Festival is up, up and away
The best action sequence in the storied history of Walker, Texas Ranger was the hot air balloon chase that occurred at the beginning of Episode 102. Entitled "Sons of Thunder (Part One)," this jewel of the fifth season began with a robber balloon-jacking a sweet ride into the wild, blue yonder. Unfortunately for the robber, Walker was able to commandeer a balloon and a pilot of his own, position himself above the criminal's balloon, jump onto the other guy's balloon, rappel down a conveniently placed balloon line and then kick the robber's ass, saving all the hostages in the process. It was awesome. While you probably won't see anything that exciting at the 2005 Lions Club Balloon Festival and Fair, you will have the privilege of enjoying some beautiful balloon flights, as well as nighttime balloon glows, skydivers, live music and a carnival. Since its beginnings in 1987, this Highland Village festival has grown from 18 balloons and a crowd of 2,000 into one of the largest annual events in Denton County. The events kick off Friday at 6 p.m. in Copperas Branch Park and continue through Sunday. Admission is free, but parking is $4 per car. Call 972-317-7430 or visit www.hvballoonfest.org.
-- Noah W. Bailey
Voice of Season
You might not recognize the name, but sports fans will know the voice of Bill Mercer. He was a sports and news reporter at KRLD from 1953 to 1964 (he recently co-wrote the book, When the News Went Live: Dallas 1963, about covering the Kennedy assassination), an announcer for the Dallas Cowboys from 1965-1971, the Texas Rangers' play-by-play announcer in 1972, the Chicago White Sox play-by-play guy in 1974 with Harry Caray, a sports reporter for KVIL from 1976 to 1983 and an announcer for World Class Championship Wrestling from 1980 to 1984. In addition, he was the Voice of the Mean Green at the University of North Texas, providing commentary and news on UNT athletics for more than 30 years. He also taught at UNT. This Thursday at 7 p.m. some of Mercer's former students, radio colleagues and athletes and coaches, including Dave Barnett of ESPN and Norm Hitzges of KTCK, gather to pay tribute to him, as well as raise funds for Building Believers, Inc. Admission is $50 per person. UNT's Gateway Center is on Eagle Drive between North Texas Boulevard and Avenue D south of the Coliseum. Call 817-491-9602. --Shannon Sutlief
Judging from the long lines of cars outside our neighborhood elementary school and the empty bike racks, we thought school kids on bikes had gone the way of spats and fedoras. We were wrong: More than 100,000 children are treated for bike-related head injuries each year in the United States. To help cut down on the carnage, Euless is hosting its second annual bicycle rodeo August 20 at The Parks at Texas Star, 1501 S. Pipeline Road. Bike inspections, a rider-training course and a host of other safety tips will be available to parents and kids at the free event, which runs from 9 a.m. to noon. Call 817-685-1666 or visit www.euless.org. --Patrick Williams
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"Caterpillar Crawl Garden Walk." At first glance, that phrase looks like typical spam filter-beating gibberish, or perhaps a menu item at a shady Chinese restaurant. In fact, it's a chance to learn everything you ever wanted to know about caterpillars. For kids into bugs and the parents who love them, it makes for a nice Saturday...but they gotta work on that name. Was "Caterpillar Safari" taken? How about "Butterfly: The Early Years"? Oh, we've got it: "Lepidoptera Larvae Symposium." Informative and spam-proof. Caterpillar Crawl Garden Walk is Saturday at 10 a.m. at the Texas Discovery Gardens in Fair Park. Admission is $1.50 to $3. Call 214-428-7476. --Rick Kennedy
This Sport Rocks
South of the Mason-Dixon Line, when we speak of the sport of curling, we're usually talking about a wrestling match between a woman, a hot hair bobbin and a can of Aqua Net. We're generally not referring to that slightly weird Canadian sport that involves heaving heavy polished rocks across sheets of ice. That kind of curling looks a little like an Arctic version of shuffleboard, with one person sliding a mini boulder toward the center of a large circle while two other broom-wielding team members madly sweep in front of its path to reduce friction. Like I said, it's a slightly odd but creative idea for a climate where bodies of water stay frozen for months on end and there's only so many people who can do triple lutzes in those little ice-skating dresses. It turns out the passion of our northern neighbors is migrating south and members of the D/FW Curling Club are ready to convert the willing. It may take a Zamboni and some major air conditioning to maintain any sort of frozen surface in Texas, but that's not discouraging them from starting the world's first podcast on curling, blogging up a storm and, next Sunday, holding an open house for prospective members to learn about game rules and strategies, terminology and sliding techniques. "On the rocks" will have a whole new meaning for some sport fans. The open house will be from 4 p.m. to 6:30 p.m. August 21 at the Dr Pepper Star Center, 1700 S. Main St. at US Highway 67 in Duncanville. It costs $10. Call Dan Johnson 214-457-4416 or Dave Villegas at 469-939-CURL or visit www.dfwcurling.com. --Leah Shafer