Semifinals for this year’s The Woodlands Idol competition were held this past Friday. Of the thirty semifinalist who had been selected to compete, 29 of them showed; making for a full night of fantastic entertainment.
Even before the deluge of rain swept in midway into the evening, Papa’s Ice House was just packed. I haven’t heard an official headcount, but there were easily 200 or more people there. And that big of a crowd makes for great audience participation and feedback when the contestants are on the stage.
Everyone seemed to be having a great time, and the energy in the air was electric; you could see the mix of anticipation and nervousness on the faces of those who were going to take the stage, as well as their friends and family who had come out to support them. After some small hiccups, the night went off without a hitch. Ticket sales seemed to go smoothly, despite a few minutes’ delay with one of the credit card machines. Craig Gentry of Tunes of Texas had the sound system all prepped and ready to go then inexplicably for the first 20 seconds or so of the opening announcements, the mic seemed to have gone dead. All-in-all, minuscule issues.
As I sat watching and listening to the performances, I was once again in awe of not only these neighbors of mine having such great talent – but the enormity of the task of choosing amongst them that the judges were facing. Ask anyone who was there, almost every performance was absolutely fantastic! And if you weren’t there, good-ness! You don’t know what you’re missing!!
Speaking of the judges; have I introduced them to y’all yet? The entire panel are professionals in the music industry, with “day jobs” in a variety of music-related businesses. Kyle Hutton, is a local singer/songwriter, and founder of Real Life Real Music. Theresa Yow is a contemporary Christian artist and vocal instructor serving The Woodlands, Spring, Conroe and surrounding areas. Dana Tyson is a host on the Morning Show at Houston’s own Sunny 99.1 Radio, and Marc Reczek is the General Manager/Music Director for School of Rock The Woodlands, as well as a veteran guitarist, bassist, drummer, percussionist, vocalist, recording engineer, producer, and composer. All of the judges bring something to the table (aside from winning smiles) for the competitors, and are clearly far more qualified than the average person (*cough*me*cough*) to take in this competition and help these budding performers move on to the next level in their singing careers.
So who did they choose from among the 29 to send on to Finals next week?
Well, first up was #4 Shanna Roark, who belted out “I Surrender” by Celine Dion. She had an impressive sound, with a strong voice; I would dare say she could give Celine a run for her money.
Next to make it past the judges was #7 Zachary Jones, with yet another flawless performance of “Dirt Road Anthem” a song he does great with, covering both Jason Aldean and Ludacris’ parts. It’s one of his best songs, and he nailed it (of course).
A little bit later was #10 Aaron Del Bosque. He seems to really love doing Jason Mraz songs, so when he sang “I Won’t Give Up” he did extremely well with it. He doesn’t copy Jason so much as covers him; and it was smooth. Nice!
Number 11, Chelsea Rollins, was up next and made it in, singing “Mamma Knows Best” by Jessie J. It’s a fast-paced song, and she seemed very comfortable with it, though not very clear. Maybe it was the sound? I think the rain had started up just about that time.
Encouraging everyone to get out their phones (instead of lighters), #13 Jordan Burmeister filled the cool night air with Journey’s “Faithfully”. She did so great with it. I swear she gets better every time I hear her; she’s got a great vocal and style range.
As someone who seemingly has no qualms with being on stage in front of a lot of people, #18 Kathryn Rodriguez, easily got the judges attention once more, when she sang Janis Joplin’s “Piece Of My Heart”. Personally, I think she sings it better than Janis does. Or maybe not so much “better” as “smoother,” which is to say, more singing, less barking.
Mary Goldknopf (#21), beautifully covered The Beatles’ “Oh Darling”. She started a bit early, as the vocals do actually begin before the music, but she recovered well. She has a great voice for for the tune, similar to Dana Fuchs from the “Across The Universe” soundtrack.
It took a little while, but we eventually came to the next judges’ pick, #29 Simply Dion, who sang a song he had only decided on upon arriving at registration at the top of the evening – “If Ever You’re In My Arms Again” by Peabo Bryson. He did really well with it, and I’ve gotta says he’s got a great set of pipes! And last, but certainly not least, was #30 Louie Cruze, who belted out ol’ blue eyes’ “My Way” (Frank Sinatra), complete with drink in one hand and mic in the other. He sings so well, you never see it coming, and then he blows you away.
What’s that, you ask? Why is #3 Jim Tillmans pictured? Well, I’ll tell you. You might recall that last year, I pointed out that he’s one of those ‘guys that sound just like Michael Bublé,’ when he sang “Fever.” He was also a preliminary winner last year, and the 5th Annual The Woodlands Idol 3rd Place Winner. So when he sang “Me and Mrs. Jones” he once again gave me goose bumps (or at least, that’s the reaction I’ll post here if you know what I mean). Personally, I just can’t get over how smoothly, much like Michael Bublé, Jim sings. His is a crooning style; smooth, silky. He and Bryan Kennedy, as I pointed out both last week and last year, share that talent. I was sad to learn that neither of them move on to Finals next week, but I think they both have bright singing careers ahead of them. Or at the very least, a whole lot of swooning ladies.
This week’s People’s Choice winner #1 Matthew Moore, who sang “Maria, Maria” by Santana. To my untrained ear, it sounded as though he wasn’t really on key, and seemed to have missed some cues – maybe even ad libbed a little. But of course, I am one of many, many people in the audience, and the tribe has spoken, as they say.
So next week is the Finals! Each contestant will sing two songs, which cannot be songs they have already performed in either their preliminary rounds or at semifinals. This helps the judges (as well as the audience) to get a little more insight into each competitors’ range of abilities – because hey, how can anyone hope to take it to the next level if they can only really sing one or two songs? I can’t wait to hear what happens next week! See you there?
Finals will be held on Friday, November 1 at Mama J’s BBQ & Grill, and remember, it’s a ticketed event. Tickets are only $10, and can be purchased at all of the Woodlands Area Chamber of Commerce free business networking events (see our Event Calendar for dates and locations), at the Chamber offices of course, online, and finally, at the door. The sooner you get your tickets, though, the better, as space will be limited.
For pictures from semifinals, check out our Facebook Album. Remember to come out and be a part of this amazing competition. Trust me, being there is a blast – even when the music is slow! ;-D
Preliminary Competitions – Round Three
This past Friday night was the third and final preliminary of the seventh annual The Woodlands Idol competition. Once again we had a full roster of contestants – not only were there 30 of them, but 21 had signed up online before the event night!
Having the event at Papa’s Ice House on Pruitt Road allows for a great size crowd, which is a good thing as it tends to kind of force the competitors to bring a little more showmanship to the stage. And that they did. This week we had everything from Bach to Katy Perry, Frank Sinatra to 3 Doors Down, and even a Van Morrison tune. The country tune ratio was down to 8 out of 30, too! ;-D
I noticed the crowd really seemed to be more energetic and really enjoying the show; and that’s always a good thing. Like any musical performance, it’s always better if there’s a real energy in the room.
I, for one, enjoyed having more than one “goose-bump” inducing performance – and in fact, there were several that brought out a full-blown, foot-stomping, shouting and whistling, standing ovation of an audition. Those are always the best.
For the third round, the first competitor to be chosen by the judges was Simply Dion (#3), who really reminded me of Robert Bell – the 3rd Annual Woodlands Idol Winner. He smoothly belted out Luther Vandross’ (well, Heatwave’s) “Always and Forever.”
The next contestant to make it through was Lindsay Allen (#10). Lindsay competed two weeks ago at the second preliminary. This week, she sang Bach’s classic, “Ave Maria.” Clearly in her element, she did not miss a single note, never stumbled through the Latin lyrics, and even if Bach is no one’s definition of “Ice House” type music – no one there could deny she did a beautiful job.
Immediately following her was Melissa Sterling (#11); her strong performance of Katy Perry’s “Thinking of You” was almost over-powered by the fantastic shade of red in her hair!
Note: I say that not only tongue-in-cheek, but also in true admiration of her confidence to not only rock a hot pink/red hair color, but also be one of those who seemingly is totally at ease with being on stage in front of so many people and performing. You go, girl!
But just before those two fantastic performances was the man I would have loved to have seen make it in, Bryan Kennedy (#9). As soon as he started singing, I knew I recognized that smooth crooning opening. Unfortunately, I think his choice for this year (Clint Black’s “Desperado”) wasn’t as strong as last year’s “Georgia On My Mind.” Shucks.
Our next Judge’s Pick was another second-time’s-the-charm competitor, Rex Johnson (#12), who also auditioned in Round 2. Rex has one of those voices that you can just imagine hearing at any up-scale, old-school piano bar. He did a great job on Frank Sinatra’s “My Way,” so great, in fact, he got at least half the crowd up on their feet for a standing ovation with his powerful ending. We happened to have the opportunity to speak with Kyle Hutton, one of the Judges, at The Chambers’ Business After Hours event this evening, and he said something I think so many of us noticed about Rex last Friday. When he takes that stage, with that microphone in hand, he just absolutely lights up. It’s fantastic to watch.
With yet another amazing performance for the evening was Terri Blake (#15), who got up on that stage and took ownership of Etta James’ “At Last.” And I’m telling you, she held the last note of that song for-ev-er! Louie Cruze (#17) had some of us guessing, because before he began his performance he addressed the crowd for about a minute. And as a (seemingly) native Spanish-speaker, he was speaking very quickly and with a pronounced accent. But when he sang Frank Sinatra’s “New York, New York,” he was clear, had excellent timing, and everyone enjoyed hearing him.
Kathryn Rodriguez (#20) gave what was easily the most animated performance of the entire contest so far. As she sang Journey’s “Separate Ways,” (and did a great job doing it) she danced from one end of the stage to the other, and back to front. And during the bridge, threw in some air guitar, air keyboard and dance moves with her invisible bassist. The eighth judge’s pick was Sarah Brindley (#22), who did well with “Heart of Dixie” by Danielle Bradbury. Though she remained rather stationary on stage, she had a good, strong voice. The final Judges’ pick for the evening was Mary Goldknopf (#30), who did a great job with Evanescence’s “My Immortal.” Though she started a wee bit softly, she gamely tackled the full range of notes from low to high, and was very much at ease with the song. And finally, this week’s People’s Choice winner was Ashley Conlon (#8), who adequately covered Joan Osborne’s “One of Us” during the first segment of the night. I think her performance was a little drowned out, though, by crowd noise and the music levels.
So next week is the Semi-finals. All 30 of these local singers will go head-to-head to become one of the lucky 10 “best of the best,” and a shot at becoming this years’ Woodlands Idol. We wish them all the best of luck, and don’t envy the judges at all when it comes to having to narrow that field down. I can only imagine the difficulty when it comes to the finals! Don’t miss the semi-finals on Friday, October 18 at Papa’s Ice House, and finals on Friday, November 1 at Mama J’s BBQ & Grill, and remember, they are ticketed events. Tickets are only $10, and can be purchased at each of the preliminary events, at all of the Woodlands Area Chamber of Commerce free business networking events (see our Event Calendar for dates and locations), at the Chamber offices of course, online, and finally, at the door. The sooner you get your tickets, though, the better, as space will be limited.
For pictures of the third preliminary event, check out our Facebook Album. Remember to come out and be a part of this amazing competition by attending the final rounds of preliminaries, and getting tickets to the semi-finals and finals coming up. Trust me, being there is a blast – even when the music is slow! ;-D
Preliminary Competitions – Round Two
Last Friday night brought us a whole lot of rain, along with the second preliminary of the seventh annual The Woodlands Idol competition. The weather didn’t seem to deter the contestants or their fans, however, as we had a record 29 people take the stage – and Crabby Daddy’s was packed!
Granted, the rain and the traffic did cause a little bit of a delay, as one of our judges, Kyle Hutton, was stuck out there in the mess. But it wasn’t much time at all before we got the ball rolling.
This is what I get for complaining about those first three songs being slow in the first round. Karma, man. Out of 29 performances – twenty-nine – there were about 20 of them that were of the slower, ballad-esque variety. But at least what was lost in tempo was made up for in variety. Here are some of the songs we heard, in addition to those that moved on to semi-finals:
See? You thought I was kidding. No, but seriously – just like not many singers can build a career on all dance tunes, most everyone has to have at least one good ballad in their bag of tricks. So okay, no more whining from me – that’s not what you want to read about anyway. Let’s just get on with what all you missed if you weren’t there; or enjoyed right along with us if you were.
The first competitor to make it in to semi-finals was Chelsea Rollins (#1), who sang James Brown’s This Is A Man’s World, and frankly, I’m pretty sure anyone in the room would have been surprised if she didn’t get in. Clearly, Chelsea was comfortable with the song, comfortable with her abilities, and comfortable on the stage.
Then as far as judges’ picks were concerned, we had a bit of a dry spell, as they didn’t put another contestant through until Jordan Burmeister (#10), who, you may recall, I developed a bit of a soft spot for when she competed last year, making it all the way to finals. She did a great job with Sugarland’s “Stay”.
But smack-dab in between Chelsea and Jordan was Scott Baker (#4), who sweetly dedicated his performance of Tim McGraw’s “My Best Friend” to his wife, Angela. It’s purely a guess, but I’d be willing to bet that’s his blushing bride’s hand you see there holding up an iPad to record the performance. Though I thought I detected a time or two where Scott was a little off cue, odds are good that I was wrong (again, not really a country music fan, so…) and apparently others in the audience felt he did a good job, as he was selected as this round’s People’s Choice winner.
The next three judges picks all came in quick succession – first was Ashley Smith (#14), who sang Cece Williams’ “Alabaster Box,” then Sha Foy (#15), with Corinne Bailey Rae’s “Like A Star,” followed by Lovette Ellerbe (#16), singing Natalie Cole’s “Our Love.” Of the three, Lovette was my favorite, as she seemed to be most at ease on the stage and more importantly, genuinely enjoying the music. I wanted Sha’s performance to be my favorite, as “Like A Star” is one of my favorite songs. But I don’t know; I just didn’t feel Sha giving the lyrics the same passion I hear when listening to Corinne Bailey Rae. It could also be because I just automatically associate it with Grey’s Anatomy (Season 2, Episode 18 – “Yesterday”), which is when I first heard it way back in 2006. And there was always so much pain and heartbreak in season two… but I digress.
A few minutes later we got to the first deep, rich voice of the night, Nicholas Turk (#18), who did a great job with Jake Owen’s “Don’t Think I Can Love You.” I don’t know what it is about those deep voices, but man, they get me. Aaron Delbosque (#26) apparently changed his mind at the last minute about what song he wanted to do, but it was okay with me, as his new selection was Jason Mraz’ “I’m Yours.” I really enjoyed his performance, as did most of the audience, especially since he puts his own spin on it. He’s also comfortable on the stage, as this is his third year competing. Aaron was a semi-finalist two years’ back, and a preliminary winner last year. Last year’s 3rd Place Winner, Daryl Bullinger (#28) gamely took on Zack Brown Band’s “Colder Weather,” and did really well despite his telling me just after his performance he “had no voice” tonight (he blamed it on having been awake for the past 24 hours).
Finally, we had our “goosebump” event of the night. One, last minute entry was Gina Wagner (#29). Gina was the 2nd Place Winner in the 4th Annual The Woodlands Idol. But when the music first started up, my partner and I looked at each other and sighed. We immediately recognized the tune, because it seems to be a favorite each year with The Woodlands Idol contestants. But when Gina started in with Martina McBride’s “With A Broken Wing,” I don’t think anyone there – judges, contestants, friends, relatives and audience members alike – would deny she was, bar none, the best one yet doing it.
For pictures of the second preliminary event, check out our Facebook Album. Remember to come out and be a part of this amazing competition by attending the final rounds of preliminaries, and getting tickets to the semi-finals and finals coming up. Trust me, being there is a blast – even when the music is slow! ;-D
The third preliminary round of The Woodlands Idol is Friday, October 4 at Papa’s Ice House. This is the last night that is free to attend. The semi-finals on Friday, October 18 at Papa’s Ice House, and finals on Friday, November 1 at Mama J’s BBQ & Grill, are ticketed events. Tickets are only $10, and can be purchased at each of the preliminary events, at all of the Woodlands Area Chamber of Commerce free business networking events (see our Event Calendar for dates and locations), at the Chamber offices of course, online, and finally, at the door. The sooner you get your tickets, though, the better, as space will be limited. For more information about The Woodlands Idol competition, check out our Woodlands Idol page or The Woodlands Idol official site.
Preliminary Competitions – Round One
It’s that time of year again, and last Thursday kicked off the seventh annual The Woodlands Idol competition. After all the fun I had last year, and the mind-blowing moments so many of us enjoyed, I was really looking forward to the competition heating up again this year.
And apparently, I’m not the only one. This year’s first round had 20 contestants, up from last year’s first round count. And there were quite a few of them that managed to bring the standing-room only crowd to their feet, dancing, clapping, and cheering them on.
Not that it started out that way… One of the great things about how The Woodlands Idol works, is that competitors are lined up at random; I don’t know how they do it exactly. A computer program, scraps of paper in a hat – point is, there’s no telling who’s going to sing what and when until the day of the competition. But unfortunately, that’s also kind of a bad thing. Now, now, hear me out. Listen, this is a competition – and the judges are awarding points based not only on the competitors’ vocal ability, but also on their entertainment value. How much fun does it look like they’re having up there? And more importantly, how much fun is the audience having? So when the night got started with not one, not two, but three, slow, melancholy, sad songs – you could almost hear the crickets.
Now, I get it. For some people, maybe singing those soft, slow songs are the best way to showcase their talent. But it’s a rare singer that goes on to become greatly successful with just the slow songs – most everyone has a range. Think of LeAnn Rimes – sure, she’s known for “Blue,” but she can rock “Can’t Fight The Moonlight.” Etta James is famous for “At Last,” but no one can deny her “Something’s Got A Hold On Me” has got a great beat. What I’m trying to say here, is, sometimes it’s best to throw a little caution to the wind and cut loose up there. Get us on our feet. Make us want to sing along. I’d be willing to bet the judges take note.
The first competitor to make it in to semi-finals was Matthew Moore (#1), who sang The Carpenters’ Superstar. He did good with it, and managed the whole song with nary a glance at the prompter.
Three contestants later, just as I was beginning to worry it was really gonna be a slow night, Ty Wellborn (#4) took the stage. Then it happened – once again I was taken completely by surprise. Ty sang “Voices” by Chris Young, appropriately titled, in my opinion, as the voice that came from that guy certainly didn’t match his young-looking face. Ty had a voice that was deep and smoky, reminding me of Scotty McCreery and Blain Larsen – and of course of Chris Young himself.
Which just goes to show that there’s no fix in on this competition (TheWoodlandsEvents.com is a media sponsor of The Woodlands Idol); sadly, the judges passed on Ty, and though I voted for him in the People’s Choice polling over the weekend, he didn’t get enough votes to get in. But hey – no reason you can’t come back and try it again, Ty! There’s two more rounds of preliminaries, and you can enter them all!!
The others that will get to go on to the semi-finals from Round One are: Joseph Cross (#5), who sang the Animals “House of the Rising Sun,” then Jim Tillmans (#6) – who was a preliminary winner at last year’s 6th Annual competition, and the 3rd Place Winner the year before – brought down the house with Tracy Chapman’s “Gimme One Reason.” Shanna Roark (#9) did a fantastic job on Aretha Franklin’s “Natural Woman,” clearly enjoying every minute of it. Jeremy Charles (#10) made Eric Church’s “Smoke a Little Smoke” sound great, though I thought I detected a little bit of cracking on the higher notes. Samantha LaVern Crow (#11) blew us away with Alannah Myles’ “Black Velvet,” hitting all the highs and lows, dancing as she sang and never once checking the prompter that I saw.
Alexandra Jackson (#14) is who managed to snag the People’s Choice votes this week, and I do understand why. She sang Maroon 5′s “Misery,” making it her own by putting some twang on it, if that’s possible. But she did so with no prompter, and had a good stage presence. Zachary Jones (#15) had no trouble impressing the judges or the crowd, he is after all last year’s 2nd Place Winner, and sang Brooks & Dunn’s “Believe” as though he’s one of the duo. Diana Majewski (#17) gets my props for bringing variety to the evening, singing Sarah Vaughn’s “Lullaby of Birdland,” I noticed she had her eyes closed much of the time, clearly needing no prompter. And finally, Malori Elsner (#20) busted out Dusty Springfield’s “Son of a Preacher Man,” she was totally into it, completely comfortable with song, moving and dancing as she sang, and getting most of us to sing along with her.
For pictures of the first preliminary event, check out our Facebook Album. Now, here’s the thing; you can check out the photos, or take my word for it sounding like it’s a lot of fun to be there, or you can come out and be a part of this amazing competition by attending the next two rounds of preliminaries, and getting tickets to the semi-finals and finals coming up. Trust me, being there is sooooo much better. Go. You’ll thank me.
The second preliminary round of The Woodlands Idol is Friday, September 20 at Crabby Daddy, followed by the third preliminary round on Friday, October 4 at Papa’s Ice House. Those two nights are free to attend. The semi-finals on Friday, October 18 at Papa’s Ice House, and finals on Friday, November 1 at Mama J’s BBQ & Grill, are ticketed events. Tickets are only $10 and can be purchased at each of the preliminary events, at all of the Woodlands Area Chamber of Commerce free business networking events (see our Event Calendar for dates and locations), at the Chamber offices of course, online and finally, at the door. The sooner you get your tickets, though, the better as space will be limited. For more information about The Woodlands Idol competition, check out our Woodlands Idol page or The Woodlands Idol official site.
Kiwanis Kids Fishing Tournament
Up with the sun and ready to have fun, more than 160 children of all ages along with their siblings, parents, grandparents and friends all gathered on the banks of the pond at Creekwood Park in Panther Creek for the 30th annual Kiwanis Kids Fishing Classic. Located just across Panther Creek Drive from McCullough Jr. High School, there’s plenty of parking for the the Kiwanis Kids Fishing Classic – which is a good thing, since the turnout tends to be so high!
Though registration for the annual event begins at 7:00 AM with the horn blown to begin fishing at 8:00, event organizers tell us some of the most avid anglers begin arriving as early as 6:30 AM to scope out and secure their spot. The two-hour children’s event combines family time with good, “clean” fun, allowing for everyone to have a great time. This year’s tournament got underway just a few minutes before 8:00 AM, with the first fish caught in an estimated three minutes, weighing in at a respectable 3.7 pounds!
The First Woodlands Fishing Event for kids was held in 1983 by The Woodlands Bass Club, a local organization which handled the event until The Woodlands Kiwanis took over hosting the annual free fishing tournament in 1999.
Though there is some competitive spirit among the kids who participate, the purpose of the tournament is truly to bring the community together and enjoy some family time. The Woodlands Township lends a hand in making the fishing plentiful for all, stocking the pond a day or two in advance with an estimated 500 pounds of catfish. With an average fish weight between two and three pounds, that means a good 150 to 200 additional fish are there for the catching. Even with almost two hundred people fishing this morning, that’s a lot of fish to go around.
But while two to three pounds may be the average, there are inevitably a few smaller and larger catfish to be sure. This year’s winner for largest fish caught was eight year old Camilla Johnson, who managed to reel in an incredible 7.27 pound catfish – with maybe a little help from her dad. It’s likely that catfish (and at least one other at 7.07 pounds) is among last year’s event survivors, which have double their size in 12 months – there could be some even larger ones at next year’s fishing tournament. Her whole family was in on the fun, with mom helping to wrangle the fish on the ground, and siblings catching them, too! Mom tells us this isn’t their first Kiwanis Kids Fishing Tournament, they’ve been doing this for a while, with her eldest child sporting a circa 2005 Kiwanis Fishing Tournament shirt.
There’s also a trophy given for the greatest number of fish caught, and this year’s winner could put a pro to shame! Ten year old Kirk Beverung, dressed in his distinctive purple Magellan Outdoors shirt and fishing cap, brought in an amazing 13 of the 66 total fish in the two-hour tournament. When asked what type of bait he was using, his response was, “live worms, of course!” He also said he’d managed to catch them all using the same hook!
Of course, Camilla and Kirk weren’t the only recipients of trophies – in the true generous spirit of Kiwanis, all participating kids receive a trophy, as well as a commemorative t-shirt, a breakfast of donuts provided by HEB, hot dogs for lunch, ice-cold beverages, and oatmeal-chocolate-chunk cookies to snack on. These items were provided by Hodges’ Food Basket, Coca-Cola of Conroe, and Chick-fil-A The Woodlands, respectively. Also provided free of charge is a distinctive mix of stink bait by Mikey’s Cat-Chum, as well as numerous helping hands assisting with bobbers, hooks and lines by the guys from The Woodlands Bass Club. There are many other local companies who also sponsor and help out with the tournament each year, providing all kinds of things like ice, paper goods, crafts for the non-fishing kids, and more. The Woodlands Kiwanis Annual Kids Fishing Tournament is truly a community event and experience.
So if you missed it this year, be sure to mark your calendars, and keep an eye on ours as well. The Woodlands Kiwanis Annual Kids Fishing Tournament is usually held right around Labor Day Weekend, and is one of four major events hosted by The Woodlands Kiwanis each year. The other major events are the Special Olympics in March, the Prayer Breakfast in May, and the Kids Triathlon in July.
Other ways The Woodlands Kiwanis give back to the community includes offering $1,000 scholarships to a number of local high school students each year, and partnering with area high school “Key Clubs.” If you’d like to be involved with the Kiwanis, or just check them out, head on over to one of their weekly breakfasts on Thursday mornings at The Woodlands Friendship Center on Lake Robbins Drive, or join the newest area Kiwanis Club, The Market Street Noon Club, at their bi-monthly lunches on the first and third Tuesdays of each month in the Community Room at HEB. You’ll be glad you did.
The Woodlands Kiwanis serves the community with numerous activities designed to improve the lives of the children in our community, and around the world. Their current project is supporting the Eliminate Project – a world wide effort to eliminate neonatal tetanus. This deadly disease kills almost 60,00 babies per year. The Woodlands Kiwanis have committed to raise over $30,000 for this project, and have raised $14,500 to date. Some of their past projects have included the “Send Your Luv & Huggies to Pamper the Babies of the Panama Canal Zone Children’s Hospital,” a diaper drive which brought in 65,000 diapers, fundraisers for Tetanus Inoculations, saving the lives of mothers in developing countries, and Shoes for Orphan Souls, a shoe drive for orphaned children.
Note: Though Creekwood Park fishing pond is a “Catch & Release” pond – meaning that all fish caught are required to be immediately released back into the water – an exception is made for the purpose of the Kiwanis Kids Fishing Classic. Because of the large number of fish added to the pond for the tournament, event organizers generally ask the parents and guardians of the children if they would like to keep their catch. It is our understanding that leaving all of those extra catfish in the pond would likely cause problems in the balance of the ecosystem there, perhaps causing over-crowding or other issues.
When Dustin Wray booked a room for himself and his girlfriend at The Woodlands Resort near Houston last month he decided to test the resort’s customer service. When he came to the “special requests” section of the online reservation form, Wray, 28, requested that the resort provide him with three red M&Ms and a picture of bacon.
“Three red M&Ms on the counter. Not packages, just three single M&Ms. One for me, one for my girlfriend and one to split if we get hungry late at night. And a picture of bacon on the bed. I love pictures of bacon,” he wrote in his request for the nearly $200 hotel room.
”I figured real bacon would be too hard to come by,” Wray, an account manager for a cloud computing company, told ABCNews.com. “I wrote it so that if they saw it they would laugh because it was stupid but also make it feasible if they actually wanted to fulfill it.”
When Wray, of New Braunfels, Texas, arrived at his room at the 440-room resort with his girlfriend, Lauren Taylor, last Friday night, the joke was on him.
“I saw the three red M&M’s there and it honestly confused me,” he said. “I was staring at them thinking this is weird. And then Lauren started laughing at the picture on the bed [of bacon] and I turned around and looked and that’s when it all clicked.”
“We celebrated by eating a very small amount of M&Ms,” he said. “We laughed about it a bunch and thought it was absolutely cool.”
Wray was so surprised that the hotel had matched his request down to the last detail that he didn’t bring it up to the hotel staff at the time and didn’t even leave a tip when he and Taylor checked out the next day.
“As we were driving home I felt like a jerk,” Wray said. “I definitely have to go back to right my wrong.”
Wray will have a chance to redeem himself very soon thanks to his decision to share the hotel’s good deed on Reddit on the social sharing site Monday and identified [The] Woodlands [Resort] by name in hopes it would generate some well-earned good publicity for the resort.
In just four hours, Wray’s Reddit post generated 80,000 views and led to coverage on local Houston radio shows and in local blogs and newspapers.
As a thank you, an official from [The] Woodlands [Resort] reached out to Wray and offered him another stay at the resort, this one on the house.
“I’m definitely going to be going back and I’ll right my wrong in the tip department,” Wray said. “I included the name of the resort hoping if people saw it they’d think, “I want to stay there.’”
“You never expect something like this to come of it,” he said.
The resort’s general manager says that guests’ special requests tend to center more around marriage proposals than funny whims like Wray’s, but that the hotel [resort] staff are happy to fulfill them all.
“We want the staff to have fun with the customer,” the manager, Greg Parsons, told ABC News.com. “It keeps us on our toes and if we can bring joy to somebody, why not. We have bacon and we have M&Ms in-house.”
“I’m glad he didn’t ask for us to wrap the bacon around the M&Ms,” Parsons joked.
Wray says he will not make [The] Woodlands [Resort] go through the hoops again with another special request because, “they’ve already proven their merit.”
But other hotels who see Wray pop up on their reservation list, be warned.
“I might do it a little bit,” he said. “It’s kind of a gauge whether or not the hotel [resort], or any company, cares about you.”
editors note: Dustin tells us that he has since righted that wrong with the resort staff.
original photos: Dustin Wray
By Guest Author: Justin Deffner
Often times when I’m training, I’ll get asked, “how often do you get hurt,” or, “what’s your worst injury?” Although it may seem like what I do is dangerous, I can honestly say that in the three years I’ve been training, I’ve only had one significant injury from doing parkour; a large bruise on my arm from attempting a jump and using a technique incorrectly. From everything I’ve seen so far, I’ve come to the conclusion that parkour is one of the safest physical disciplines that can be practiced.
Have I taken drops that could sprain ankles or break legs? Yes. Have I jumped over gaps that were sketchy? Yes. Did I risk myself while doing any of these? No. I, along with almost any traceur out there (especially those I know in The Woodlands scene), knows their limits and understands the capabilities of their body. Issues can arise from the miscommunication and lack of understanding about this discipline. I will say this right now, I know that many people are not familiar with parkour, and similar to other things, a lack of understanding can result in misconceptions about what parkour is or is not. Parkour is not just a bunch of kids trying to out-perform each other by doing the most dangerous stunt they can imagine. Parkour (French pronunciation: [paʁˈkuʁ], abbreviated as PK) is a holistic training discipline using movement, which developed out of military obstacle course training. Practitioners aim to move quickly and efficiently through their environment using only their bodies and their surroundings to propel themselves, negotiating obstacles in between (wiki). It is a fairly new discipline here in America, and is sometimes greatly misrepresented on TV and the internet. My goal is to bring to light what parkour truly is.
Let’s take a few other disciplines and sports into consideration when thinking about potential danger. Along with parkour, I’m a martial artist (and I love every second of training). Parents and authority figures everywhere love the fact that kids are involved in the martial arts. Practicing these physical disciplines teaches self control and self defense among other things. They also put you in situations where you have to fight (commonly known as “sparring”). I have been kicked, punched, rammed, choked, and grappled more times than I care to count in my martial arts training. Is it dangerous? Obviously yes, it is. In the real world, if somebody attacks you, they likely mean to hurt you – or at the very least, prevent you from hurting them. It is neccessary to learn how to react to potentially dangerous situations and how to protect yourself if somebody is actually attacking you. By donning hand and foot pads, martial artists practice “controlled” fights, and will go to tournaments to spar against people they’ve never met before. It’s quite intimidating, especially when you’re a short guy like me going up against the bear-size men I’ve had to spar against.
Now, learning to defend yourself is great. I love the martial arts, and wish I had gotten started in them earlier. However, there is another way to defend yourself against most any potential attacker. What if, instead of trying to overpower an attacker, you can simply avoid the confrontation by safely getting away from the situation? As a test, I had one of my friends (who doesn’t practice parkour) attempt to chase me in a variety of outdoor environments. In every attempt, I successfully evaded him very quickly. If you can scale a wall in less than a second that takes another person three seconds to get over, or jump off a staircase (SAFELY) instead of taking fifteen seconds to go down the stairs, you can get easily escape from bad situations in quick and safe manner.
We’ve all seen the people in the Olympics flipping and twisting and doing those movements with funny names (as a gymnastics coach, even I sometimes laugh at the names of some moves), and those athletes are applauded for what they can do. In just over a year since we opened, we have had 1,400+ students enrolled in our gym whose parents want them to learn how to flip, jump, and tumble to some extent. Who can say that gymnastics isn’t dangerous? Yes, we have what seems like a million different cushions, pads, and foam pits. Why? Because tumbling is so ridiculously dangerous to do. Gymnasts learn to flip and focus on pointing their toes, sticking landings, and making sure their form is perfect – and they will fall while learning to do so. Imagine the impact in your knees after doing a double backflip and sticking the landing. I’ll tell you from experience, it doesn’t feel good; and it is hard on your body. With parkour, we learn the flips in a completely different way. A gymnast will worry about sticking their landing, while in parkour, the emphasis is on dispersing the impact of the landing so that we don’t take as much shock throughout the body. A gymnast will focus on pointing their toes and using correct form, while in parkour, we just worry about what naturally works for a flip and what will get us through it in the safest and most efficient manner. Have I fallen while practicing parkour? Yes, countless times; but learning how to disperse the forces of the impact became second nature to me mere weeks after starting my parkour training. In fact, because I learned how to tumble and flip outside of a gym, I’ve become much more capable and versatile with what I can do compared to gymnasts who have trained the same amount of time. It’s not uncommon to see me or my friends do flips and land in the most bizarre ways (on our stomachs, kneeling in a “Power Ranger” pose, or even flat on our backs) not unlike what you might see the hero do on TV or in the movies. Because we trained our bodies to react to our physical environment, we learn to adjust at just about any point, in any movement, to position ourselves to land in a safe – if not always graceful – way.
Wooden items breaking as we jump from them, rails shaking as we vault over them, or tables being slippery and wet when they might look completely dry. Yes, we learn to test the durability of items before we climb or jump on them, but at the spur of the moment there may not be time to decide if the rail is loose or the grass is dry. Things like people walking in front of us as we’re about to start a maneuver, or even shoes slipping in the grass can happen to all of us everyday. Parkour teaches us to learn how to react to these situations and greatly lessen the odds of being injured. You could think of it as the most masculine form of ballet; learning how to be graceful in the great outdoors. Many of these and similar situations have happened to me, and I’m not going to lie, it is scary. But through my training, and the training that every traceur has experienced, these situations become nothing more than simple obstacles and handleing them is second nature. Before we can even think, our bodies can react to these situations accordingly, and we either jump, roll, redirect, stop, or even fall in the safest possible manner.
Traceurs go through training that is just as rigorous as that of the martial arts and gymnastics. We learn the extent of our bodies and our own capabilities. We learn how to preserve our bodies while doing what should be natural for us to do. When we are on a narrow ledge, or up on a high surface, we aren’t doing it to be reckless or try to get millions of hits on Youtube. We are doing it because we know we can do it safely, and we want to move past the state of mind that says “you can only do things one way.” If I can make a standing five foot jump between two ledges on the ground, why shouldn’t I be able to do it twenty feet in the air? If I can do a backflip and land in the same spot on grass, why shouldn’t I be able to do it on a concrete ledge nine inches wide? We don’t throw these tricks to show off, we do it because we know we can, and we have to prove to ourselves that we, as humans, are capable of so much more than we may know, or think we are.
In closing, consider this statistic from Parkour Visions, a renowned academy known for teaching parkour. Rafe, one of the instructors there, calculated injury statistics from the gym. “For the record, we calculated our injury rate recently in the parkour visions teaching program. It came out to two injuries per thousand hours training time. This is probably lower then self-directed training, but it is not in my experience a huge difference. Indoor rock climbing averages around three, gymnastics (training) around four, soccer (training) is 7.6 and American football (training) is 16. I could not find statistics for MMA training but concussion rate alone for MMA competition is 15 per thousand hours – that’s not including any other types of injuries.” (Source)
If you have any questions about parkour or the safety of the discipline, feel free to email me at XMAparkour@yahoo.com
By Guest Author: Justin Deffner
When you were little, did you ever climb a tree? Did you ever play on the monkey bars? Do cartwheels at the park, play the game “floor is lava,” or jump from one spot to another? If so, you have done parkour. By moving differently, creatively, and by using your body in a way different than the norm to overcome obstacles – or simply to have fun – you are doing exactly what the freerunners on YouTube are doing.
Often times when people see me doing parkour, they ask how I can do most of the things I do. That question has always confused me, because the movements I do come second nature to me. When I’m out doing parkour, the moves area as natural as walking to me. I firmly believe that everybody has the ability to do what some consider to be the basic movements of parkour, which I’ve listed below.
The Shoulder Roll is the first thing that just about every traceur learns to do. The roll is similar to a gymnasts somersault, except instead of going over the head and down the spine, the shoulder roll passes over one shoulder, goes diagonally across the back, and ends at the opposite hip. This is used whenever the traceur trips, falls, over-rotates, becomes off balance, or needs to disperse impact. On an episode of Fight Science, scientists measured the impact of Red Bull Athlete Ryan Doyle taking a drop of 14 feet and landing with the shoulder roll. The result? The jump resulted in about the same amount of impact that you might feel when doing a simple jumping jack.
The Safety Vault is used to vault over an obstacle quickly, and with as many points of contact as possible. The traceur puts one hand and the opposite foot on the obstacle. He then jumps over the obstacle and continues on his way.
The Speed Vault is used to pass over an obstacle quickly, without changing direction or body position. The traceur jumps over and plants a hand on an obstacle, pushes off, and continues on his way.
The Kong Vault is used to pass over an obstacle and gain momentum/distance. The traceur dives towards the obstacle, and after planting his hands on it, pushes off and pulls his feet through.
The Precision Jump is exactly what it sounds like – jumping to a precise location. Sometimes the obstacle being jumped to can be as tiny as a handrail.
The Cat Leap is used when an obstacle is too high to precision jump to. The traceur jumps towards the obstacle, and will put their feet on the side of it, then latch onto the top edge with his hands before climbing over and continuing on thier way.
The Lache is simply swinging off of a bar. Commonly used in combination with other movements (lache to precision, or lache to cat, etc).
The Wall Climb is used when the traceur wants to get to the top of an obstacle that is too high to jump up to. He runs towards a wall, plants his foot about waist high on the wall, and pushes off the wall at an angle that allows him to convert forward momentum to upward momentum.
The Tac is similar to the wall climb, except instead of traveling up a wall, the traceur pushes off the wall to travel to another spot. Commonly used in combination with other movements (tac to precision, tac to cat, etc).
Parkour, at its most basic level, is simply movement. It’s jumping from one curb to another. It’s vaulting over a bench. It’s going over a rail instead of around it. It’s not adrenaline-fueled jumps off the tallest thing you can find, or doing the most dangerous thing you can imagine. The movements I’ve listed above form the basis of the physical aspect of what parkour is, and as I have said before, anyone can do it. I’ve taught hundreds of students over the years, from 4 years to over 40 years old; and all of my students have been able to do most of the movements listed above. Granted, a 4-year-old will have trouble climbing a 6 foot tall wall, but many kids that age love the rolls and cartwheels and laches.
Below is my friend Bryan’s video from last year. He does most of the movements described above, along with a few others in his video. Everything in this video was accomplished in only four months time. This is a prime example that you don’t need to do huge drops, or big flips to do parkour and have fun while doing them safely. All it takes is some time, a good attitude, and willingness to learn.
Should you ever run across Bryan or myself doing these movements here in The Woodlands, feel free to stop and say hello!
Parkour In The Woodlands
By Guest Author: Justin Deffner
I’d like to start this off by saying that I mean no disrespect to anybody in this post. If anything comes off as disrespectful, I apologize. I’m simply trying to clear up any misconceptions about something I’m passionate about. I have full respect for park rangers, officers of the law, and the people of The Woodlands.
In the film industry, it isn’t uncommon to see people doing flips off of walls and action stars climbing buildings as if they posed no problem. What is rarer, however, is seeing these things happen in real life. A new discipline called parkour is starting to make a breakthrough in America, and it is being misunderstood by those who do not practice it. As a result, many authority figures are casting practitioners out of public areas around The Woodlands, such as parks, The Waterway, and sports fields. They claim that parkour is dangerous, that the athletes are criminals, and that they disturb the people around them. The art of parkour is greatly misrepresented and should not be restricted.
In order to understand why parkour deserves to be recognized instead of looked down upon, it is important to understand what it truly is and how it started. Parkour is the discipline of overcoming obstacles by going over, under, or through them using only the human body. It originated from the French military as a way for soldiers to move from one point to another quickly and efficiently without getting hurt. A French man named David Belle brought it from the military to his hometown, and started training with his friends. Soon after, the discipline spread all over Europe, and it is just now starting to become recognized in the United States. Common movements include vaulting obstacles, scaling walls, and jumping from rail to rail. Some practitioners, called traceurs, have started adding creativity into the discipline, as a way of expressing themselves through movement. It is not rare to see flips, twists, and spins added to the art; and due to this, some people immediately assume parkour is a dangerous activity.
Parkour is not as dangerous as some would have the public believe. Traceurs spend years working on basic movements and body conditioning in order to avoid injuries. These athletes do not enjoy getting hurt, and injuries only set them back in their training. Due to the sheer amount of time spent working on basic training and safety measures, injury statistics are incredibly low compared to many popular sports. According to a study done by a renowned parkour academy Parkour Visions, parkour-related injury rates “came out to two injuries per thousand hours training time.” This is relatively safe, considering “indoor rock climbing averages around three, gymnastics (training) around four, soccer (training) is 7.6 and American football (training) is 16… concussion rate alone for MMA competition is 15 per thousand hours.” Another parkour organization, Texas Parkour, states, “emphasis has always been on safety and community.” Texas Parkour is the single largest parkour organization in Texas, and is known throughout America. With such a huge group saying “Jumping off buildings, roofs or bridges is not encouraged,” it is clear that dangerous activity is frowned upon by those who participate in parkour.
Almost every traceur, whether they started training with an experienced group or by themselves, starts off by learning what to do in situations gone wrong. Traceurs learn through muscle memory what to do and how to stay safe – in case they are over-balanced, falling backwards, or even fall ten feet or more to the ground. Experienced traceurs become almost animalistic in their training; I myself was nicknamed “Creature” by a crowd that was watching me train. I once vaulted a wall and landed on a tiny ledge, but lost my balance and started to fall off. By instinct I jumped to the closest wall, grabbed the edge, and pulled myself up all in one fluid motion. When training, we don’t have to think about what to do if something goes wrong; muscle memory and instinct take over, and we find the most efficient way to stay safe.
While some authority figures will claim that parkour practitioners are vandals and criminals, this stems from misinformed stereotyping and couldn’t be further from the truth. For example, traceurs will often wear baggy sweatpants and hoodies, because the material flows and is comfortable during training; but authorities will sometimes stereotype the athletes and start harassing them based on their appearance. Many authorities will stop me from training by claiming that I’m “disturbing the people” around me. This is a very common reason given by authorities for traceurs being told to leave, but often it is a misguided reason. Traceurs are very respectable as a whole, and if anybody, whether it be an officer, a business owner, a parent – even a child – asks me or almost any other traceur to leave, we will do so quickly and quietly.
But more often than not, the people that are around us are more entertained that frightened or disturbed. There are thousands of videos of parkour online that show the looks of awe and enjoyment that people express while watching traceurs training. I was told by a bystander that watching me was like “watching an artist paint a picture. Except, you were using your body and environment instead of pen and paper. It was really inspiring.” Another time I was training with my brother, and I was getting ready to do a back-flip on a narrow ledge. While my brother was working the camera and I jumped for the back-flip, my brother saw two police officers walking towards us. In the video, his groan is audible and he mumbles “time to pack up.” however, the officers simply walked up to me, shook my hand and said “that was really awesome. You could probably charge people to watch you. Keep up the good work!”
Unfortunately, not all officers are this understanding. I myself have been verbally abused and lied to by officers (who I will not name) who patrol The Woodlands Waterway. Just a few weeks ago, I had two friends from Houston come up to visit and take pictures of The Waterway with me. Within a few short minutes of us being at the stairwell where Six Pines Drive crosses over The Waterway – a beautiful spot right by the Marriott – an officer approached us and said he had gotten calls “fifteen minutes ago about some kids jumping around.” When I tried to explain to him that we had just arrived, and that we hadn’t done anything more than taken pictures, he became extremely angry and told me to stop lying to him. We had to listen to him tell us how he “knew” what we were doing, and we agreed to leave the Waterway immediately. My friends and I realize the officers are just doing their jobs, but we end up having to leave a beautiful, public place – all because of a misunderstanding. In the three years I’ve been training, I’ve only been asked by a civilian bystander to leave an area once. Other than that, most people are sorry to see me and my group walk away.
Now obviously, private property is another matter. Especially here in The Woodlands. I, along with the people who train with me here, know that climbing buildings, hopping over certain fences, and jumping around right outside a building is extremely disrespectful, and could be considered trespassing. One of the guidelines among those training here is that trespassing is an absolute “do not,” and that if anybody tells us we are on private property and asks us to leave, we MUST leave immediately, without causing any problems whatsoever – no ifs, ands, or buts. Statistics show parkour is also not as destructive as some claim it to be. Traceurs are respectful, and will not destroy any property. Doing so is reckless, needless, disrespectful, and destroys things to train on.
In a recent debate about opening a parkour-based park in Live Oak, Texas (just outside San Antonio), fliers were posted in opposition, asking “Do you want a haven for heroin addicts in your backyard? Do you support nefarious activity?” and even going so far as to say “Bikers break bones, skaters smoke pot, and parkour kills.” That is taking things to the extreme. Parkour is anything but nefarious and full of drug addicts. In fact, the art of parkour commonly pulls people away from drugs and into a better life. World-famous traceur Daniel Ilabaca, who has been in many commercials including a 5 RPM Gum commercial (where he is shown doing a variety of flips), shared his story in a video “Choose Not to Fall.” Ilabaca states “I used to do drugs, I used to do all those things. Then one day I saw a guy do a wall-flip in the streets… It was that individual and the way he looked at life! I never knew then, but I… know now, that’s what it was. It was a way for me to break out of this mold, this uncontrollable system I was in.” (full transcript here) The art and discipline of parkour pulled Ilabaca out of a hard, crime-filled life, and turned him into a respectable role model for many young people.
Ilabaca isn’t the only man to have his life change for the better through this beautiful art. My good friend Stephen Laster, also known as “Viking” for his tall stature and long hair, is one of the most well-known traceurs in Texas. He has performed in live shows, is constantly being interviewed, and is sponsored by Take Flight Apparel, one of the biggest names in parkour. However, he didn’t get this recognition due to any incredible skills; it was his story and his journey that sparks inspiration. In an interview with AmericanParkour.com, Stephen says, “Parkour literally changed my life. Before I had a bunch of problems, I was on probation, I was a smoker, a drinker, and I was overweight. Parkour and the [parkour] community have really helped me straighten everything out and get my life back on track.” Viking started off training when he was over 300 pounds. Needless to say, that isn’t really your typical athlete body structure. However, in just four years, he has completely turned his life around, and is always seeking to help others do the same.
Parkour is no less of a discipline than the martial arts (I would know, I teach martial arts as well!), and should not be restricted. The parkour community is a respectable lot, and the only problems people have with us is through misunderstanding. With law enforcement in Europe practicing the discipline, it should be accepted, even applauded for people to learn. The best thing to do is find some middle ground where this miscommunication can be cleared up.
A little bit about me: My name is Justin, and I’ve been doing parkour for just over three years. I am one of eleven athletes in Texas sponsored by Texas Parkour, and I currently teach gymnastics and tumbling at ASI Gymnastics, and martial arts at Cox ATA Martial Arts. I do stunt work and acting for indie films around the Houston area, and have fielded requests to do things such as dress up like Spider-Man for children’s birthday parties, be a “ninja” for videos, and perform for events for Plato’s Closet. I graduated from TWHS in 2011, and currently take classes for acting and film editing. I love living here in The Woodlands – I’ve been here for 18 years, and never once regretted it – and I hope to make parkour an acceptable discipline here before I move away! If you would like to discuss parkour with me, or have any thoughts about this, feel free to email me at XMAparkour@yahoo.com.