With some trepidation, the masks are coming off and the little bar island in the Gulf is coming alive again! After many long months of social distancing, mask wearing, avoiding gatherings, limited restaurant and entertainment venues, the restrictions and pandemic precautions are being lifted.
With the newly developed vaccines and the tremendous vaccination response by the citizens of Galveston County, things on the Island are “getting back to normal” — or as normal as can be expected after the past 17 months. Though not completely out of the woods, residents are hopeful that a light at the end of tunnel is being reached. If the recent turnout at various events and island activities is any indicator of moving forward and past the Covid epidemic, things are looking great!
There are so many exciting things to see and do in Galveston once again.
One of the biggest events happenings that pretty much set the pace for the upcoming season in Galveston was a few hours visit to the Land of Oz. After taking a year off due to the pandemic, the Island’s beloved ACCT (Access Care Coastal Texas) came back strong with “Afternoon in Oz.” Pam Froescher, staff and volunteers turned the fabulous Galveston Island Convention Center into the magical city of Oz. Just under 400 people attended, many in costumes or The Wizard of Oz-themed attire. There were witches, flying monkeys, the Loli-pop Guild and so many others; one guest dressed at the tornado! The silent auction, always a huge hit on the Island, raised thousands of dollars that will go to helping Islanders and their families (even pets) dealing with HIV and the issues that come with the diagnosis. ACCT has for many years been a beacon of hope and community activism in leading the way for healthcare, research, outreach, education, medical supplies, needs, a food pantry and many, many more programs made available to those in need. Kudos to executive director Jack White and the dedicated staff and volunteers that make the program work and continue to provide so much.
And Art Walk is back! If you have not participated in the Galveston Arts Center 25-year tradition of “Saturday night specials,” you owe it to yourself to visit the Island, July 17 from 6 until 9m, when downtown merchants open their doors and welcome strolling visitors. The quaint sidewalks are filled with music, food, pets, people-watchers and everything that comes with any festive event on the Island. The Strand business area is bustling and offers a little bit of something for everyone. The past two Art Walks, having returned PC (post-Covid), have been packed and busy. Most galleries and businesses offer wine, finger foods and great deals on merchandise. Jim Nonus, of The Antique Pavilion at 23rd and Post Office Streets, says, “Oh my gosh, it has been fantastic. The people are back and strolling and shopping.” Nonus says you can just feel the joy and the happiness in the people. “Having been cooped-up for so long, folks are just happy to be out and see each other again.”
Not just Art Walk, but the entire downtown has mega-offerings for those seeking some fun or a new experience. Maureen Patton, executive director at Galveston’s 1894 Grand Opera House, has been busy lining up some fantastic shows and event for the much-loved official Opera House for the State of Texas. Menopause the Musical takes the stage July 12–14. Join the sisterhood and don’t miss this hilarious and somewhat “adult” musical. On August 10, beloved Tuna man, Jaston Williams will return to his favorite venue to present his new work, Don’t Blame the Car! Theatergoers who love Greater Tuna and the Tuna shows will certainly enjoy Williams as he works his theatrical magic on stage. Check out the Opera’s schedule for its 126th season on their web page www.thegrand.com or at Galveston.com (everything Galveston is there). Make plans to see any performance at the beautifully restored Opera House, and let Patton know you are happy they are back!
Lastly, but certainly not least, as we move into summer, it is with great happiness that our president, Joe Biden, signed a bill making Juneteenth an official federal holiday, the first since Martin Luther King Day was added many years ago. As many know, Galveston is the “birthplace” of Juneteeth and has been celebrated on the Island for over 150 years. Now the rest of the world can see why this special new holiday is so important and why little Galveston plays such a huge role in the history of the event. As Mr. Farb says on the side his brightly painted liquor store on Broadway, “It All Started Here!” While downtown, be sure and check out the new mural at Strand and 22nd Street. The 5,000 square foot mural, “Absolute Equality”, took public artist Reginald C. Adams, and assistants, 27 days to complete. The mural depicts portals reflecting the people and events that led to Juneteenth and equality for African Americans. Sam Collins III, historian and co-founder of the Juneteenth Legacy Project, says, “This mural captures the broad spectrum of people and events that led to equality for the African Americans that played such a vital role in shaping the path of American history.” Behind the painted wall, is a fantastic museum/gallery filled with prominent works of art and offering visitors guided educational classes, lectures and hands-on activities related to the battle for freedom and equality. Check it out!
Sleepy Galveston, after her 17-month hibernation, has pulled off her mask, opened her loving arms and is ready to offer all she has. Make the Island your destination soon and see what is going on. Be safe, be kind and most of all, love one another.