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The Lead Sept. 26, 2022: Banning books conversation percolates in Kerr County; Festivals wrap up an amazing weekend

Protest outside of the Butt-Holdsworth Library offers two sides of a story, one hinged with a bit of conspiracy.

Good morning, Kerr County!

We hope you had a great weekend! There's little to no movement in the long-term forecast for the Hill Country, and the National Weather Service offers these two words — sunny and warm. The good news is that the mornings will be cool — in the high 50s. There's little doubt that we will finish September with little-to-no rain.

On today's The Lead Live!

Our usual Monday bunch of Texas Hill Country Advisors Andrew Gay and Gilbert Paiz visit to share with us all the latest in the financial markets and Leslie Jones from the Kerrville Convention and Visitors Bureau advances the week's events. On Tuesday, we'll get an update on Kerr County's bond initiative from three political action committee members.

Upcoming Featured Events

The Kerrville Chalk Festival, Oct. 15-16, Kerrville City Hall.


Kerrville Chalk Festival is a family-friendly art event for the Texas Hill Country. More than 65 artists create large-scale chalk drawings directly on the pavement. Kerrville’s downtown becomes a festive canvas for local and regional artists, as wells as invited guest artists from around the United States.

The Festival has live music, many free activities, food trucks, as well as wine and craft beer. It attracts an estimated 10,000 attendees annually. Read about the history of chalk art.

Held at Peterson Plaza in the heart of downtown, the event encourages tourists and locals to dine, shop, and experience the beauty and charm of Kerrville, Texas.

The 2022 beneficiary is Kerrville Arts and Cultural Center (KACC). KACC was founded in 1995 by a group of artists with a mission of providing a show place for local artists and to further the arts and culture in the community. The Center is comprised of sixteen affiliated groups representing over 500 artists and has three distinct gallery spaces. It attracts over 20,000 visitors annually.

Mark your calendar for Public Power Week Oct. 2-8, and the Bucket Truck Rides.

The Kerrville Public Utility Board (KPUB) is hosting a family-friendly event to meet our heroes in hardhats while we celebrate Public Power Week!

Please mark your calendars for Saturday, October 8, from 10 a.m.-1 p.m., to join us in Louise Hays Park for a free community event!

This will be a free community event with family-friendly activities that will include taking a ride in one of KPUB’s bucket trucks, arc & spark demos, line worker tool displays, photo ops with our linemen, face painting and more.

KPUB will be providing free hot dogs, chips and refreshments on a first-come, first-served basis, as well as a free t-shirt for the first 100 attendees. For more information:

Ahead of a big weekend for Kerrville, an ugly moment at the library

Demonstrators picket in front of Kerrville's Butt-Holdsworth Memorial Library. The demonstrators argue that the library is promoting child pornography.

Depending on who you ask, Friday's demonstration in front of the Kerrville Butt-Holdsworth Memorial Library featured two points of view — ban books, don't ban books.

Egged on by right-wing Kerr County Commissioner and radio talk show host Harley Belew, about 50 "patriots" demonstrated in front of the Water Street library campus. They held signs suggesting defunding the library, that the library staff was grooming children for a homosexual lifestyle and that child porn was readily available at the library.

Opposing the "patriots" were about 50 people with their point of view — mostly the library shouldn't ban books.

Counter protestors were on hand to defend the library and its staff.

However, this is just the first phase in a culture battle that will manifest this week, possibly at the Kerr County Commissioner's Court this morning and Tuesday when the Kerrville City Council reviews the library's collection policy. In emails obtained by The Lead, the patriot groups plan to demonstrate at the meetings.

There is a shifting focus on library books across Texas that focus on lesbian, gay, transgender and queer themes. To make their point, conservative groups use words like "grooming" to describe the books as part of an agenda to influence children into a gay lifestyle. However, that theory forces someone to accept that LGBTQ+ is a choice — something that's not easily defined.

The American Psychological Association describes sexual identity this way: "There is no consensus among scientists about the exact reasons that an individual develops a heterosexual, bisexual, gay or lesbian orientation. Although much research has examined the possible genetic, hormonal, developmental, social and cultural influences on sexual orientation, no findings have emerged that permit scientists to conclude that sexual orientation is determined by any particular factor or factors. Many think that nature and nurture both play complex roles; most people experience little or no sense of choice about their sexual orientation."

The battle over books stems from a Republican in the Texas House of Representatives who sent the Texas Education Agency a list of more than 800 objectionable books, many of which have LGBTQ+ themes. Nationally, Florida politicians pushing a "Don't Say Gay" bill for the public schools — meaning there was to be no discussion of sexual identity — posited that gays and lesbians recruit children to join them.

During his Thursday morning talk show, Belew shared that he believed gay and lesbian recruitment was related to population control. The groomer strategy may have emerged from the QAnon conspiracy theory suggesting that Democrats are grooming children for sex and drinking their blood.

Kerrville and Kerr County have an agreement that county residents can access the library. In return, the county provides animal control services. That agreement was recently renewed for one year by the city and county.

What a weekend!

Kerrville's Chris Barker completes the quarter-triathlon on Sunday.

The last weekend of September is arguably the busiest for Kerr County, and this year was another monstrous one. With nearly every hotel room and short-term rental booked for the weekend, the economic impact of the Kerrville Triathlon Festival will take some time to measure.

The event's organizers said they brought more than 2,000 people to Kerrville for the two-day triathlon. The event attracted 1,454 participants, according to their official results. It's not quite the biggest — that was in 2019 — but it shows growth, especially in the Saturday event.

"I would hope that it continues to grow,'' said Stacey Keese, one of the owners of High Five Events, which puts on the annual race. Saturday's sprint triathlon had more than 600 finishers for the first time since 2016. In 2019, the triathlon had its biggest field with more than 1,600 competitors.

There were few problems with the weekend event; by Sunday noon, crews had cleared streets, opened roads, and torn down the setup.

"We'd really love to built Sunday with more people doing a full half triathlon and get more people from the community to do a shorter triathlon," Keese said.

Swimmers make their way toward the finish on Sunday morning.

San Antonio's Nina Trevino heads toward the finish line in the quarter triathlon on Sunday afternoon.

Grape Juice owner Patrick Wilt is all smiles after finishing Sunday's triathlon.

Cyclists make their way down Water Street on Sunday morning.

The triathlon attracts just a handful of Kerr County residents, most coming from San Antonio and Austin. About 40 people from Kerrville participated in races on Saturday or Sunday.

Check out our photo galleries from the triathlon:

While the Kerrville Triathlon Festival was running through the streets, there were plenty of other things happening, including three art shows. Over in Ingram, the Texas Arts and Crafts Fair celebrated two busy days of arts, food and music — and camels.

Camels seem like patient animals.

The 50th anniversary of the first fair, first held at Schreiner University, drew large crowds on Saturday morning.

"The arts are always going to be important in the world, and we just have to remind people sometimes that the arts are important but you come out to something like this and you see how important it is," said Sarah Derousseau, executive director of the Hill Country Arts Foundation and The Point Theatre.

The fair's patrons perused art from across the spectrum from Amado Pena's Southwest-inspired pieces to blacksmithing demonstrations by Doug Garey to watercolorist Tish Miller, who was making her first appearance at the fair. There were also camels, which included an interpretive explanation in Texas history as a beast of burden for the U.S. Army prior to the Civil War.

The fair will see a changing of the guard in 2023 as longtime director Wandy "Fluffy" Cash is stepping down from her stewardship. Replacing her is Jennyth Peterson.

Blacksmith and master artisan Doug Garey pounds iron on Saturday.

"It's an absolute loss," Derousseau said of Cash's retirement. "She has been such a gift to the fair, but I know that she will continue to be involved. We are thrilled to have her involved in any way she wants to be, and her replacement is going to be amazing."

Like Derousseau, the Museum of Western Art Executive Director Darrell Beauchamp passionately championed the importance of art during the museum's 39th Annual Roundup Exhibition and Art Sale.

Museum of Western Art Executive Director Darrell Beauchamp urges people to purchase art to support the continued work of artists around the world.

The Museum of Western Art's is working its way through a significant year of programming, and this show proves to be one of the most popular.

"This is validation," said painter Sarah Harless, an Oklahoma resident, who returned for her second appearance at the show. "I can come back and somebody wants me back."

There were plenty of returnees to the annual show, which is also a major fundraiser for the museum, and 26 artists from around the country were on hand for Saturday night's reception.

"This means a lot," said Noe Perez, a longtime painter of Texas landscapes. "I came here for the first time in the (1980s) when this was the (Cowboy Artists) museum, and the CA members would offer workshops. I came here for those workshops."

Both Harless and Perez paint similar themes — landscapes — but they offer it from varied regional perspectives. Perez focuses on South Texas landscapes, noting that most of the show has a Hill Country tilt to it but that there is plenty of beauty in the flat and arid lines of South Texas. Harless calls Oklahoma home, but she's a high school art teacher in Kelton, Texas. So, much of her work offers a view from the Texas panhandle.

And the week of art and festivals started last Monday when the Outdoor Painting Festival kicked off at the Kerr Arts and Cultural Center. That event continued through Saturday morning.


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