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The national Amber Alert system, which highlights when children go missing, is the subject of a new original documentary streaming on Peacock TV.

Called Amber: The Girl Behind the Alert, the show recounts the history of the Amber Alert and its origins in the Dallas-Fort Worth area.

The Amber Alert broadcasts across 50 states when a child goes missing, with details that include the child's appearance and possible abductors. The system has led to the recovery of more than 1,000 missing children.

The show delves into the case that inspired its creation: the 1996 abduction of Amber Hagerman, a 9-year-old who was kidnapped on January 13 while riding her bike in Arlington, Texas.

She was reportedly taken by a man driving a black pickup truck, but there was little for police to do but search the surrounding area.

Her remains were found four days later by a man walking his dog, in a stream of water that was eight miles away from where she was abducted. An autopsy determined she died of stab wounds to the neck. The case remains unsolved to this day.

The documentary includes never-before-seen footage of Amber's family leading up to and after her disappearance, as well as an interview with Amber's mother.

It also interviews Fort Worth resident Diana Simone, a massage therapist who saw the story on the news and called a local radio station, urging them to air details about the child's disappearance and the suspect’s vehicle, so that those driving could take part in the search, too.

Eventually, this idea became the Amber Alert (which stands for America’s Missing: Broadcast Emergency Response).

The alert was used for the first time in 1998, when eight-year-old Rae-Leigh Bradbury of Arlington was abducted by her babysitter. She was missing for 13 hours.

The documentary interviews Bradbury's mother, Patricia Sokolowski, who recalls when the alert was sent out that evening and a driver called in to report that he had seen the babysitter on a local highway.

"That’s her!" the driver says in 911 audio, played in the documentary. "I can't believe it."

The next day, Patricia and baby Rae-Leigh were reunited.

There's a trailer on Oxygen.com.

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 courtesy of Magnolia

7 spectacular surprises inside Chip and Joanna Gaines' new Fixer Upper castle in Waco

Royal revelation

“Are you ready to see your fixer upper?” the enthusiastic tour guide asked, channeling Chip and Joanna Gaines and their famous “big reveal” line from TV’s Fixer Upper. This time, it wasn't the home owners waiting outside a first glimpse at their home makeover; it was a small group of tourists gathered on the porch, ready to step inside the Gaineses’ most ambitious renovation project yet — a century-old castle in Waco.

For the first time ever, Texas’ king and queen of renovation have unlocked the doors and let the public into one of their famed fixer-uppers before it’s featured on their Magnolia Network show.

Known as the historic Cottonland Castle, this three-story, 6,700-square-foot residence was started in 1890 and finished in 1913. The Gaineses purchased the dilapidated structure in 2019 and designed and executed a regal flip that will be featured on an eight-episode special called Fixer Upper: Welcome Home – The Castle, beginning October 14.

They plan to sell it in the fall. But before a home sale comes an open house, and for three months only — through October 29 — the castle is open six days a week for guided tours.

Hour-long castle expeditions take visitors through every room, nook, and cranny — from turret to toilettes. Knowledgeable guides dispense history, impart design information, and reveal behind-the-scenes stories from Chip and Jo that may or may not make it on TV.

For Fixer Upper fans, Magnolia maniacs, and Gaines gangs, it's worth a drive to Waco to experience the castle transformation in real life before it hits the small screen. A tour offers the very rare chance to walk through the door (in this case, a 10-foot-tall, 400-pound, solid-oak door) into the world of a Chip-and-Jo reno.

Without revealing too much, here are seven fun surprises you’ll find behind the castle walls.

1. History meets homey. A castle museum, this is not.

“Chip and Joanna’s vision was that they really wanted to honor it with historical pieces but also make it more practical for the modern family that’s going to live here in the future,” guide Megan Shuler said at the beginning of the tour.

While many original features — including seven fireplaces — were restored, the castle has been fixed up as a home for the future, not a shrine to the past. One-of-a-kind and collected antiques (such as the kingly dining room table from Round Top, Texas) blend with pieces from the Gaineses’ own Magnolia Home collection. A 17-page “Castle Sourcebook” lists design elements and products and where to buy them. And in the ultimate modern touch — a branding tie-in — a forthcoming “Colors of the Castle” paint collection will be available through Magnolia this fall.

2. Sweet nods to the castle’s past. Posted on the wall in the foyer is a poem written by Alfred Abeel, the owner who completed construction in 1913. It talks of making the castle “‘home sweet home’ all seasons of the year.”

On the center of the dining room fireplace mantel is Abeel’s family crest, along with the phrase (in Latin), “God’s providence saves me.” Next to it, children’s heights are recorded from the 1930s to the early 2000s, the last time a family lived here.

3. A cozy nook in the turret. The original design was modeled after a small castle on the Rhine River in Germany, and there is one tower turret. A space historically used (in “real” castles) for military defense has, here, been turned into one of the coziest corners of the house. Tucked into a corner next to the winding staircase, two comfy chairs sit under an antique-y light fixture from Austria. It's the perfect place to curl up with a book from the library upstairs.

4. Rooms with storylines. “One of the challenges Chip and Joanna had when they bought the castle was, there was no one, really, they were designing it for,” Shuler explained. “So they would create storylines for each room to help tell their story.”

Two of the four bedrooms, for example, are the “boy’s bedroom,” and “girl’s bedroom.” The storylines are that the future homeowner’s son would come back from college and stay in his childhood bedroom, and that the future homeowner’s granddaughters would stay in the room while hanging out at the grandparents’ house.

The boy’s room contains more masculine furnishings and decor, including a watercolor portrait of Roy Lane, the famous architect who helped complete the castle. The girl’s room is painted in “Rose Pink,” a color named after Joanna’s grandmother.

5. Bodacious bathrooms. There are three-and-a-half “throne rooms” in the castle, and they’re some of the prettiest spaces, mixing metals, woods, and tiles; even original radiators look like works of art. One of the most spectacular rooms in the house, in fact, is a grand, gleaming bathroom — which (tease!) will be fully revealed on the show.

6. Party in the basement. “Gathering spaces” are a hallmark of Chip and Jo’s homes, and in the castle, they take place in the dungeon — er, basement. A “card room” for poker games or family game nights sits next to the family room, which houses the only TV in the castle. The guest bedroom’s also in the basement, along with a laundry room and a former wine cellar now left “blank” for the new owners to reimagine.

7. Behind-the-scenes tales and tidbits. Fixer Upper devotees will devour the charming and quirky tidbits about the Gaineses shared throughout the tour. There are a few design elements and furnishings originally meant for their own home, including an item banished to the castle by their daughters. There’s a fun story about what Chip did when they found bones — yes, bones — in the basement. And, the prime selfie spot for Fixer Upper fans is a large mirror that, the tour guides say, Joanna used to touch up her makeup during the filming of the show.

Castle tour tickets, $50, are available through the website, with 20 percent of proceeds benefiting The Cove nonprofit organization. (Note that the home does not have an elevator and requires guests’ ability to access three staircases.)

Tips for a Magnolia pilgrimage in Waco:
Shop: No castle jaunt would be complete without a stop at the Magnolia Silos complex. A new 8:15 am tour, offered Monday through Saturday, takes visitors behind the scenes and on the roof before the crowds (and the heat) arrive. Hint: August is a “slower” month at the Silos, and Tuesday through Thursday are less crowded. Tour tickets are $25 and come with a free coffee from Magnolia Press.

Eat: Chip and Joanna’s Magnolia Table cafe stays busy all day, every day. If you don’t have time to wait for a table, visit the takeaway market next door. Grab to-go items like pimiento cheese and crackers, a butter flight, banana pudding, and chicken salad sandwiches, and enjoy them on a table outside (if it's not too hot).

Stay: Availability at Magnolia’s four vacation rentals can be hard to come by, but watch the website for nights to pop open. Make it a girls’ getaway with a stay at the grand Hillcrest Estate (which sleeps 12), or go solo and book the darling Hillcrest Cottage, the Gaineses’ newest and smallest lodging, which opened in fall 2021. A forthcoming Magnolia boutique hotel, in the historic Grand Karem Shrine building downtown, is slated to open in 2024.

The castle will be on tour only through the end of October, before it's featured on a special season of Fixer Upper - Wecome Home.

Photo courtesy of Magnolia
The castle will be on tour only through the end of October, before it's featured on a special season of Fixer Upper - Wecome Home.

San Antonio doctor dives into Shark Tank with invention that stops hiccups

Shark bait

Humans are weird. Take, as a perfect example, the phenomenon of hiccups — the sudden and involuntary spasm of the diaphragm muscle between regular breaths. All humans experience them, and so do other mammals and even amphibians. But we’re guessing other animals don’t approach treating hiccups in the wacky ways humans do.

For instance, some less-than-successful hiccup remedies of lore include sipping water upside down (and subsequently trying to not drown), holding one’s breath for a long time (and often hiccupping throughout the hold anyway), sucking on a peppermint, gagging oneself or pulling on the tongue, and even gobbling up a spoonful of peanut butter to help change the breathing and swallowing pattern.

The truth is those ideas are mostly a waste of breath. Luckily, one San Antonio doctor has invented a device that supposedly instantly relieves hiccups — and his invention is getting so much attention that he’s even hooked a chance to pitch the product on a new episode of ABC’s entrepreneurial-focused reality show, Shark Tank.

Dr. Ali Seifi, a neurointensivist at UT Health San Antonio and the inventor of the aptly named HiccAway, will appear on an episode of Shark Tank that airs this Friday, January 21 at 7 pm.

HiccAway, a straw-like device that a hiccup sufferer uses to sip water through, is likely to wow the sharks — maybe even take their breath away? — as it is the world’s first scientifically proven medical product that safely relieves hiccups.

In fact, HiccAway was recently the subject of an article in JAMA Network Open, a publication of the Journal of the American Medical Association Network. The article addresses a four-month cross-sectional study of 249 participants from multiple countries that found that HiccAway stopped hiccups in almost 92 percent of cases and was rated a heck of a lot more favorably than home remedies.

“I believe that the science behind our product is what makes our product trustworthy and reliable. There are many hiccup remedies that are all hit and miss with no exact science to them,” Seifi says. “Some healthcare products claim they can cure a medical condition, but they don’t have scientific backup to support the product. I can confidently state that HiccAway is one of the few products on Shark Tank so far with a strong published research study as a backup.”

While hiccups are simply an annoyance for most of us, they can also be chronic for patients with cancer, meningitis, multiple sclerosis, stroke, traumatic brain or thoracic injury, and even for patients who have had surgery that requires anesthesia.

“After I witnessed my own neurology patients suffering from hiccups without an effective treatment, I was inspired to develop a safe and effective device that would be simple to use and easily available to all people,” Seifi says. “When you forcefully sip water through the device, it keeps the phrenic and vagus nerves occupied, so they don’t have enough time to cause unwanted spasms in the diaphragm. This interruption stops the hiccups.”

While the HiccAway device is already available to purchase through hiccaway.com and on Amazon, as well as at walmart.com and even in H-E-B stores throughout South Texas and at heb.com, Shark Tank (which boasts a viewing audience of about 7 million) could propel HiccAway and Seifi into a new realm of entrepreneurial success.

“For me, the experience was surreal,” says Victor Fehlberg, president and CEO of Higher Innovations Inc., which manufactures and distributes HiccAway from the Denver area. “It took so long to prepare, so much time was spent waiting, that when the pitch and appearance were finally recorded, it went too fast. It was like I was dreaming because it had been so long in the making.”

The Shark Tank appearance is likely a dream come true for Seifi and the HiccAway team — and a total breath of fresh air for the hiccup-suffering public.

New Braunfels beekeeper generates national attention with new buzzworthy PBS reality show

busy as a bee

A local beekeeper is about to generate some national buzz.

Charlie Bee Company, a reality TV show starring New Braunfels beekeeper and bee removal specialist Charlie Agar, just debuted on KLRU, Austin’s PBS affiliate. And this spring, the series is set to air nationwide on PBS stations.

The eight one-hour episodes of Charlie Bee Company track Agar as he goes about his work along the Austin-San Antonio corridor.

“People are just now beginning to understand how important bees are to the ecosystem, and I’m so excited to share my love for all things bees and beekeeping,” Agar says in a news release. “We had an absolute blast making this show.”

Austin-based Iniosante Studios developed the series. The genesis of the show was a 2017 meeting between Agar and wildlife documentary filmmaker Ashley Scott Davison, executive producer at Iniosante.

“The first time we followed Charlie on one of his bee removals, I got stung more than 20 times,” Davison recalls. “I was literally pulling stingers out of my leg. I knew right there we had a show that people would be glued to.”

Davison and his crew followed Agar for more than a year. Aside from Agar’s exploits, the show includes interviews with university researchers, behind-the-scenes looks at commercial beekeeping operations, and the rescue of a bee hive during a Texas Gulf Coast hurricane.

“What we like about the show is that it’s educational and there is a message about protecting pollinators, but it’s also just downright fun and entertaining,” says David Lauderman, director of programming at KLRU.

To watch a preview of the series, visit the Vimeo website.

Photo courtesy of Netflix

Netflix’s Cheer goes full out for new season starring 2 Texas college rivals

On the mat

Flip out, Cheer fans. The Netflix sensation is coming back for a second season January 12, and it’s doubling down on the Texas-sized drama.

Not only will the new season of the hit cheerleading reality series return to Corsicana to follow the twists and turns of Navarro College’s national championship cheer team, but it’ll also get on the mat with Navarro’s biggest rival, Trinity Valley Community College — located just 40 miles up the road in Athens.

Netflix made the surprise announcement on December 28 and described the new season like this:

The Emmy-winning breakout sensation is back and the stakes have never been higher. As Navarro defends its championship crown against a slew of challenges, including their fiercest rivals at Trinity Valley Community College, unexpected events threaten the camaraderie of the team and the season itself.

The biggest unexpected event, as loyal fans know, was the September 2020 arrest of breakout star Jerry Harris on several federal sexual misconduct charges, including soliciting child pornography. According to Variety, which was first to report the news of a new season, “Cheer deals with the allegations against Harris up front, and in an episode that focuses on the misconduct accusations, the brothers who first came forward about Harris are interviewed.”

The new season, Netflix says, will also deal with the aftermath of Navarro cheer team’s newfound superstardom as “cheer-lebrities” (remember when coach Monica Aldama competed on Dancing with the Stars?) and, of course, the upending of their 2020 season due to the COVID-19 pandemic.

Cheer became an instant hit when it debuted in January 2020, and went on to win three Emmys. The new season picks up after Navarro’s 2019 victory at the national championships in Daytona Beach, Florida (the culmination of season one). Filming began in secret in January 2020, Variety reports, just before the pandemic shut the world down — and canceled the 2020 championships. Filming picked up in September 2020, just as Harris’ legal troubles began. Netflix says:

Against that dramatic backdrop, the nine-episode season expands to showcase Navarro’s fiercest rival: Trinity Valley Community College. As with the Navarro team, TVCC has a charismatic coach and breakout stars whose struggles, triumphs, and stories extend far beyond the mat. As both teams push for the 2021 championship in Daytona, familiar faces take compelling detours and new contenders make a name for themselves.

Season one Navarro favorites La’Darius Marshall, Morgan Simianer, Lexi Brumback, and Gabi Butler return for season two.

Viewers also will get to know TVCC’s charismatic head coach Vontae Johnson, assistant coach Khris Franklin, and team members like Angel Rice, described in the trailer as “the Simone Biles of cheerleading.”

Who will triumph as 2021 champion? Are there even any other competitors? And will we finally learn what the team motto “FIOFMU” means?

Spoilers like this are easy to find, but why ruin the suspense?

Texas cheerleading is a hot TV topic right now. Cheerleaders in the small DFW town of River Oaks who were targeted by an attacker will be featured in a new crime series on Investigation Discovery TV, starting January 4.

The eyes of Hollywood also seem to be focused on Corsicana. Fruitcake Fraud, a documentary about an embezzlement at Corsicana fruitcake maker Collin Street Bakery, is streaming now on Discovery+.

The new season of Cheer begins streaming Wednesday, January 12 on Netflix. You can watch the official trailer below:

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CultureMap Emails are Awesome

San Antonio suburb among the richest places in Texas for 2023, 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 suburb cashes in among the richest places in Texas for 2023. Alamo Heights has been renamed the third richest place in Texas for 2023 in a recent study.

2. San Antonio home sales slowed in December 2022, report finds. San Antonio sold 36,477 homes all year, a 10 percent decrease from 2021.

3. Here are the top 5 things to do in San Antonio this weekend. Nina Simone, Pink Floyd, the Beatles and more music-centered events made our roundup of the best things to do in Alamo City this weekend.

4. San Antonio Home & Garden Show returns with HGTV star. Ati Williams will headline the San Antonio Spring Home & Garden Show, which takes place February 24-26.

5. H-E-B opens first location in growing San Antonio suburb. The state-of-the-art facility offers 110,000 square feet of floor space, providing everything from cat food to charcuterie.


Popular Pearl brunch spot remixes with new weekend DJ nights

OONCE OONCE OONCE

Though Full Goods Diner has barely been open for half a year, it has already become a San Antonio staple for working weekday lunches and lingering Sunday Fundays. Now the Pearl eatery is looking to be a hot spot after dark.

Via release, the popular local haunt just announced a new limited-time music series, Full Goods at Night. Starting on February 2, Full Goods Diner will open select evenings throughout the month.

The Full Goods at Night series will feature popular local San Antonio DJs, including El West Side Sound, Hector Gallego, DJ Plata, Steven Lee Moya, and Cami Gee. Guests can enjoy live sets while indulging in a specially curated food and drink offerings.

The menu will include some of Full Goods Diner's best—selling items, such as French toast sticks, barbacoa waffle fries, and jumbo cheesy tots. Libations like the Attaboy Negroni, Royal Bermuda Daiquiri, Pink G&T, and more will fuel the festivities.

In addition to enjoying moonlight brunch, guests can relish some prime people-watching. And, of course, the restaurant is just a hop from other nightlife destinations like Pink Hill, 3 Star Bar, and Summer Camp Bar, making it the perfect party starter.

The series runs every Thursday, Friday, and Saturday from February 2-25, 6-10 pm. The complete DJ schedule is listed below.

February 2 — El West Side Sound·
February 3 — Hector Gallego
February 4— DJ Plata
February 9 — El West Side Sound
February 10 — Steven Lee Moya
February 11 — Cami Gee
February 16 — El West Side Sound
February 17 — Steven Lee Moya
February 18 — Hector Gallego
February 23 — El West Side Sound
February 24— Steven Lee Moya
February 25 — DJ Plata

4 San Antonio culinary pioneers win $21K from the Texas Food & Wine Alliance

CULINARY INNOVATION

Texas’ skyrocketing culinary scene is about to get a huge boost. The Texas Food & Wine Alliance’s grant program has awarded $107,500 to 19 culinary innovators around the state. This marks the Alliance’s 11th year providing funding to support culinary projects contributing to local communities.

The award winners were announced in a ceremony at Austin's Holdsworth Center on January 21. A private panel of distinguished culinary experts chose the winners out of 40 grant applications this year. Nine winners hail from Austin, three from Dallas-Fort Worth, three from Houston, and four from San Antonio. The awards range from $1,500 to $10,000, with a special $25,000 grant investment from Austin favorite Tito’s Handmade Vodka in honor of the company’s 25th anniversary. Grant funding will support chefs, farms, and culinary education groups, among others.

Out of the four San Antonio area winners, Talking Tree Farm received the most from the grant program, $6,250 to purchase shipping containers for storage and to buy a solar-powered cold room for their harvests. John Marshall High School’s culinary arts program will use their $5,000 grant to establish a morning café. Agricultural project Habitable Spaces and pasture-raised chicken farm Cielito Lindo Farm also won $5,000 each to purchase equipment or build infrastructure to further their endeavors in the culinary space.

Austin-area winners received the most funding from the grant program, totalling $53,750, while San Antonio winners received $21,250 in total. Dallas/Fort Worth winners were awarded $19,750, and the three Houston recipients won $12,750. All of the 2022 winners reflect just how diverse the state's trailblazing culinary scene continues to expand.

“All of this year’s funded projects will further enrich the state through innovation and giveback,” said Erika White, executive director of the Alliance. “We’re extremely grateful to each of the Texas communities, our sponsors and their support in allowing us to reward these mold-breaking projects.”

In Austin, organic farm Trosi Farms was awarded the most funding ($10,000), which will help construct a germination shed for more stable plant start production. Locavore pioneer Boggy Creek Farm won $7,500 in grants to provide ADA-compliant accessibility to their new climate-controlled Tomato House, while Texas’ first organic feed mill, Coyote Creek Organic Feed Mill & Farm, received $6,250 to help purchase a building to be used as a store for the local community.

The six other Austin area grant recipients, each winning $5,000, include Vista Farms at Vista Brewing, Jamaican family business Tierra Todun ATX, coffee roasters Rising Tide Roast Collaborative, culinary educator Chef Pascal Simon from Bake Austin, East Austin food truck Community Vegan, and Latinx pastry project Comadre Panaderia (who also just earned a James Beard nomination). All winners will be able to use their grants to improve efficiency and expand their businesses, or in Chef Pascal's case, further research and development for her upcoming cookbook for Gen-Z young adults.

After starting the program in Austin, grant co-chair and TFWA past president Cathy Cochran-Lewis says it was the Alliance’s dream to expand the grant statewide.

“We’re so humbled and thrilled to now not only support worthwhile projects across Texas but also to give more than a half million dollars in funding over the last decade to help dreams come true,” she says. “This is a tribute to the culinary talent and the community mindset we are lucky to have in our state.”

The winners in the Dallas-Fort Worth and Houston areas include:

For this year's Honorable Mention, the Alliance chose San Antonio eatery Tacos Cucuy, who will soon open a brick-and-mortar space with an expanded menu. Tacos Cucuy are currently looking for support to develop a Tex-Mex charcuterie program called La Cura Carnes Especiales.

More information about the 2022 grants and its recipients can be found on texasfoodandwinealliance.org.