Favorites from the Festival

Saturday, 20190929

We piled in the car and headed east to Huntsville, way too early for a Sunday morning drive, but we each had long to-do lists awaiting our return.  We passed by the Elisabet Ney Museum, to pay small homage to the artist who created the statue of Sam Houston (and of some other Texas hero) in the Capitol.  Ney’s historic home and studio museum was not open, so it was truly a drive-by, but it was also close-by our final destination before leaving Austin city limits, Quack’s 43rd Street Bakery.

Topped off with coffees and teas, and the usual plethora of pastries, we headed out.  We drove into the sunrise, reliving some of the more interesting, fun, frustrating, and even silly moments of the trip, our favorite panels/sessions, meals/restaurants, and some “honorable mention moments” shone through:

TribFest Panels/Sessions

  • The Stories of 9/11 and One-on-One with Julián Castro (tie for most votes!)
  • Points of Light

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  • Trade Off
  • Ed & the Feds

SHSU, LEAP Center, LEAP Ambassadors, Austin Texas, Texas Tribune Festival, Tribfest, Susanna Martinez

  • From Within

Restaurants/Meals

  • CAVA and Clay Pit (tie for most votes!)

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  • Kerbey Lane Café
  • Coffeehouse at Caroline

Trip “Honorable Mentions”

  • Book signing by an author — not on the book signing list (Julian Castro)!

SHSU, LEAP Center, LEAP Ambassadors, Texas Tribune Festival, Julian Castro, Miranda Estrada

  • One traveler’s first time to visit the Texas State Capitol – Senate & House floors, Hall of Governors, and learning what the Texas Capitol icon the Goddess of Liberty *really* looks like…

SHSU, LEAP Center, LEAP Ambassadors, Austin Texas, Texas Tribune Festival, Tribfest 2019

  • Seeing Austin City Hall at night.

SHSU, LEAP Center, LEAP Ambassadors, Texas Tribune Festival, Austin City Hall

All in all, everyone agreed it was a packed trip, full of interesting information and exciting experiences, and in some cases, the opportunity to gain insights that may even challenge one’s current way of thinking.

SHSU, LEAP Center, LEAP Ambassadors, Austin Texas, Texas Tribune Festival, Tribfest, Susana Martinez

Texas Tribune Festival, Day 1

Thursday, 9-27-2019

We piled in the car and headed west to Austin, too early to be considered a ride off into the sunset, but with plenty of time to make it to our destination: the 2019 Texas Tribune Festival.  The three-hour trip from Huntsville went by quickly, as our group of LEAP Ambassadors and friends chatted along the way, sharing life and prior travel experiences.

The festival hub wasn’t too far from the hotel, and with a coolish breeze, we chose to walk, meandering through the Capitol grounds on the way…

SHSU, LEAP Ambassadors, LEAP Center, Texas Tribune Festival, Austin Texas

….but without any prolonged stopping – we needed to check in at TribFest before attending the opening keynote, by Congressman Will Hurd.  We were pleasantly surprised with no waiting in line to get our credentials.

Once we crossed the street toward the Paramount Theater, though, we became immediately aware that, despite leaving what we thought was adequate time, we were most likely not going to see the inside.

SHSU, LEAP Ambassadors, LEAP Center, Texas Tribune Festival, Austin Texas

The line stretched out along the entire block, around the corner, and then up and around the next block.  We trudged to the end, mainly because it was uphill and afforded a better picture of the line.

SHSU, LEAP Center, LEAP Ambassadors, Texas Tribune Festival, Representative Will Hurd

We commiserated with our nearby co-queuers, then decided to take in some of downtown Austin by foot, and find an early dinner.

We stopped at Second Bar + Kitchen on Congress & Second.  Everything looked good on the menu, and we selected a variety: crispy brussells sprouts, black truffle pommes frites, pepperoni soup…

SHSU, LEAP Ambassadors, LEAP Center, Texas Tribune Festival, Austin Texas, 2nd Kitchen

…a couple of pizzas: black + bleu and eggplant + goat cheese (hold the goat!)…

SHSU, LEAP Center, LEAP Ambassadors, Texas Tribune Festival, Representative Will Hurd

…and a couple of Congress burgers.

SHSU, LEAP Ambassadors, LEAP Center, Texas Tribune Festival, Austin Texas, 2nd Kitchen

No one was dissatisfied – and no one had room for dessert, a shame.

An after-dinner walk was an easy group decision.  And since we were so close, we had to detour down to the Congress Avenue Bridge. We were too late to see the bats up close, or the sunset, but we could see clouds of bats in the distance, making their way to get their own dinner.  We started the slower climb uphill back to our hotel, stopping along the way to briefly check out the wonderfully weird architecture of Austin’s City Hall…

SHSU, LEAP Center, LEAP Ambassadors, Texas Tribune Festival, Austin City Hall

…and a brief stop by Austin City Limits, another monument to the city’s long history of promoting great, local music.

After a brief review of tomorrow’s early-morning plans, we retired earlier than the “LEAP Trip” usual time.  We will need the rest for the next two days of politics, politics, and more politics at the 2019 Texas Tribune Festival!

 

Festivities of the Political Variety

It was exciting for all of the LEAP Ambassadors to be back in Austin again. Even though we were here for the Texas Tribune Festival, we still had so many fond memories of our adventures, friends, and learning opportunities made while working at the Capitol. It was a place that had taught us about politics, the legislative process, and of course the great state of Texas.

LEAP Ambassadors, LEAP Center, SHSU, Austin, Capitol

After a summer away from the capitol, we decided to visit some old friends, co-workers and possibly even future job opportunities. A lot had changed since we had been gone, especially us. As we stepped into rotunda, we were no longer the inexperienced interns, but hardened veterans yearning for more.

And yet some things had stayed the same.  All of our Legislative Session coworkers happily greeted us back into our old offices. There are many of the LEAP Ambassadors who hope to work in the Capitol again, and it was nice to re-acquaint ourselves with friends. This is even more important this year because Professor Yawn will get to watch 7 out of the 9 ambassadors walk the stage (he’s sad to see us go even if he won’t admit it) and LEAP into our futures!

One new thing, though, is that we ran into Karl Rove while in the Capitol!

LEAP Ambassadors, LEAP Center, SHSU, Austin, Capitol, Karl Rove

For political junkies, it was a real treat, one that would be bookended by seeing Senator Al Franken later in the evening.

Lunch at Leaf

Lunch was in a healthy, green restaurant called Leaf, which specializes in making made-to-order giant bowls of salads. Most of their produce is local and their portion size is huge! We were all happy to be able to go there because we had heard many great reviews of this restaurant and it sure did not disappoint. We left with great big smiles on our faces and recharged to continue with our day.

Time with Art, Part 1

After a quick trip to our hotel rooms to freshen up and change into more comfortable clothes, we headed to see some wonderful art by artist Daniel Arredondo. Mr. Arredondo grew up in East Austin and always knew he wanted to be an artist. Now, he fulfills his dream by telling his interesting, and sometimes personal, stories through his artwork. Many of his paintings show landscapes, but the recurring motif of his pieces is “Beneath the Surface”.

LEAP Ambassadors, LEAP Center, SHSU, Austin, Daniel Arredondo

He explained this with an example of his trees and how the roots of trees represent the places where we come from and how the darker spots beneath the surfaces are our most treasured secrets. Just recently, he began a new project. For many years, he collected cigar boxes until he accumulated over a thousand of them! He decided to repurpose these boxes by painting on the bottom part.

Amazed by all the wonderful and unique art, we appreciated every piece in his studio. Later, he surprised us by asking us to pick our favorite small painting as a small gift to us. It was such a wonderful gesture that we treasured. Some ambassadors purchased additional paintings. Mr. Arredondo was so hospitable and cheerful.

LEAP Ambassadors, LEAP Center, SHSU, Austin, Daniel Arredondo

We certainly enjoyed his studio, his art, and the interesting conversations!

LEAP Ambassadors, LEAP Center, SHSU, Austin, Daniel Arredondo

Time with Art, Part 2

Mr. Arredondo had previously informed other artists in the building that we would be dropping by, and each artist and art dealer welcomed us.

Some of the most interesting galleries included the Flatbed Press & Gallery, Gallery Shoal Creek, and Austin Books Arts Center.  Artistic highlights included seeing the steps behind the making of Luis Jimenez’s “Self Portrait”.

LEAP Ambassadors, LEAP Center, SHSU, Austin, Luis Jimenez

It was exciting to see the developing stages of a print and to compare each step with the finished product.

LEAP Ambassadors, LEAP Center, SHSU, Austin, Luis Jimenez

Just down the hallway, Gallery Shoal Creek Art Gallery displayed beautiful artwork as well. Ranging from Japanese influenced art to contemporary collages; my favorites were vintage books transformed into art. The artist Karen Hawkins expanded the book’s physical properties by manipulating, folding, cutting, and designing each book into a work of art. Each piece was intricately designed and unique.

In the same building, Austin Books Arts Center was a fun find for the LEAP Ambassadors. We learned how to use a book press, about the classes the books center offers, and the other workshop services the Center offers. We only wish we would have discovered it during our Austin Internships. One of the volunteers was even nice enough to give us a brief tour of the studio before taking a selfie with us.

LEAP Ambassadors, LEAP Center, SHSU, Austin, Austin Book Arts Center

Al Franken

Excited to begin our Tribune Festival adventure, we attended the opening keynote “One on One with Al Franken” that focused on his latest book, “Al Franken: Giant of the Senate.” We navigated through the UT Campus to find the Hogg Memorial Auditorium. But as we neared our first event’s location, a chill of fear ran through our skin. Although the line on the entrance was small, festival staff stood at the doorway menacingly assigning numbers to those entering: 12, 13, 14. Professor Yawn enters the door way. 15, 16, 17. Most of the group is in, but not Kaitlyn. 18. She’s in now. 19. 20! That is it! No more admission!

The conversation between the Tribunes’ Evan Smith and Senator Franken was filled with amusing anecdotes and political commentary that made for an interesting session.

LEAP Ambassadors, LEAP Center, SHSU, Austin, Texas Tribune Festival, Al Franken, Evan Smith

As to be expected, the Saturday-Night-Live-writer-turned-senator knew how to captivate his audience’s attention. Going through the comedic highlights of his book, Senator Franken commented on the nation’s political atmosphere.

LEAP Ambassadors, LEAP Center, SHSU, Austin, Texas Tribune Festival, Al Franken, Evan Smith

Knowing his audience well, he knew exactly which political figures to bring into the conversation, and most importantly, which to direct his jokes at.

LEAP Ambassadors, LEAP Center, SHSU, Austin, Texas Tribune Festival, Al Franken, Evan Smith

The session soon ended and we joined the throng of exiting festival guests. After regrouping with the rest of the group who had just arrived from Huntsville (Staci, Victoria, and Chase), we decided to visit some of the Festival’s first day attractions at the Opening Night Party.

LEAP Ambassadors, LEAP Center, SHSU, Austin, Texas Tribune Festival, Evan Smith

Dinner at the Clay Pit

After the Friday group joined us in town we headed to dinner to one of our favorite restaurants, Clay Pit.

LEAP Ambassadors, LEAP Center, SHSU, Austin, Clay Pit

It was not our first time at Clay Pit (except for Chase) and while we waited to be seated, everyone had already picked what they wanted to eat for dinner. The restaurant is known for its delicious traditional Indian food, and for appetizers we ordered variety of Naan with a side of hummus. I had the Goan Yellow Curry, Karla and Chase shared Lamb Rogenjosh, and Beatriz and Christina shared the Mughali Chicken, to name just a few.

LEAP Ambassadors, LEAP Center, SHSU, Austin, Clay Pit, Staci Antu

After planning for our second day and a late dinner we headed back to the hotel to get some rest before our second day at the Texas Tribune Festival.