In an effort to ease congestion, traffic and parking concerns in The Woodlands’ major shopping district, The Woodlands Township is launching a free express shuttle service to allow for a more convenient way for the public to enjoy the holiday season in Town Center.
Coinciding with the Lighting of the Doves Festival, the Holiday Shuttle Express will begin service on November 22, 2014, and will continue until January 4, 2015. The free service will consist of three different shuttle buses that will circulate around The Woodlands Mall, Market Street and the Cynthia Woods Mitchell Pavilion, with shuttles available every 10 minutes.
The “Holiday Shuttle Express” route will have eight stops, including the Gold Parking Lot at the Pavilion, The Woodlands Waterway Marriott, Waterway Square, Market Street, and the North, South, East and West areas of the mall. These easily-identifiable vehicles will operate seven days a week from 10:00 AM to 10:00 PM, and are operated independently from the existing Waterway Trolley System.
“Residents and visitors can now park in one spot and shop, dine, and enjoy the holiday spirit throughout the Waterway, Market Street and Mall areas,” said Chris LaRue, transit program manager for The Woodlands Township. “We encourage the many employees in this area to utilize this free service as well.”
For more information on The Woodlands Township’s Holiday Shuttle Express, please call 281 210-3800 or visit the Township’s official website.
Alspaugh’s Sterling Events
Way More Than A Hardware Store in The Woodlands
In 1986, Rick and Dorothy Alspaugh opened their first hardware store in Kingwood, Texas – Alspaugh’s True Value Hardware, which became Alspaugh’s Ace Hardware in 1996, just southeast of the Montgomery/Harris County line in Kingwood. Following years of success and with a small bit of serendipity, in 2012 the Alspaughs obtained their second Ace Hardware – Alspaugh’s Ace Hardware of The Woodlands – located at Woodlands Parkway and Kuykendahl Road at the boundary lines of the Villages of Indian Springs and Sterling Ridge. Building on the remarkably successful formula that is both a hardware store and a high-end, well-appointed gift boutique, all in one place – like its Kingwood successor, the Woodlands’ location offers an incredible, and eclectic range of products from home-improvement to gift shopping.
Not only can you find a wide range of products one would expect to find at most any hardware store, Alspaugh’s Ace Hardware offers all kinds of interesting and hard-to-find items the average homeowner may need without having to leave the neighborhood. And as an added benefit, not only can stopping in at the store save you the wait (and cost) of shipping one of those hard-to-find items from an online retailer – but you just might find something you didn’t even know you needed! Ladies, when was the last time that you actually enjoyed going to the hardware store with your husband? You might discover a new affinity for going to the hardware store, if you go to Alspaugh’s Hardware, that is. As you enter the store, let him go to the right, and you turn left. You will be amazed at the wealth of beautiful, and beautifying things you can find for yourself, your home or office, your friends and loved ones. We sat down with Rick and Dorothy, along with their B2B Specialist, Ruth Cotter, to get a better feel for everything that is, amazingly, under one roof.
The staff at Alspaugh’s Ace Hardware and Alspaugh’s Sterling Events all adhere to a culture of exemplary customer service, providing both a reflection and a projection of the owners’ high standards. Every employee at the store, with every transaction, attempts to exceed the customers’ expectations every time. Rick tells us that the Woodlands store is successful because of the management that is in place. Troy Blackmon, the store manager who has been at this Ace Hardware since 2008, knows every inch of the store from front to back, ensuring the high standards of customer service set by the owners. Rick and Dorothy split their time between their two locations, and it’s fairly common to see either of them out on the floor – whether that means mixing up some paint, wrapping up your gift selection, unloading a truck, or ringing up your purchase. Alspaugh’s is a family business, and a prime example of a true “Mom & Pop Shop.”
Adding to the hometown feel of Alspaugh’s stores is the amazing amount of charitable contributions the Alspaughs, their employees, and the Houston Ace Hardware Group as a whole, contribute to local schools, non-profits and charitable organizations of all kinds. They also support local Boy Scout troops, Texas Children’s Hospital through Children’s Miracle Network, and organizations like America’s Heroes First Foundation for wounded warriors; an organization employees at the store voluntarily donate to through automatic payroll deduction. In fact, the Houston Ace Hardware Group is most philanthropic in the nation, exhibiting yet another aspect of the Alspaugh’s philosophy of achieving excellence in everything.
Some of the products you might not expect to find at Alspaugh’s include items you’ll wonder how you went without once you’ve tried them. In one of the grilling and cooking accessories aisles, for example, there is a wide range of seasonings, sauces, and spices to zest up your next barbecue or gourmet kitchen feast. In the lawn & garden section of the store, which has grown to four times the size it was just three years ago, Alspaugh’s offers unique plants native to our area, and a plethora of garden accessories, as well as offering a variety of organic products for your garden. Plus, be sure to check out the BBQ Pit House for all things “Big Green Egg” kamado-style cookers, grills, smokers and pits.
Over in Alspaugh’s Sterling Events, there are upwards of 50 different product lines to browse and shop among, including Arthur Court, Beatriz Ball, Consuela, Gameday Boots, Kameleon, Lamp Berger, Lily and Laura, Natural Life, Pandora and Vera Bradley just to name a few. The Pandora collection at Alspaugh’s Sterling Events is second-to-none, so impressive in fact that Pandora’s founders have traveled from Denmark to admire it’s offering in such a unique setting – a hardware store. Alspaugh’s Vera Bradley collection has won multiple retailer awards from Vera Bradley. What makes Sterling Events better than any other boutique around The Woodlands? In a word – integrity. Between the two Alspaugh’s locations, the length of time in business and product knowledge is impressive, and vendors really appreciate their philosophy of business. All employees are fully and continuously trained with in-depth knowledge of each person’s particular area of the store, as well as cross-training for other product lines. Plus, there is always stock on hand, and if the item you’re looking for does happen to be out of stock, they can quickly get it from the manufacturer or via store transfer.
Perhaps even more impressive is how even if you’re looking for something Alspaugh’s happens to not normally have on hand, they can bring in just about anything you need. Adding to the convenient location and having so much under one roof, not only can you find something for everyone – including yourself! – but you can also gift wrap and ship your purchase right there in the store. At Alspaugh’s Ace Hardware in The Woodlands there is a full-service US Postal Service counter available, offering almost all the post office services you could get at a regular post office – though passport services and post office box rentals aren’t available at this location.
When asked what their favorite part of owning and operating the stores is, both Rick and Dorothy immediately offered the same answer, “the people.” For both of them, it’s the relationships with the customers, doing things with them and for them. And it’s having a great team to work with. When asked if they had anything else to add, Rick and Dorothy both expressed warm appreciation for their customers; “Thanks. Both to those that have just found us and those that keep coming back. It’s a two way relationship – customers support the business, and the business supports the community.”
We couldn’t agree more. Want to experience all that greatness yourself? What are you waiting for! Alspaugh’s Ace Hardware and Alspaugh’s Sterling Events is open seven days a week; Monday – Friday, 8:00 AM – 8:00 PM, Saturdays 8:00 AM – 6:00 PM, and Sundays 10:00 AM – 6:00 PM. Convenient to everyone in The Woodlands, Alspaugh’s the Woodlands is located at 10720 Kuykendahl Road, The Woodlands 77381. Give them a call at 832 482-3063, or find them online following the links above, and on Alspaugh’s Sterling Events’ Facebook page, Alspaugh’s Garden Center Facebook page, or Alspaugh’s Big Green Egg Shack Facebook page.
Down The Rabbit Hole
Where We’ve Been While We Weren’t Here
A number of you have asked what happened to us these past few months, it seems we’ve gone almost “radio silent” on everyone. And while we appreciate your concern, please know it’s all been for good reason.
Our parent site, WoodlandsEvents.com, has been on it’s second incarnation since somewhere around Christmastime, 2011. In that time, we have grown exponentially – serving several hundred visitors per day back then, to several thousand per day now. While our Event Calendar has always been one of the most extensive in the area, what used to be a few dozen events per month can now sometimes include over one hundred. As anyone who lives here in The Woodlands can tell you – there’s always something going on.
Some of you may have noticed in the past several months the site has slowed down quite a bit. Without going into all the technical details, this was due mainly to two issues:
The software we used to build out the site the way it is now is showing it’s age. Like the iPhone that gets a new iOS, the software we use in the background has gone through a few updates. Some of those updates had components that didn’t work so well, and some of those updates left some other components that may have worked before, unavailable.
The second issue is simply one of content. We have a LOT of information on our site! Of course – you already knew that, that’s what keeps you all coming back, right? And we really appreciate your visits, and your patience.
And because we couldn’t be who we are without visitors like you, the best thing we can do is make the user experience a great one. So to that end, we are once again updating the site.
So this is what’s happening in the background; our new layout is being built on all-new, state-of-the-art software, and it’s fast. REAL fast. The new software has been designed to run quickly and smoothly on most all web-enabled devices. In this day and age, we’ve all become accustomed to near-instant gratification, and this having to wait 10, 20, even 40 seconds or more (eep!) to get from one page to the next in a site can be frustrating. Our new layout is much more “up to speed” – you can plan on pages loading much, much faster.
The new design is optimized for modern mobile devices such as the iPhone, as well as Android and Windows-based phones, notebooks, tablets, and iPads. The responsive design isn’t just something that looks like a mobile app with heavy menu and animation. We’re building compact and lightweight version of the site, while preserving the whole original look-and-feel. Plus, it will have a very simple, yet effective menu system that is very fast and lightweight. No more pinching and zooming! Yay!
So what’s taking so long? Well, it’s a lot of factors, really. The first is we relocated our offices at the first of the year, so the whole move put a bit of a delay on everything. The second is this is what we do; for everyone. The difference being when we do this for our clients, they have to come first, so we find ourselves getting sidetracked on our own sites as we devote our full attention to a client’s site. But the third – and most important – reason it’s taking so long, is because frankly, you just can’t rush a good thing. We’d much rather take our time working out the kinks in the background than launch a half-finished shell of a site for you, the visitor, to get frustrated with and lost in.
But the good news is we’re getting there. We hope to have the new site up and running before the end of the year. And in the meantime, the current site is being updated all the time with current event information, albeit perhaps a bit slower than you’re used to seeing. And for that, again, we apologize. But we promise, it’ll all be worth it in the end!
Thanks for visiting, and we’ll see you on the other side!
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