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Wurstfest and ARToberfest take center stage in New Braunfels, Texas

The wurststage at the Wurstfest
The wurststage at the Wurstfest
Wurstfest Association of New Braunfels

Sept. 27, 2010--Think New Braunfels, and no doubt your thoughts turn to water, water everywhere. There's picturesque Landa Park with its spring-fed swimming pool, top-rated Schlitterbahn water park, and fond memories of floating down the Guadalupe River in an inner tube with a styrofoam ice chest filled with frosty beverages bobbing by your side.

All very cool things indeed, but there's another side to this small Texas town that has nothing to do with getting soaking wet. Founded in 1845 by German settlers, New Braunfels boasts an equally refreshing eclectic blend of visual and performing arts, great museums, and historic districts.

'Vox Audio' kicks off Brauntex theatre season

Take the BraunTex Performing Arts Theatre (brauntex.org), for example, celebrating its 10th anniversary season this year.

“We're a well-kept secret,” says Janet Allen, artistic director of the 578-seat historic structure that brings in professional touring groups about eight to ten times a year. “It's truly a step back in time once you walk in the doors because we still have the original theatre seats.” In 2000, the theatre underwent about $1.5 million in interior renovations, but “we've tried to keep everything on the outside looking exactly like it did in 1942.”

The 2010-11 season kicks off with “Vox Audio” and on October 9 and 17, former Seinfeld writer Pat Hazell presents his one-man comedy “The Wonder Bread Years.”

The theatre has helped to breathe new life into the downtown historic district, adds Allen, along with the addition of restaurants like Myron's Prime Steakhouse, Huisache Grill and Wine Bar, Friesenhaus, and the brand new 2Tarts Bakery and Catering.

“Before now, the streets pretty well curled up at night. Downtown New Braunfels is starting to get a different face.”

The best of the wurst

Food – sausage, to be exact – is the centerpiece of the venerable Wurstfest (wurstfest.com) celebrating its 50th anniversary this year from October 29-November 7. But art is also taking center stage with a commissioned mural by artist Brent McCarthy that covers the north end of the Wursthalle. “We're having some very special guests from Germany this year,” says Herb Skoog, director of Wurst relations, including Johannas von Oppersdorff-Solms-Braunfels, a descendant of Prince Carl of Solms-Braunfels, the founder of New Braunfels. Fan favorite Freiwillige Feuerwehr Bonbaden, a volunteer fire department band from Germany “will be performing most days of Wurstfest,” says Skoog.

It's easy being Gruene

It's not all oompah bands and lederhosen on the music scene in New Braunfels – not that there's anything wrong with that. Some of the best country music this side of Nashville can be heard booming out of the oldest dance hall in Texas in the Gruene Historic District (gruenetexas.com). Who has played the legendary Gruene Hall? Who hasn't? Everybody from the homegrown Wimberly Volunteer Fireants to superstars like Jerry Lee Lewis, the Dixie Chicks, Stevie Ray Vaughn, and Leon Russell. A complete performance calendar can be found at gruenehall.com.

ARToberfest and more

For a more sedate artistic experience, the New Braunfels Art League (newbraunfelsartleague.com) offers classes and workshops in watercolor, oil, acrylics, pastel, and more, in a beautiful 1913 historic home. “Classes are for all ages and all abilities, from children to adults, and beginner to accomplished artist,” says Kathy Perales, president. One of the highlights of NBAL is the 45th Annual ARToberfest from October 3-November 10, a juried, regional, all-media fine art show that expects about 60 participants this year. “It's open to everyone,” says Perales.

For such a small town (pop. 51,800), New Braunfels is awash in museums – about a dozen of them. The Sophienburg museum (sophienburg.com) takes visitors through a cultural and historical journey of New Braunfels' beginnings. The Museum of Texas Handmade Furniture is located in Heritage Village, a collection of historic structures relocated to a 11.5 acre site (nbheritagevillage.com). The New Braunfels Railroad Museum (newbraunfelsrailroadmuseum.org) is dedicated to the preservation of railroad artifacts and education.

Very cool.

For more information, newbraunfels.com, 830-444-5865

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