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Texans maintained the status quo in the November 8 mid-term election, re-electing Gov. Greg Abbott, Lt. Gov. Dan Patrick, and Attorney General Ken Paxton by similar majorities.

Results of all elections can be found at results.texas-election.com/races.

  • Abbott won by 55.11 percent, with a tally of 4,335,425 votes, while runner-up Beto O'Rourke earned 43.52 percent or 3,424,074 votes.
  • Patrick garnered 54.08 percent or 4,216,864 votes, against Democratic challenger Mike Collier, who earned 43.18 percent with 3,367,033 votes.
  • Paxton trailed with 53.75 percent or 4,178,494 votes, against runner-up Rochelle Mercedes Garza, who got 43.36 percent or 3,371,361 votes.
  • Sid Miller was re-elected Commissioner of Agriculture with 46.63 percent or 4,372,741 votes, versus opponent Susan Hays who earned 43.37 percent or 3,349,247 votes.
  • Wayne Christian was re-elected Railroad Commissioner with 55.7 percent or 4,296,565 votes, beating top contender Luke Warford who scored 40.24 percent or 3,104,474 votes.
In San Antonio, U.S. Representative Henry Cuellar was re-elected, besting Republican challenger Cassy Garcia by 56.6 percent to 43.4 percent.

Austin's race for Mayor will go to a run-off. None of the six candidates earned more than 50 percent, so voters will choose from the two top candidates — former Austin mayor and state senator Kirk Watson and State Rep. Celia Israel — in a runoff election on December 13.

In Dallas, County Judge Clay Jenkins was re-elected, as was District Attorney John Cruezot, who earned 59.36 percent of the vote against challenger Faith Johnson's 40.64 percent. The city also passed Proposition A, which will raise hotel occupancy taxes from 13 to 15 percent, with the funds to be used to renovate Fair Park and the Kay Bailey Hutchison Convention Center.

In Fort Worth, the new Tarrant County Judge replacing Glen Whitley will be Tim O’Hare, a former mayor of Farmers Branch who had the support of Donald Trump; he defeated Democratic candidate Deborah Peoples, who has run for Fort Worth mayor twice.

Houston experienced issues with polling places that did not open on time, or malfunctions that caused delays and temporary closures. A group called Texas Organizing Project successfully petitioned Harris County to extend the voting hours until 8 pm, but the Texas Supreme Court ordered Harris County election officials to separate out any ballots that were cast after hours.

A location at Texas State University in San Marcos also suffered malfunctions with five out of eight machines, causing wait times of four hours or more.

Five cities — Denton, San Marcos, Killeen, Elgin, and Harker Heights — approved propositions to decriminalize low-level possession of marijuana, following the example of Austin, which passed a similar proposition in May.

For the first time, voters were given "no straight ticket" option to vote quickly for all one party or another requiring a click on each individual race — the result of HB25, a law pushed through by Republicans in the Texas Legislature in 2017, which killed the straight ticket option.

Photo by Shelley Neuman

Texas Tribune co-founder presents a trail guide to 2022 festival

Everything is Political

Believe it or not, politics can be fun, even if it’s all you talk about for days. The Texas Tribune is proving that once again with incumbent CEO Evan Smith’s last Texas Tribune Festival. From September 22-24, this long-standing annual event will bring together more than 350 influential speakers for more than 100 panels, from politicians in office to journalists and cultural wave-makers.

“It's become a major part of the Tribune's brand,” says Smith. “An important person I respect said to me in 2019, looking around the festival that year — the last year we did it in person — that we used to be a news organization with a festival, and we're becoming a festival with a news organization. And I thought, I'm actually okay with that.”

Smith announced his impending departure from the Tribune in January 2022, in a simultaneously wistful and tongue-in-cheek farewell address that acknowledged his “sentimentality and nostalgia.” He will be finished with his tenure by December, but will continue through 2023 as a senior advisor to his yet-unnamed replacement.

“I will be sentimental about it being my last. Of course, I'm also nostalgic, and I'll be nostalgic about the early days of the festival,” says Smith. “But one of the great things about leaving the Tribune now is that everybody here is in the best possible position to carry the important work that we've been doing forward to the next 13 years. And so I'll be watching like everybody else, with a lot of pride.”

This year, the festival broadened its scope from 2021 and earlier to include even more interests tangential to politics, aiming for the same bullseye as the Tribune always does: the average reader. The festival is always as jargon-free as possible, this year including topics like Rolling Stone co-founder Jann Wenner’s memoir and 50 years of cultural change, retired top tennis player Andy Roddick’s opinions on the duties of nonprofits, and singer-songwriter Lyle Lovett’s experience as a Texas legend.

To help attendees start building their itineraries (or give keen readers at home some things to research), Smith selected the following must-attend events for CultureMap readers to keep on their radar.

Thursday, September 22
Thursday is a shorter day with “a couple of sessions to get peoples’ appetites going,” according to Smith. Of the 10 events, he chose two not to miss:

A Conversation with Katy Tur
9:30 am - 10:30 am

The MSNBC anchor will discuss journalism with Smith himself, with special attention to her recent second book that stretches all the way back through her childhood, Rough Draft: A Memoir. This chat will be in-person, kicking off the festival.

One-on-One with Anthony Fauci
10:30 am - 11:30 am

This prerecorded conversation is only available virtually. Smith interviews Dr. Anthony Fauci, chief medical advisor to the U.S. president, about the “layered” public health emergencies of COVID-19 and monkeypox as it emerges.

Friday, September 23
This mid-size day has 43 scheduled sessions. Smith chose one from each time slot:

One-on-One with Glenn Youngkin
8:45 am - 9:45 am

The Virginia governor is, in Smith’s words, “one of the big Republican success stories of the last couple of years,” and will be interviewed by senior correspondent David Drucker of the Washington Examiner. Some speculate that Youngkin will run for president in 2024.

The Forward Presents: One-on-One with Deborah Lipstadt
10:15 am - 11:15 am

U.S. special envoy to monitor and combat antisemitism Deborah Lipstadt is talking about the issue nationally and worldwide, interviewed by Forward editor-in-chief Jodi Ruth Warren. A recent report found that 2021 was a record year for antisemitism in Austin.

One-on-One with Walter Isaacson
12:00 pm - 1:00 pm

Pulitzer Prize finalist and Tulane University professor Walter Isaacson discusses Benjamin Franklin, Albert Einstein, Steve Jobs, and his current work with Elon Musk. He is interviewed by Pushkin Productions CEO Jacob Weisberg, former editor-in-chief of the Slate Group.

One-on-One with Hillary Clinton
1:30 pm - 2:30 pm

Former U.S. Secretary of State and 2016 presidential candidate Hillary Clinton is interviewed by New York Times podcast host Kara Swisher about progressive values in the United States. Swisher runs the Vox Media Code Conference, and is no stranger to the stage.

One-on-One with Ben McKenzie
3:30 pm - 4:30 pm

Austin-born actor and writer Ben McKenzie is one Austinite speaking out on a large scale about “the case against crypto” as the city grows more and more entangled with it. He is interviewed by Bloomberg Digital executive editor for news Joe Weisenthal.

Saturday, September 24
The longest day of the festival, Saturday hosts 68 sessions. Smith chose one for each time slot:

After Roe
8:45 am - 9:45 am

This panel addressing one of the hottest topics in recent politics is run by Ana Marie Cox of The Cut, and features Planned Parenthood CEO Alexis McGill Johnson, Texas state representative Donna Howard, and former state senator Wendy Davis, famous for her abortion filibuster.

One-on-One with Annette Gordon-Reed
9:00 am - 10:00 am

Pulitzer Prize-winning historian and Harvard professor Annette Gordon Reed discusses the legacy of slavery and the morals of studying history. She is interviewed by Errin Haines, editor-at-large for The 19th, founded by former Tribune editor-in-chief Emily Ramshaw.

One-on-One with Ted Cruz
10:30 am - 11:30 am

U.S. Senator and Texan Ted Cruz is slated to talk on Saturday, although he hasn’t yet been matched with a conversation partner. He’ll talk about tension with the Biden administration, the “soul” of the Republican party, and a possible reprisal of his 2016 presidential campaign.

One-on-One with Chris Bosh
12:30 pm - 1:30 pm

NBA Hall of Famer Chris Bosh is interviewed by ESPN commentator Kirk Goldsberry on sports, being retired, and voting. Bosh has spoken out about social justice, and always ties it to a message of using one’s voice to create change.

Below the Line
2:15 pm - 3:15 pm

Former U.S. Secretary of Housing and urban development Julián Castro joins former mayor of Stockton, California, Michael Tubbs and ProPublica-Texas Tribune investigative reporter Vianna Davila to discuss Texans living disproportionately below the poverty line.

One-on-One with Gavin Newsom
3:30 pm - 4:30 pm

California Governor Gavin Newsom takes a leadership role, telling MSNBC anchor Alex Wagner about what the rest of the United States can learn from his state. The Democratic governor leans toward messaging about innovation and creating precedent-setting big change.

Tickets for the Texas Tribune Festival ($269 general admission) from September 22 to 24, both virtually and in venues across Austin, are available at texastribune.org.

Photo courtesy of KLRN

San Antonio TV show celebrating Latina leaders returns for second season with new host

Presentadora Means Host

A toast to the women of San Antonio, especially Melanie Mendez-Gonzales. She is hosting the second season of original series ¡Salud! on KLRN, featuring local Latinas in leadership positions. The season premieres September 8, following up an eight-episode debut season with then-host Jenna Saucedo.

“I am excited to explore the stories and experiences that made these women into the leaders they are today,” said Mendez-Gonzales in a press release. “Although we come from a wide variety of backgrounds, we have so much in common when it comes to being Latinas in leadership.”

Mendez-Gonzales, a seventh-generation Tejana, comes from a blogging background, having launched Qué Means What, her award-winning lifestyle blog that covers entertainment, leadership, and family from cultural and local lenses. She is neck-deep in qualifications, including training from the Latina Leadership Institute and the San Antonio Independent School District, and work with the City of San Antonio.

More relatable, perhaps, Mendez-Gonzales did not arrive at her proud Mexican-American identity without a lot of legwork and at least a little internal conflict. The blog is named for her fourth-grade failure to define the Spanish word “qué” to her teacher, panicking as she hears “what” repeatedly and confronts the language that was not passed down to her naturally.

“This might have been my earliest encounter of ‘we hear what we want to hear,’” Mendez-Gonzales writes on the blog. “My teacher was giving me the answer and all I heard was interrogation.”

Now Mendez-Gonzales occupies this answer-giving role in a similar way — though hopefully with a little more clarity — gently steering influential local women as they tell their stories, whether that’s through handing out digital media tips on the blog, or interviewing them on ¡Salud! Some of those interviews this season include first lady of San Antonio Erika Prosper, county court judge Rosie Speedlin Gonzalez, and civil rights activist Dolores Huerta.

Season 2 of ¡Salud!, premieres Thursday, September 8 at 7:30 pm. It airs weekly in the same slot on KLRN and streams online at klrn.org.

Photo by Christian Petersen/Getty Images

Texas-born basketball star Brittney Griner sentenced to 9 years by Russian court

griner guilty

Houston-born Brittney Griner has been found guilty of drug possession in a Russian court and sentenced to a jail term of nine years. ABC News was first to report the sentencing, which was announced early Thursday, August 4.

Jailed in Russia since February, the basketball star tearfully begged a judge for leniency in Khimki, Russia. The court, however, believed that the 31-year-old Griner deliberately brought cannabis-infused vape cartridges into Russia, which is illegal.

“I made an honest mistake and I hope that in your ruling, that it doesn’t end my life here,” Griner said to the judge on August 4, according to Reuters. “My parents taught me two important things: one, take ownership of your responsibilities and two, work hard for everything that you have. That’s why I pled guilty to my charges.”

In response to the verdict, President Joe Biden released the following statement on August 4:

Today, American citizen Brittney Griner received a prison sentence that is one more reminder of what the world already knew: Russia is wrongfully detaining Brittney. It’s unacceptable, and I call on Russia to release her immediately so she can be with her wife, loved ones, friends, and teammates. My administration will continue to work tirelessly and pursue every possible avenue to bring Brittney and Paul Whelan home safely as soon as possible.

How this affects the current U.S.-Russia prisoner swap proposal remains to be seen. As CNN first reported, the Biden administration has offered to send convicted Russian arms trafficker Viktor Bout, who is currently in the U.S. serving a 25-year prison sentence, in exchange for Griner and fellow detained American Paul Whelan.

President Joe Biden is said to support the proposed trade, which overrules the current Department of Justice stance that is decidedly anti-prison swap.

Secretary of State Antony Blinken announced at a July 27 press conference the Biden administration approached Moscow with the prisoner deal. Blinken called the arrangement a “substantial proposal” for Whelan and Griner, who are officially classified as wrongfully detained.

As CultureMap previously reported, Griner entered the plea in Russian court on Thursday, July 7 for bringing hashish oil into the country in her luggage in February. In the country to play for team BC UMMC Ekaterinburg of the Russian Premier League during the WNBA’s offseason, she was immediately detained and jailed by Russian Customs.

After worldwide scrutiny, her trial began on July 1.

Griner told the Russian judge that she had “inadvertently” brought the hashish oil into the country — where it is illegal to do so — and asked the court for mercy, ESPN reports.

During her detainment, calls came from across the globe for her release, especially to President Joe Biden, whose administration was criticized for being slow to act. “I’m terrified I might be here forever,” she wrote to Biden in a handwritten letter.

Officially, the White House said it would employ “every tool” to release Griner, stating that Russia’s invasion of Ukraine complicated negotiations. Russia’s demand for a prisoner swap led to the belief among many that Griner, a woman of color and gay, was targeted and made to be a political pawn, as the New York Times notes, between two adversarial global superpowers.

Her wife, Cherelle Griner, made a recent publicity tour, where she made passionate pleas for her wife’s release and shared that she was disappointed to not hear from the White House personally, prompting phone calls from President Biden and Vice President Kamala Harris.

The six-foot-nine Griner was the top-ranked female basketball player in the nation and chose to stay in state and play for the Baylor Lady Bears, where she became one of college basketball’s biggest stars. Famed for her unstoppable post presence, defensive skills, shot blocking, and offensive dominance, she was drafted by the Phoenix Mercury professional franchise. She later led Team USA to Olympic gold in the Rio and Tokyo games.

Griner, who boasts a size 17 shoe and a seven-foot-four-inch-wide wide wingspan, is one of only 11 women to win an NCAA championship, WNBA championship, Olympic gold medal, and an FIBA World Cup gold medal.

Photo by Christian Petersen/Getty Images

Texas-born basketball star Brittney Griner pleads guilty in Russian court and asks for 'mercy'

griner pleads guilty

A former Texas basketball star embroiled in a court case with major international implications has pleaded guilty to charges brought against her in Russia.

WNBA star Brittney Griner entered the plea in Russian court on Thursday, July 7 for bringing hashish oil into the country in her luggage in February. In the country to play for team BC UMMC Ekaterinburg of the Russian Premier League during the WNBA’s offseason, she was immediately detained and jailed by Russian Customs.

After worldwide scrutiny, her trial began on July 1.

Griner told the Russian judge that she had “inadvertently” brought the hashish oil into the country — where it is illegal to do so — and asked the court for mercy, ESPN reports. She could face up to 10 years in prison.

During her detainment, calls came from across the globe for her release, especially to President Joe Biden, whose administration was criticized for being slow to act. “I’m terrified I might be here forever,” she wrote to Biden in a handwritten letter.

Officially, the White House said it would employ “every tool” to release Griner, stating that Russia’s invasion of Ukraine complicated negotiations. Russia’s demand for a prisoner swap led to the belief among many that Griner, a woman of color and gay, was targeted and made to be a political pawn, as the New York Times notes, between two adversarial global superpowers.

Her wife, Cherelle Griner, made a recent publicity tour, where she made passionate pleas for her wife’s release and shared that she was disappointed to not hear from the White House personally, prompting phone calls from President Biden and Vice President Kamala Harris.

Born in Houston, the six-foot-nine Griner was the top-ranked female basketball player in the nation and chose to stay in state and play for the Baylor Lady Bears, where she became one of college basketball’s biggest stars. Famed for her unstoppable post presence, defensive skills, shot blocking, and offensive dominance, she was drafted by the Phoenix Mercury professional franchise. She later led Team USA to Olympic gold in the Rio and Tokyo games.

Griner, who boasts a size 17 shoe and a seven-foot-four-wide wingspan, is one of only 11 women to win an NCAA championship, WNBA championship, Olympic gold medal, and an FIBA World Cup gold medal.

Photo courtesy of George W. Bush Presidential Center

New exhibit at Texas museum reveals laughing matters at the White House

Liberty & Laughter

Most of the time, the White House is no joke. But an off-beat new exhibit opening at the George W. Bush Presidential Center reveals the pranks, quips, and humorous happenings that have lightened the mood in the Oval Office throughout history. Liberty & Laughter: The Lighter Side of the White House opens Thursday, March 3 and runs through December 31 at the museum on the SMU campus in Dallas.

The special exhibit promises entertaining first-family anecdotes, interactive multimedia, and amusing artifacts that will unveil presidential pranks and inside jokes, “while awards to the wittiest, quippiest, most mischievous president and first lady will grace the pursuit of happiness walk,” says a press release.

“‘Liberty & Laughter’ shows the importance of humor in a democracy,” says museum director Brig. Gen. Patrick X. Mordente in the release. “We are free to express our thoughts about our leaders in many ways — sometimes as cartoon caricatures. This exhibit reminds us that our presidents are real people with a sense of humor that helped them in their important job of leading our country.”

(To be clear, the exhibit covers more than “Dubya’s” White House, although God bless ’em if the word “strategery” appears somewhere.)

Among the jocular historical documents, photographs, and artifacts on display will be:

  • First lady correspondence with actors and personalities like Mary Tyler Moore and Marge Simpson.
  • President Ronald Reagan’s joke notecards.
  • President Bill Clinton’s sunglasses from The Arsenio Hall Show, and one of his many saxophones.
  • A hand-written humorous verse President Franklin D. Roosevelt composed to the three press associations.

“Visitors will experience humor through cartoons and caricatures, learn the savvy ways presidents have added levity to debates and interactions with the press, and laugh their way through a presidential talent show,” the release says. “A lively mirth-matching quiz will adorn one gallery while another will offer the chance to copycat famous presidential impersonators.”

Throughout the exhibit, organizers say, there will be reminders from the likes of President George Washington, who once said, “It is assuredly better to go laughing than crying thro’ the rough journey of life.”

More information and tickets, which include access to the museum’s permanent exhibit, are available here.

A new exhibit explores the lighter side of the White House.

Photo courtesy of George W. Bush Presidential Center
A new exhibit explores the lighter side of the White House.
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San Antonio Missions hit home run with new owners, plus more top stories

Hot Headlines

Editor’s note: It’s that time again — time to check in with our top stories. Here are five articles that captured our collective attention over the past seven days.

1. San Antonio's minor league baseball team scores new owners, including Texas sports legends. San Antonio's minor league baseball team is back to being locally owned — by some big names.

2. H-E-B unveils new line of merchandise for super fans, available exclusively at this store. Kerrville was chosen to launch the company's new line of H-E-B-branded merchandise, in celebration of its 117th anniversary and in honor of its first store.

3. San Antonio market continues to see prices going up and sales going down. San Antonio home sales dropped 19 percent from October 2021.

4. San Antonio Rodeo wrangles even more musical acts for star-studded 2023. Turnpike Troubadours joined the already impressive lineup for the 2023 San Antonio Stock Show & Rodeo.

5. San Antonio children's theater adapts timeless children's book for the holidays. Magik Theatre celebrates The Velveteen Rabbit as a Christmas story, with inclusive special performances.

Steven Spielberg opens up personal history in The Fabelmans

Movie Review

For over 40 years, director Steven Spielberg has been delivering some of the most popular blockbuster movies of all time as well as a bevy of Oscar-quality dramas, a combination that’s unique to him. For his latest, The Fabelmans, he’s decided to go more personal than ever, telling a thinly-veiled version of his own childhood.

Sammy (played mostly by Gabriel LaBelle) is one of four children – and the only son – of Mitzi (Michelle Williams), a concert pianist, and Burt Fabelman (Paul Dano), a computer engineer. From an early age, Sammy is enthralled by the art of filmmaking, first remaking a train crash sequence from The Greatest Show on Earth, and gradually moving on to more adventurous stories.

Burt’s advancing career, which moves the family from New Jersey to Arizona to California, causes stress for various members of the family, most notably Sammy and Mitzi. Sammy must deal with anti-Semitic bullies, while Mitzi falls deeper into a mental health crisis. Sammy’s movies continually offer a respite for the family, though, giving him a creative outlet and the rest of them a chance to forget their troubles for a while.

Written by Spielberg – his first writing effort since 2001’s A.I. Artificial Intelligence – and Tony Kushner, the film is heavy on emotions but presented in a way that those feelings don’t always translate. Spielberg is no stranger to depicting fraught family situations in his long career, but in showing ones from his own family, it feels like he pulled back, not wanting the scenes to be overwrought or schmaltzy.

The result is a story that isn’t as universal as some of his other films. As the film is told from Sammy’s perspective, it’s easy to get caught up in his pursuits and various discoveries as he gets older. The mindsets of the rest of the family are less clear, even though his parents and sisters are ever-present. Mitzi’s state of mind is a concern from the start, but it’s not always treated as such by other important characters.

Just as Sammy’s movies are an escape for his family, so too are they some of the best parts of the film. Sammy figuring out the process and secrets of filmmaking is informative and often thrilling, especially if you’re a cinephile. Spielberg has been considered a master for so long that watching him revisit the days when he was learning as he went is catnip for movie lovers.

In addition to being a dead ringer for a teenage Spielberg, LaBelle is a fantastic actor. It’s no easy feat to carry a movie on your shoulders, and LaBelle makes the assignment look easy. Williams’ performance will likely be more polarizing; she employs a very mannered speech pattern that works in some situations, but not all. The film also includes memorable short appearances by Seth Rogen, Judd Hirsch, and David Lynch.

Spielberg has provided the moviegoing public with such pleasure over the years that he deserves to have a movie that’s mostly for him. The initial viewing of The Fabelmans left this critic wanting, but perhaps it will gain more traction on a second screening.

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The Fabelmans is now playing in theaters.

Photo by Merie Weismuller Wallace/Universal Pictures and Amblin Entertainment

Gabriel LaBelle in The Fabelmans

New self-guided tour showcases iconic Fort Worth Stockyards' many Hollywood ties

Tinseltown in Cowtown

A new self-guided tour showcasing the Fort Worth Stockyards’ many star-studded appearances in cinema throughout the years recently debuted in time for the 16th annual Lone Star Film Festival, which took place earlier this month in the Stockyards for the first time.

Called Stars of the Stockyards, the eight-stop, go-at-your-own pace walking tour guides folks to famous film sites where celebrities have stepped foot in front of Hollywood cameras. Visitors to the Stockyards can access the PDF tour map on their smart phones via QR codes (no app required) posted throughout the district, namely at hotels and tour kiosks.

"The Stockyards is a historic and celebrated destination for many reasons, but one that may be lesser known is its popularity as a filming location for some of our favorite movies and TV series," said Ethan Cartwright, VP of marketing for Stockyards Heritage Development Co.

The tour and corresponding QR codes are a permanent addition to the district, he said.

Stops on the map include the iconic White Elephant Saloon, a hotbed for Hollywood performances including several by legendary actor and martial artist Chuck Norris in the longtime TV series, Walker, Texas Ranger when the watering hole was portrayed as the fictional CD Bar. The White Elephant was also graced by country music superstar Tim McGraw and Academy Award-winning actor Billy Bob Thornton for their appearances in Paramount Plus’ hit series 1883.

Also in 1883 and featured on the tour is Hookers Grill, hidden in the less flashy West side of Exchange Ave. The burger shack transformed into a gambling den in the show called The Texas House of Liquor & Sport. It’s the only building in the Stockyards that preserved the façade constructed by 1883’s production team. During operating hours, customers can order at the outdoor burger window and dine at patio tables within the two-story structure.

Cowtown Coliseum is marked on the map for its appearances in the 1983 film Tough Enough, where actor Dennis Quaid played an amateur boxer. It’s also the home of the final rodeo scene in the 1992 movie Pure Country starring country music legend George Strait.

Billy Bob’s Texas, the Stockyards Hotel, and even unassuming historic cattle pens also make the list on the tour, along with notations for the Texas Trail of Fame, which features more than 240 bronze markers honoring contributors for preserving and perpetuating the Western way of life.

Veteran actors Sam Elliot and Robert Duvall, both stars in the megahit TV series Yellowstone, are among the most recent Texas Trail of Fame inductees.

For more information and to get started on the tour, go here.