taking place August 24-27.

Cool off from the summer Texas heat at the Deep Ellum Water Balloon Wars August 27. More than 2,000 people participate in throwing more than 60,000 water balloons. For the 18 and older crowd, the festival includes a Slip N Slide, Dunk Tanks and fun ducking and dodging from an onslaught of water balloons. There will also be food trucks, frozen treats and live music. Tickets range from $15 to $30 to attend. Hosted by the Deep Ellum Community Association, the event proceeds go toward the 45 Fund which aids in suicide prevention and awareness.

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New Chinese Leader Kicking Corruption in the Butt

Xi Jinping is taking an aggressive stance against corruption by attacking government extravagance


China’s new leader, Xi Jinping has just assumed power in the country.  While sometimes the coming of a new leader means little more than a change in whose name appears at the bottom of official documents, this guy is walking in with a serious agenda.  He wants to make some changes and he’s not shy about saying so.  His first movement is to ban the “royal lifestyles” of communist party members in an effort to curb corruption.

Corruption is, as most know, one of the biggest problems in China.  During its more heavily communist years, the government of China could do pretty much anything they wanted, including hording money and spending the people’s taxes on useless crap.  Now that capitalism is taking root in the market this tendency of old is shifting form.  The leaders use their influence to secure control of key profitable industries and make their bank accounts swell even bigger.  Many have tried to combat this corruption, and many have fallen from grace because of their convictions.  But now it’s time for Xi to take a shot at it.

The plan that he submitted involves cutting back on the ceremonial aspects of government officials’ lives.  He is trying to prohibit the expenditure of money on things like elaborate presentations and great banquets as well as calling for a halt to “empty talk” - the useless meanderings that many politicians are prone to during public speeches.  He also wants the state-run press to avoid reporting on these ramblings.

When asked why he chose to attack this type of waste, Xi noted that corruption and self-indulgent officials have cause many problems, and not just in China.  The world has seen more than its fair share of problems due to corrupt governments.  There have been uprisings, such as in the Middle East and Northern Africa, and protests, such as the Occupy movements in the U.S. and other places.  He has no wish to follow these examples.

In my opinion, this is one of the best things the Chinese government can do to help their situation.  At the basic level, they will save money - money they can use for economic development.  On a more interpersonal level, they will make themselves appear more human in the eyes of their citizens.  When officials are seen as royalty or as a collection of rich, elite interests, the citizens do not identify with them.  This leads to less trust and less obedience and thus, more problems.

Whether this is just a symbolic gesture from Xi remains to be seen.  There is a chance that he may be just what China needs to get past the problems they’ve been seeing in the last year.  Even if it’s the only thing he ever does, turning officials into servants of the people and not rich overlords who need to be indulged will go a long way toward making China one of the premiere states of the future.

Hamauri Beach Day

A Japanese celebration catering to women’s relaxation.

Hamauri Beach Day is a tradition in Japan (though most prevalent in Okinawa) in which women, for one day of the year during the month of March, take the day off and go to the beach.  The original intent behind this is rooted in the past, when women would seek to purify themselves each year by bathing in the sea.  Those who celebrate Hamauri Beach Day still take some time out to take a dip, but now it’s more about just relaxing and enjoying time with friends and family than anything else.

The legend behind the ritual involves a young woman who was seduced by a gentleman stranger.  The parents, upon discovering that she was pregnant, decided to find out more about the man.  They followed him into a cave where they discovered that he was a snake in disguise.  In order to prevent herself from giving birth to the snake’s children, the woman had to enter the sea.  Most of that meaning has been lost over time, but many still believe that the ritual is useful for casting out bad spirits and promoting good health in young women.

Hamauri Beach Day today is a beach party of sorts. There is plenty of food, stage performances featuring almost exclusively female musicians, people singing and dancing and markets selling crafts and the like.  Young women and their families gather together to enjoy the day while the men (usually) stay at home, doing the chores for the day.

This relaxed event is a good chance for female visitors to Japan to meet with the locals in an environment that caters to them.  It is a unique celebration that can be enjoyable to anyone, regardless of where they come from and whether they believe in the tradition or not.

Bhangarh Fort

A cursed castle in India that’s considered one of the most haunted places on Earth.

Located in the state of Rajasthan, the ruins of Bhangarh Fort have a reputation for being a hot-house of supernatural activity.  It is considered by many to be the most haunted place in India and one of the top 10 most haunted places on the entire planet.  Built in 1573, it was completely abandoned, along with the neighboring city of Bhangarh, by the year 1783.  Though some live nearby, the old city still remains unoccupied due to its foreboding nature.

There are two legends that explain why Bhangarh Fort is cursed today.  The first concerns a religious figure by the name of Guru Balu Nath.  Living at the site where the fort is today, although before its construction, the guru approved the building 

of the fort and its palace, though with one condition.  He said that if ever the shadow of the palace touched him, he would curse it.  One of the princes of a later time built the palace higher and higher, eventually breaking that agreement.  The city was cursed and the people of the town left.

The other legend involves a princess and a magician.  He was in love with the princess, but his station would never allow him to approach her.  So instead, he tried to slip her a love potion.  She ended up seeing him and tricking him, resulting in his death.  With his dying breath, he cursed the fort and the city.

Those in the region take the haunting very seriously.  There is even a legal prohibition against visiting the ruins before sunrise or after sunset.  Some tales exist of people trying to sneak in and stay the night, never to return.  There are also reports of figures moving about in the ruins at night, loud, maniacal laughter, screaming, flickering lights and spontaneous dust storms.

Bhangarh Fort is a neat little piece of Indian history and a great destination for those interested in supernatural phenomena.  Or, it’s also a nice place to visit for people who just want to see some amazing Indian ruins, even if they don’t believe.

Anvil Shooting Competitions

A uniquely Southern American tradition of blowing anvils hundreds of feet into the air

The tradition of anvil shooting is one that dates back as far as the American Civil War.  According to legend, when the Union armies marched through the South, they wanted to take out their enemy’s capability to work metal. 

To do that, they would place gunpowder underneath their anvils and light it with a fuse.  Once the powder blew, the anvils would go rocketing into the sky, rarely coming out in any sort of decent shape.  Since then, this tactic of war has turned into a competitive event, where people come together to launch their own anvils, seeking greater height.

The championships of anvil shooting take place at Laurel’s Wood Expo in Mississippi each year in April.  What was previously an idle way to pass the time turned into an official event in 1994, when one of the co-founders of the World Anvil Shooting Society organized it.  It’s been going strong ever since.

There are plenty of specific rules when it comes to anvil shooting, but there are a few basic ones to help the uninitiated understand how it works.  Each competitor uses two anvils.  They must be made of steel and weigh at least 100 lbs.  They are allowed to use up to 2 lbs. of black powder to launch their anvil.  A hollow spot beneath the top anvil is where the powder goes, along with a 90-second fuse.  The fuse is lit and then you run before it goes off.

The end result is a launch that often reaches more than 100 feet.  The person who gets theirs the highest wins.  There’s another form of shooting known as Super Modified, for those that think 100 feet just isn’t enough.  This tradition lets competitors make their own anvils, customized to reach greater heights - sometimes as far up as 500 feet or more.

This strange Southern American tradition is a great unique event to view if you happen to be travelling through the state of Mississippi in April.  Anyone who enjoys explosions and very heavy objects being launched into the air would surely get a kick out of competitive anvil shooting.

Morocco’s Marathon des Sables

More than 150 miles through one of the harshest deserts on Earth.

Each year in the month of April, the country of Morocco plays host to what is known to many as the world’s toughest footrace.  The Marathon des Sables (Marathon of the Sands) begins in the city of Ouarzazate and continues for six days.  During that time, the 1000 or so participants will be pushed to their limits as they struggle to make their way more than 150 miles through the Sahara.

The race has its origins in the adventure of a French concert promoter by the name of Patrick Bauer.  Back in 1984, he decided to get away from it all and go on a 200-mile trek through the Sahara - a place known for being one of the most unforgiving landscapes on the planet.  It was there that he got the idea that such a journey should be a competitive event.  In 1986, the first race took place and has continued until the present day.

This inhospitable desert is filled with the kind of terrain that one wouldn’t normally want to run a marathon on.  There are rocks, sand dunes, salt plains and more, all in an environment of ragingly hot temperatures and randomly appearing sand storms.   Luckily for the racers, they get to take in it 6 stages with a little bit of sleep between each leg.  To make the race even more interesting, it’s changed up every year so that no one knows the exact course it will take.

Those running the race have to carry almost everything they’ll need for their six-day journey.  Not just food, water and sleeping gear, but other things to deal with the harsh environment of the Sahara, like first aid kits and anti-venom kits in case they get bitten by a poisonous snake.  Thankfully, extra water is passed out along the way, or they’d never make it a mile with all that weight to drag along.

Those running the Marathon des Sables don’t do it purely for the glory (though that no doubt factors in heavily).  They also do it for charity.  Each year, hundreds-of-thousands of dollars are raised.  If you’re crazy enough, you too can get in on the blisteringly fun marathon.  It’s definitely an experience that one would never forget and would afford you some serious bragging rights for the rest of your life.

China falls for Onion joke

Kim Jong-un the “Sexiest Man Alive?” Why not?

Last week I was talking about the repercussions against one Chinese citizen for their Twitter comment.  The Chinese government apparently has very little sense of humor when it comes to such things as insulting them. 

In the latest news, we may have proof that those in charge of the country actually have no sense of humor whatsoever.  This time it involves an article put together by the satirical news source, The Onion.  They did a piece on how North Korean leader Kim Jong-un was named the “Sexiest Man Alive” and Chinese publications picked it up and ran with it.


So sarcasm appears to be lost on those in charge of the state-run newspapers.  They took the article seriously and even did their own pieces on Kim, some positive and others criticizing The Onion for their poor choice of sexy men. 

Some examples of what The Onion had to say include mentioning that Kim has “…an air of power that masks an unmistakable cute, cuddly, side…” and “…impeccable fashion sense, chic short hairstyle…”  With comments like this, how could you not know this was a joke?

I’m guessing it didn’t translate well, because it made the rounds through several Chinese news sources.  It started out in the state-run and moved from there to another state-run paper, The Guangming Daily.  At this point, it had officially become reality. 

One publication, The People’s Daily, even ran a 55-page photo spread on Kim, no doubt showing him in all his cute and cuddly grandeur.  It got to the point where The Onion posted a link from their site to The People’s Daily, thanking them for their coverage.

Those in charge of said publications must be kicking themselves in the butt, if they even have jobs at this point.  The Onion, however, is quite happy that they managed to spread the good word of the sexy North Korean leader to the world’s most populous country. It isn’t the first time that Chinese news has fallen for The Onion’s jokes either.  And if they don’t check their sources and make a note that The Onion is not real news, it likely won’t be the last.

Host a country club

No, not a preppy exclusive club—a club for celebrating the world!

In our homeschool co-op, we have started a fun country club that has nothing to do with exclusive membership and everything to do with learning about countries of the world. Each month, a family will be sponsoring a new country in their own way—whether that be bringing in artifacts from the country, cooking up a meal or simply giving an oral report. Our kids average out to age seven, so the reports will only be ten minutes long, if that.

My daughter and I are doing the first presentation ourselves and we have decided to study England. Actually, my daughter, who is obsessed with the country after watching movies like Nanny McPhee and Flushed Away, chose the country; I had hoped for Spain, which would have been easier for me to present.

Even so, I am still excited about the project. So far, we have made handouts about the differences between American English and English slang, a flag, and a simple fact sheet. What I’d really like to do, however, is prepare an English pudding to share with the kids. I’m not sure how we’ll pull that off just yet since I’ve never made one, but we will figure it out.

The point, of course, is to have some fun and learn about a culture different from the one you live in.

Grenada’s Spicemas Carnival

Celebrating the many faces of culture within this Caribbean country.

Every year, from July to mid-August, the country of Grenada celebrates its largest cultural event, the Spicemas Carnival.  It happens in many cities throughout the country, but the biggest is the main event in St. George’s, the capital.  It takes place as part of the general Grenada carnival season and is put on to celebrate the country’s independence, gained in 1974.


Many people came together over the centuries to make Grenada the place that it has become.  French, African, British and native indigenous people all brought their traditions and combined them into what visitors see 

today.  To show people the essence of the country’s culture, organizers plan for months in order to make sure that they get everything right and put on the best performances they possibly can.

By far the main elements of the Spicemas Carnival are the parades.  People dress in colorful costumes and masks and dance and sing their way through the streets.  As the event evolved, two main traditions have emerged - the Shortknees and the Jab Jab.  The former consists of people wearing ankle bells and carrying tiny mirrors and talc powder.  The mirrors are supposed to reflect back the evil intent of their enemies while the powder is to bless those who offer up donations to the group.  The latter group, the Jab Jab, paint their bodies black and wear red helmets with false horns, representing a more sinister aspect.

In addition to the parades, there is plenty of music in several different traditional styles, with many bands competing to see which is the best.  There is a beauty pageant known as the National Carnival Queen Show, in which ladies dress in costume and fancy dress to compete.  There are also many events specifically for children and those that involve performances by the children of Grenada.  And, of course, there is plenty of delicious regional food and drink to partake of.

Spicemas is a near-constant stream of parades and costumes set to music.  It’s a great way to see Grenada if this country happens to be on your vacation list or if you happen to be cruising around the Caribbean some time.


A Finnish high school graduation tradition

On the last day in April, the entire country of Finland celebrates one special holiday that is dedicated to all the young Finns that have escaped from the confines of the public school system.  This country-wide graduation party comes right before Finnish Labor Day and often continues from one day into the next.  Though every place celebrates the Vappu festival, the biggest and the best by far takes place in the country’s capital, Helsinki.


The events start at around 6pm when tens-of-thousands of people gather around the city’s statue of Havis Amanda.  Students come to the statue and then whichever school has been chosen that year has the honor of performing the ritual washing of this piece of art.  After the washing is done, a white cap - the symbol of graduation for Finnish students - is placed upon the statue’s head and the party begins with a round of champagne bottles being opened.

The streets then fill with people celebrating, both young and old, everyone wearing a white cap.  While it means newfound freedom for students, for older folks it is more a symbol of solidarity.  As the crowds roam the streets they drink plenty of mead and 

dance their way along.

The party keeps going all night and frequently into the next morning as festival-goers fill up clubs, bars and numerous house parties.  This later partying is primarily for the younger crowd, the adults choosing instead to get some sleep that night.  The next day, Labor Day, consists of one giant picnic in the park for those that manage to wake up on time.  For the truly hardcore, it’s back to the bars after the picnic to run one more night into the dawn.

Vappu is a great Finnish tradition that can be a great way to meet the locals and experience this unique bit of the country’s culture.  Visitors are welcome to come and enjoy the experience, hanging out with Finland’s people and drinking as long as they can keep up.