Friday, October 1, 2010


Every year, the City of Grapevine, Texas celebrates it’s wine making industry with a festival called GrapeFest. This festival always gets a lot of attention and gets quite a crowd for the weekend events. Although we’ve been in Texas for almost 5 years, it’s our first time to the festival. This year the wife and I decided to go on the first day of the event which fell on a Thursday. This was done for two reasons. The first is to avoid the crowds and I’m a cheap bastard and attendance on the first day was free.

Grapevine closes off Main Street and vendors and exhibits fill the streets. There are three open air stages with a constant flow of music coming from each. GrapeFest is a big deal (think small County Fair) with lots of stuff going on for adults and kids. The central theme is Grapevine’s Wine industry from wineries to wine production.

The other is the food. To understand the importance of food at Texas outdoor events as well as the State and County Fairs that take place around the landscape during the Summer months, one needs to understand the almost fanatical Texan’s affinity for fried foods.

The Texas State Fair  in Dallas has been sort of ground zero for everything fried . It began with some simple stuff. A couple of guys wanted to spice up the drab hot dogs they were selling and decided to dunk them in cornmeal batter and toss them in the french fry fryer. Thus Carl and Neil Fletcher introduced their "Corny Dogs" at the Texas State Fair sometime between 1938 and 1942. Native Texans love to use this as a “first” and believe emphatically that Texas invented the Corn Dog. Small problem is the process was patented in 1929 including the recipe for “korn dogs” describing how they were baked in a corn batter and resembled ears of corn when cooked. The patent also included boiled ham, hard boiled eggs, cheese, sliced peaches, pineapples, bananas, cherries, dates, figs, and strawberries and skewering them with small sticks for holding.

That said, Texans have made it their mission to fry just about anything that moves (or doesn’t). Every year, the State Fair has a competition for the most creative and tasty fried foods. As you can imagine, there is serious money to be made on the Midway. Competition is fierce and many “chefs” work all year to come up with the latest and greatest artery clogging inventions imaginable. The winner gets bragging rights to Best of the Fair awards and a Wanted Poster at the offices of the American Heart Association.

Over the years, some of the winners include deep-fried Oreo cookies; deep-fried Twinkies; deep-fried pork ribs; fried cheesecake; deep-fried butter; deep-fried peanut butter, jelly, and banana sandwiches (one of Elvis’ favorites); batter-based fried Coke, chicken fried bacon, fried banana splits, deep-fried beer, fried Frito Pie and most recently, fried Margaritas (can’t wait to try that one).

So it was that when we arrived at GrapeFest, we decided to try out at least one fried food we hadn’t had before. We are, of course, from California and my sole Midway food experiences go back to the San Diego County Fair in Del Mar, California. The years I attended had mostly traditional fried vegetables on a stick, corn dogs and funnel cakes so I was excited about trying something different. As we walked Main Street, we did see the more traditional stuff but came upon a lady selling fried cheesecake and fried Oreos. We decided to try the fried Oreos. I watched as she prepared our selection and dunked three into the fryer. Within a couple of minutes she had pulled them out and, after dousing them with powdered sugar and a stern warning to let them cool, we sampled our fried Oreos. Wow…they were good.

I was a bit skeptical about the viability of an Oreo bubbling away below the surface of the frothing oil but was delighted to find the Oreo had sort of coalesced beneath the battered skin into a kind of molten chocolate cake. Very tasty. Obviously we need to attend the State Fair this year and do more research to expand our horizons (and perhaps our waistlines). But, harkening back to an earlier time, we couldn’t leave without each consuming a funnel cake and watching as the powdered sugar lazily fell onto our laps. Talk about your comfort food.

Now something about Grapevine . The Republic of Texas, in the latter half of 1841, entered into the first of several contracts with a land company known as the Peters Colony part of which included the land which became Grape Vine Springs on the Grape Vine Prairie for the wild mustang grapes prevalent in the area. Since then the name has merged to just Grapevine.

James Gibson and John Hallford came from Missouri in 1844 and scouted the Peters Colony area. They returned to Missouri and then came back in 1845 with about a dozen families known as the “Missouri Group,” and they located in the Grapevine area.

By 1860, a second wave of settlers began to arrive. This group was known as the “Jenkins Group”. Both groups still have many of the descendants of these first settlers still live in the Grapevine area and are active community leaders.

Grapevine history also involves the crime spree of Bonnie and Clyde. Both have their roots in the Dallas area. Bonnie Elizabeth Parker was born in Rowena, Texas. Her mother, Emma, moved the family to her parents' home in Cement City, an industrial suburb of Dallas, where young Bonnie found work as a garment sewer and later as a waitress at Marco's Café in East Dallas. Clyde Chestnut Barrow was born in Telico, a town just south of Dallas. Clyde used the secluded area north of Denton Creek in Denton County (just to the east of Grapevines Tarrant County) for hiding out and for meeting friends and family. Ok....what did Clyde Barrow and Bill Clinton have in common. They both were accomplished Saxaphone players. A Saxaphone was one of the items found in the back of the Bonnie and Clydes car after they were killed.

They passed through Grapevine, but there is no record of any robberies here by them. The one and only bank holdup here was at the Grapevine Home Bank on December 30, 1932, by Les (Red) Stewart and Odell Chambleson, who were members of the gang. The bank is now a Bermuda Gold jewelry store.

Their real connection to the Grapevine area were the deaths of two Department of Public Safety (DPS) motor officers. On Easter morning, April 1, 1934, State Highway Patrolmen E. D. Wheeler (26), H. D. Murphy, and Polk Ivy were on patrol. On this day Murphy began his first day of official patrol duty. Wheeler and Murphy stopped at Highway 114 and Dove Road to investigate a car parked a few hundred yards east on Dove Road. Patrolman Ivy continued on west and later discovered Wheeler and Murphy were not following. He returned and found Patrolmen Wheeler and Murphy lying dead in the road. A marker now marks this site.

An eyewitness account ( and a really bad Movietone filmed recreation) stated that Barrow and Parker fired the fatal shots and this story got widespread coverage in the press before it was discredited. A new member of the gang, 23 year old Henry Methvin later admitted he fired the first shot, after assuming Barrow wanted the officers killed; he also admitted that Parker approached the dying officers intending to help them, not to administer the cold-blooded point-blank coup de grâce the discredited eyewitness had described. Having little choice, once Methvin had shot Wheeler, Barrow then joined in, firing at Patrolman Murphy. Most likely, Parker was asleep in the back seat when Methvin started shooting and took no part in the assault.

Bonnie and Clyde had committed 200 robberies in twenty states and killed thirteen people, including nine law enforcement officers during their reign of terror. One of the nine was Deputy Sheriff Malcolm Davis, a Grapevine native. Davis had gone to west Dallas on January 6, 1933, to look for gang member Odell Chambles. About midnight a car stopped in front of Lillian McBride’s house; McBride was the sister of Raymond Hamilton who was also a member of Bonnie and Clyde’s gang. Davis went out the back door and came around the side of her house. He met the man who turned out to be Clyde Barrow. W. D. Jones, a part-time companion of Bonnie and Clyde, shot and killed Mr. Davis (not Clyde, as had been reported).

Bonnie and Clyde were tracked down, ultimately ambushed, and killed on May 23, 1934, at Gibsland near Arcadia, Louisiana. Interestingly, both had life insurance policies at the times of their deaths. Though both policies were paid in full by American National of Galveston, Texas, since then, because of those pay-outs, the insurance industry changed their policies to exclude pay-outs in cases of deaths caused by any criminal act by the insured.

Next time you’re in Las Vegas, make sure you check out the Ford sedan they died in at the Primm Valley Resort and Casino in Primm, Nevada, where it is now on display - complete with bullet holes, blood and gore.

No discussion of Grapevine would be complete without talking about wine. Grapevine is in Viticulture Region 2 (North Texas) and has 7 wineries. It is the home of the Texas Wine and Grape Growers Association  who are the de facto lobbying and advocacy group for the Texas wine industry.

There were several winery taste-testing booths and for 9 coupons (13 with the commemorative glass) you could sample Grapevine’s finest. I am a wine woosie (Dad’s rolling over in his grave as we speak) and usually stay with sweeter dessert wines. Two that really met that criteria were the Summer Rain by  Suvino Winery and the best I tasted was called Ice Wine, from Inniskillin, a Canadian wine  from their side of the Niagara. I highly recommend this one, even if you’re not a wine drinker. It tasted like the sweetest white grape juice you’ve ever had. Really…..I couldn’t discern the alcohol at all.
Wine is important but what really put Grapevine on the map was it’s participation in a little known commercial development originally called the Dallas-Fort Worth Regional Airport. Completed in 1974, two-thirds of it’s 18,076 acre landmass (bigger than the island of Manhattan) is within the City of Grapevine. You can imagine the share of baggage fees this gets them. But the land originally belonged to Grapevine resident and Confederate General Richard Montgomery Gano.

General Gano was originally a doctor by training and a veteran of the War of 1812. He settled in the Grapevine area where he became a farmer and rancher. When the Civil War (TWONA) began, he was commissioned by the Confederate States of America and commanded a group of Grapevine Volunteers. They joined forces with the 7th Kentucky Cavalry and waged war in Kentucky, Tennessee and Arkansas. Toward the end of the war, he led part of the Texas Cavalry consisting of mostly of Cherokee, Creek, and Seminole Indians to push back the North throughout Mississippi and Arkansas before surrendering his forces in January, 1865. Having become an ordained preacher, he returned to North Texas to preach and continue farming and ranching. The site of his farm is now the location for DFW Airport. The airport is the second busiest in Texas, third busiest airport in the US, and the eighth in the world.

Because of it’s proximity to DFW Airport, Grapevine also has some 5 star hotels and resorts. Probably the finest is the Gaylord Texan  on the banks of Lake Grapevine. The Gaylord Texan is one of the four Gaylord Resorts in America.

The Gaylord Texan (Dana, you remember dinner there) is unique in that the entire hotel and four acres of center courtyard are under a ginormous glass atrium. The domed courtyard accommodates a huge garden and a full size facade replica of the Alamo. It even has a river walk similar to San Antonio’s without the gondolas. The interior is decorated throughout the year for various holidays culminating in an ornate Christmas display. Every year in their Convention Center, international artisans hand-sculpt two-million pounds of ice, including thrilling ice slides that stand more than 2 stories tall called ICE! This year featuring A Charlie Brown Christmas by Charles Schulz - 10 different holiday scenes created entirely of ice. It’s all kept at a chilling 9 degrees. When you buy a ticket they lend you a serious winter coat to keep you warm.

Night was upon us and the following day was a workday for Dianna so we loaded up our booty of purchased wines, dusted of the powered sugar and began the long trek back to the parking lot. Ok, I neglected to check on closer lots and after all, the lot we used was free….and about a mile away, and we had to cross a treacherous open recently mowed field….in the dark. Hey, we needed the walk.

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