After five years of trying to organize Christmas Eve events at the gallery and having everything fall through, things worked out. For a holiday eve in a pandemic, we had an enthusiastic audience, including a very dear old friend who finally got the chance to see the new gallery, and a very excited family toward the end of the night. For a town that pretty much shuts down on December 24 after 5:00 or so, it was a great way to finish off the season.
After this, it’s time to get back into the workshop for new enclosures. In particular, keep an eye open for a surprise involving a Nepenthes diabolica, a new species previously thought to be a color variation of the notorious Nepenthes hamata.
For those who missed out on this run, and for those who want a touch of post-Christmas green, the last of 2020’s Weekend Carnivorous Plant Tours starts on Sunday, December 27 at 10:00 am, and shuts down at 4:00 pm. After that, we’re still trying to figure out plans for 2021, but we have ideas. Terrible, beautiful ideas.
Less than two weeks before the end of the most intense year in memory, and things continue to get interesting. The gallery debuted two new Nepenthes hybrids which will probably be very popular beginner plants over 2021, and it’s time to expand the diversity of bladderwort species in the gallery as well. If not for this pandemic thing, we’d probably do even more.
As a sidenote, the hope is to finish at least one more enclosure by the end of the year, thereby bringing the total constructed this year to at least 21. “20 in 2020” is just a little too weird.
The plan was to remain open by appointment all week, and then the phone blew up this morning. To take care of last-minute shopping needs, as well as offer a quiet space for those already done with shopping, the Texas Triffid Ranch, in conjunction with Caroline Crawford Originals, is hosting the Christmas Carnivorous Plant Nightmares tour on December 24, 2020, from 2:00 pm to 7:00 pm. Admission is free, masks are mandatory, and those who can’t make it are always welcome to come out on December 27 for the last of the 2020 Weekend Carnivorous Plant Tours.
Please note: to be preemptive, while a large selection of beginner plants will be available, Venus flytraps are currently in winter dormancy and won’t be available until March. We apologize for the inconvenience.
Posted onDecember 26, 2019|Comments Off on The Aftermath: Nightmare Weekends Before Christmas 2019
With everything happening in November and December, many thanks to everyone who came out for the Nightmare Weekends Before Christmas, because it made all the difference. As always, we had a great crowd of interested bystanders, and plenty of folks who came out later to buy individual plants or order commissions. Best of all, everyone got to see the old gallery one last time before its reorganization, so here’s hoping that it met with your approval.
For those who had to miss out, either because of the short holiday shopping season or because of prior commitments, the next open house is January 25, and naturally you’re invited. Heck, feel free to get the word out, and turn this into the biggest gathering we’ve had yet.
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Posted onDecember 17, 2019|Comments Off on Nightmare Weekends Before Christmas 2019: The Final Episode
And it’s all come down to this: the final Triffid Ranch of 2019. The fourth and final Nightmare Weekend Before Christmas gallery open house for 2019 starts at 6:00 pm on Saturday, December 21, and ends when everyone goes home. For those who have been out here before, expect a whole slew of new enclosures. For those who haven’t, come out to peruse Dallas’s pretty much only carnivorous plant gallery. And for those who can’t make it on Saturday, the gallery is still open and available for appointments until the evening of December 24 and the whole week after Christmas. Either way, feel free to come by.
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And so we come to the end of yet another year and another decade. (And please don’t start with how officially the Twenty-Teens end on December 31, 2020. You’re probably the sort who begged teachers for homework over holiday break, too.) It’s been a very interesting time, and as Harlan Ellison put it, this is the hour that stretches. Now we make plans for the next decade.
Hovering over all of this is that November was a particularly cruel month, particularly with the death of my father-in-law. I’m still composing a proper memorial for him, but without his business advice, the Triffid Ranch would be nowhere near where it is today. Considering how thrilled he was to come out to open houses and shows, I’m already missing sharing new projects and ideas, and while he thought he was being rough, I’ll never forget how he picked apart business proposals, scattered the pieces on the floor, and watched intently to see what I’d pick up off the floor and what I’d do with it. He often bragged about me to his friends with “He isn’t much, but he’s better than the last one,” and I always grinned and responded “Yeah, but I could be eating raw human flesh and still be better than the last one.”
Another factor in November is discovering that after 4 1/2 years, the day job that supported the gallery in its early days ended with little warning. Contrary to popular opinion, I didn’t go running through the halls shrieking “Dobby is FREE!”, nor did I go on a madcap firefight while the Beatles’ “All You Need Is Love” played in the background. (I’m not saying the place was run by explorers in the further regions of solipsism: it was just less an organization and more of a bet as to how toxic a workplace could get before the Environmental Protection Agency had to get involved.) What happened, though, is that now there’s a LOT more time to focus on Triffid Ranch activities and projects that had to be put by the wayside. You should be seeing a lot more in the next few months, and never mind the Ron Grainer soundtrack.
In other news, it’s taken a while, but Facebook has finally become intolerable as a platform for small businesses, so expect the Triffid Ranch Facebook page to shut down as of January 1. (Essentially, it’s a combination of increased pressure to boost postings in order for Page followers to get notices, combined with new FB algorithms intended to crowd out posts from companies in favor of “family and friends.” no matter how many times users chose otherwise.) That doesn’t mean I want people to lose touch: that’s what the newsletter is for, and expect a new one very soon.
Anyway, it’s time to get back to the linen mines, so stay in touch, and have a great set of holidays of whatever holiday you celebrate. Me, I’m going to be ten years old all over again.
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Posted onDecember 28, 2018|Comments Off on Nightmare Weekends Before Christmas 2018: The Aftermath
Well, the 2018 holiday season is nearly over, and the Triffid Ranch open houses are definitely done until 2019. On behalf of Caroline and myself, we’d like to thank everyone who came out for this year’s Nightmare Weekends Before Christmas open houses, because all of you made them work. For those who couldn’t, January is dedicated to inventory and reorganization before the spring show season, as well as to the construction of new enclosures, so make room on your calendars for the Groundhog Day open house on February 2. We’re going to have a lot to show off by then.
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Posted onDecember 24, 2018|Comments Off on Because Jack Skellington Had the Right Idea
A little over a quarter-century after the movie’s premiere, only one thing still bugs me about The Nightmare Before Christmas. It’s not the idea of Jack Skellington appropriating Christmas, or his not listening to Sally’s advice, or even the lunacy of his entrusting Santa Claus’s care to Lock, Shock, and Barrel. It comes from the movie’s resolution: you’re trying to tell me that in all of the world, there wasn’t ONE kid refusing to give back Jack’s presents? Not ONE CHILD anywhere who would have guarded that bat puppet or haunted wreath with his or her life, and anyone trying to take it back would pull back fewer fingers than they started out with? Or one adult who grew up with Aurora movie monster models and Alien action figures who wouldn’t be asking Santa “You know, if they don’t want their toys, could I have them?”
In a roundabout way, this helps explain why the Triffid Ranch will be open on Christmas Eve from 6:00 to 9:00, and not just for those last-minute shoppers who aren’t going to find carnivorous plant satisfaction at the local home improvement superstore. This is also for us who would have left coffin-shaped cookies for Jack Skellington if we could. Come on out, grab a Vernor’s ginger ale, and take home a plant, in the only place in the Dallas/Fort Worth Metroplex where you can do so, because it’s nothing but us weirdos all the way down.
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It took long enough, but summer is dead. Deceased. It’s not pining for the fjords. Its leavetaking proves that there’s still room in Hell. It’s GONE, MacReady. The heat is gone, defunct, bereft, and on its back and kicking like a dying cockroach. We won’t have to start worrying about oppressive heat in the Dallas area for another five months, and for a couple of weeks, we might need coats after the sun goes down. We’re gonna FREEZE!
Seriously, this November is shaping up to be a typical one. No unnatural heat the way we had in 2016, but also no significant chance of snow and slop the way we had in 1993. (Subfreezing temperatures and sleet on Thanksgiving evening and nearly impassable conditions for Dallas the day after: that was a wonderful mess.) We came close to snow last week with the cold front that passed through North and Central Texas. Even that was sporadic and fleeting, and we went back to our typical windy and sunny before anyone realized the bitter cold was gone. For those of us with fashion sense that includes motorcycle jackets and heavy boots, it’s been a little touch of heaven, and we still have December and January to go.
(And on the subject of motorcycle jackets, I bought mine 21 years ago this month, and it’s a little jarring to realize that I have friends and customers whose main interests were cell division and limb gene expression when I purchased it. I had at least four people ask me what I did to get it that wonderfully broken in and character-ridden, and I had to tell them “Just get one and wear it until it’s old enough to buy booze in the US.”)
Out come the jackets, in go the temperate carnivores, unfortunately. As of now, don’t expect to see any Venus flytraps, temperate sundews, or Sarracenia pitcher plants until at least the beginning of April, and even that may be delayed with last-minute blue northers hitting in February and March. The spotty frosts we’ve received over the last week have stopped any new growth in the flytraps and pitcher plants, and they’re now taking a much-deserved rest to recharge for spring. If we get just the right combination of sun and cold for the rest of the winter, next year’s blooms, especially with the purpurea pitcher plants, will be spectacular.
Just because they’re asleep doesn’t mean that everyone can’t have fun with carnivores until spring. The tropical carnivores are still busy and a bit obnoxious, so we’re going to be focusing on them all winter long. And oh, they’re going places.
The first place they’ll be going is to the revival of the Dallas Fantasy Fair, runningNovember 24and 25 at the Irving Convention Center. November is already a month packed with fannish events (I haven’t seen a month like this in Texas, and my memory of related events goes back 35 years as of this weekend), but setting up a booth at the Fantasy Fair seemed both like an opportunity to run into people I haven’t seen in two decades and give them a chance to see a cross-section of what the Triffid Ranch is trying to accomplish. Either way, look for booth #406: in a room full of comics professionals, a space dedicated to carnivorous plant enclosures is going to stand out.
Next, the Nightmare Weekends Before Christmas open houses at the gallery are going to be a little truncated this season due to conflicting schedules. Instead of running every Saturday in December before Christmas, we’re going to have two:December 15andDecember 22, bothstarting at 6:00 p.m.and ending when everyone’s done. In addition, anyone purchasing an enclosure at either of the open houses gets free delivery within the Dallas/Fort Worth area if you really want to surprise someone. (Note: between prior commitments and the open houses, time for custom enclosures will be at a premium, so get requests out NOW.)
After the holidays are finally over, it’s time to go back to a venue we haven’t visited in three years. The Perot Museum in downtown Dallas still has its bimonthly Social Science 21+ late-night events, and the Wild World event on January 25includes viewings of Nepenthes and Heliamphora pitcher plants and other carnivores. The contract is still being negotiated, but expect to see a redux, with North American pitcher plants, for the Social Science “Science Fiction” eventon April 26.Apparently that’s the one where I’m going to get alternate movie quotes thrown at me about triffids.
And on a last note, the touring Oddities and Curiosities Expo runs in Austin this weekend: as tempting as it was to head back to Austin for a weekend, my loyalty lies with the Blood of Texas Crew for the Horror For the Holidays event. You can imagine my surprise at discovering that Oddities and Curiosities is hitting Dallas on March 30, and of COURSE the booth fee has already been paid for it. Look at it as a teaser for Texas Frightmare Weekend on May 3 through 5, including having special news for Frightmare attendees who are also hitting Free Comic Book Day at local comic shops that weekend. Details will follow.
And that’s about it for now. Staying warm?
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Posted onDecember 21, 2017|Comments Off on Five Nightmare Weekends Before Christmas: The Fifth
For everyone else, it’s nearing the end of the holiday season. It’s now just cold enough in Dallas that coats in the morning are a necessity instead of an affectation, and we just might see sub-freezing temperatures by Christmas Day. Schools and universities are out for the year, and everyone not finishing up Christmas plans has a week to make plans for New Year’s Eve. Everyone at a job with use-it-or-lose-it vacation time is out and away, leaving the roads relatively clear of the worst drivers for those who still have to clock in. Next week will be more of the same: for all intents and purposes, the world returns to the eternal slog on January 8.
Well, that’s how it works everywhere else. The last four Nightmare Weekends Before Christmas are memories, albeit good ones, Now it’s time for one last Nightmare Weekend on December 23 from noon until 6:00. For those still seeking solstice gifts, Saturday gives plausible deniability to the idea that you just wanted to come by to look around, and it helps pay the rent, too. For those seeking solace from the madness of mall or big-box store crowds, it’s a safe harbor. For everyone else, if the newly updated Enclosure Gallery section doesn’t give you an idea as to what to expect, then come in and be surprised.
Not that things slow down after the holidays: far from it. It’s just that a lot of plans put off since the move from the old gallery space get to start up again. First and foremost is getting hot pepper seedlings established: the las Nightmare Weekend attracted several people asking about Bhut Jolokia and Carolina Reaper plants for bonsai, and last year’s batch were lost in a freeze the weekend of the final gallery move. This is in addition to getting ready for next year’s shows, starting with All-Con in mid-March, and finishing up commissioned enclosures. Want to have a hint as to what 2018 has in store? Check out the centerpiece for a new enclosure for an old friend and longtime customer, and consider that this is just the work in progress.
And for some additional fun, it’s time to remind everyone of Bat World Sanctuary in Mineral Wells and introduce them to adoptee Benger the Avenger, who came out of the womb more goth than any of us will ever be. If he isn’t a natural Nightmare Before Christmas stocking stuffer, I don’t know what is:
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Posted onDecember 15, 2017|Comments Off on Five Nightmare Weekends Before Christmas: The Fourth
Coming into the fourth Nightmare Weekend Before Christmas at the gallery (and, as before, the gallery is open to one and all on December 16, from noon until 6:00), a little explanation about the lack of traditional holiday viewing on the monitor in the gallery. Listening to friends fight over whether or not Die Hard qualifies as a Christmas movie (which is like arguing that Near Dark is a Fourth of July film because it features summer sun and explosions), I just remind people of a forgotten holiday classic. Oh, it may not be listed as such, but anyone who has ever had to work retail in a shopping mall during the holidays knows the film, even if they’ve never seen it. As a last tribute to the old gallery space at Valley View Center, which STILL hasn’t been demolished, I’d like to encourage everyone to take some time this holiday season to watch the best documentary about Dallas in the 1980s ever made:
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As if we didn’t already have proof that Dallas’s weather was odd, the Snowpocalypse that blasted (okay, whiffleballed) Texas bypassed us entirely. Austin and Houston, check. El Paso, check. Dallas? Lots of cold, and a couple of sleet pellets, but not a bit of snow. So much for a snow day. The weather is going to be much better tonight and tomorrow, so if you were contemplating coming out to the gallery for a Nightmare Weekend Before Christmas, now is the time.
Posted onNovember 24, 2017|Comments Off on Five Nightmare Weekends Before Christmas – 1
With the first Nightmare Weekend Before Christmas commencing (and you might want to read the details if you haven’t already), it’s time for a tribute to post-Thanksgiving television, for one very specific reason. Back in the 1970s, when cable television was a rarity for those living in valleys inaccessible to standard television broadcasts, the FCC could blank out programming on any independent cable channel in order to encourage viewing of news programming on the Big Three (which somehow always managed to black out Star Trek and The Outer Limits in syndication but guaranteed at least five showings of The Dick Van Dyke Show per day), and most of the watchable content came from TV stations hundreds or thousands of miles away, one of the stalwarts that made suburban living tolerable was the monster movie. We GenXers went completely MAD for monsters back then, both contemporary and classic, because of the promise of the Late Night Movie.
Some background. Since television transmitters of the time were fragile, tetchy beasts that had a tendency not to come back on after being turned off, station managers had an incentive to keep them on as long as possible, and the best way to do that was to run something, anything, into the wee hours when most people were asleep. Running old movies all night long offered more profit in advertising than simply running a station ID notice, and running horror movies from the 1930s through the 1950s was cheaper than trying to run contemporary movies. Since the studios and distributors of those horror and science fiction movies looked at their product as ephemeral material for kids, they could be rented for television at ridiculously low prices, which meant they were concentrated on Friday and Saturday nights, when most adults would be out and around and very unlikely to be watching late-night television. Since this coincided with the use of the television as the Great Babysitter, suddenly a whole generation of American kids, of all demographics, were exposed to good, bad, and surreal horror films while their parents were out doing whatever parents did. Whatever it was, it couldn’t have been as fun as getting caught up on cultural neuroses and anxieties turned into kids’ entertainment. It’s no surprise that the film The Nightmare Before Christmas became such a classic: the entire post-Boomer generation had been taught for decades before that the monsters were more interesting and honest than the “normal” people around them. (I regularly get tongue-clicking from “respectable” people about how inappropriate it is for me to tell kids I still get teary-eyed at the end of Alien, when the most interesting and well-developed character in the whole movie gets blown out the airlock. It’s no surprise: I got plenty of practice for mourning the monster after a childhood of bawling at the end of The Beast From 20,000 Fathoms, The Creature From the Black Lagoon, and Valley of Gwangi. You should see the friends who grew up immunized to a life of MBAs and IRAs thanks to years and years of late-night Hammer vampire movies.)
And the El Dorado of all of this very selective counter programming? Godzilla. Kaiju films were the special treat, usually reserved for special events or weekly series, and the biggest event was what was then only referred to as “the day after Thanksgiving.” Parents took off and dealt with the Christmas shopping crowds: the unlucky kids dragged along are the reason why George Romero’s Dawn of the Dead became one of the greatest holiday movies of them all. Those of us lucky enough to stay home while the grownups shivved each other over ornaments and sweaters? We turned on the 19-inch babysitter and fed on hour after hour of badly-dubbed Japanese angst. Godzilla, Gamera, Gigan, Rodan, Mothra…it all tapped into a deep craving we didn’t know we had, so we obsessively collated it and made it our own. Then, when school started again the next week, we all had a common language, except for the kids who didn’t watch because “that’s for kids.” Those kids were the ones who grew up to successful careers as mid-level managers, who still can’t figure out why their own children don’t call and why their co-workers all feign bouts of explosive diarrhea as an excuse for avoiding the company Christmas party.
Posted onNovember 17, 2017|Comments Off on Five Nightmare Weekends Before Christmas -Introduction
A week from today, it begins. Even those who cut the cord years ago have email boxes full of notices about Black Friday specials. UPS trucks outnumber everything else on the road by three to one. If people aren’t driving like maniacs to get to the mall, they’re driving like maniacs to get home before the football game starts. For those who love and adore the holiday season, it’s absolute heaven. For the poor retail employees stuck in front of a display playing “Santa Baby” in blatant violation of the Geneva Convention, they’re considering a career change or at least a pencil up the nose to kill those chunks of brain that hurt so much. And then there’s the Texas Triffid Ranch’s Nightmare Weekends Before Christmas.
The Nightmare Weekends Before Christmas run on a particular premise. For those of us who don’t know every line in the film The Nightmare Before Christmas by heart, the film ended with Jack Skellington conceding that his version of Christmas wasn’t working, and Santa works overtime to replace the horrific toys left by Jack around the world. When that film premiered in 1993, nobody at Disney understood the draw of those horrific toys, nor ever even considered a scene with a little goth kid crying and desperately begging Santa to leave Jack’s toys and decorations right where they were. Considering some of my friends’ responses, it wouldn’t be hard to picture Santa dragging himself back to Christmastown, a still-burning sleigh to go with his two black eyes and broken nose, asking one of the shop elves to grab a pair of pliers to pull the innumerable sharp teeth broken off in his butt. And when those kids had kids themselves, the cookies and milk were contingent upon the understanding that not only were the vampire bat tree toppers and Dawn of the Dead action playsets welcome, but they’d best not be replaced.
The Nightmare Weekends concept continues this. It’s not anti-Christmas or even anti-holiday. Instead, it runs on the reasonable premise that it’s possible to overdose on holiday cheer, and that some people may need to catch their breath before once more into the breach, once more. It’s for the people who love peppermint but who can’t handle the taste of it by December 20. It’s for those stuck in a workplace where the boss insists upon turning on the intercom and pumping in the local Christmas radio station all day, or the ones that charge employees for the mandatory-attendance holiday party. It’s for those who appreciate the history of those live Norfolk Island pines in the grocery store predates that of the dinosaurs, the parasitic nature of mistletoe, or the use of cinnamon as a fungicide. It’s for those who didn’t complain when Christmas lights and decorations started crowding out the Halloween stuff mid-September, but who want a little bit of Halloween to hang around during the longest nights of the year.
So here’s the plan. The Triffid Ranch has extended hours every Saturday between now and Christmas, with extra time on November 24 as well. No overplayed Christmas carols played far too loudly to hear anybody talk. No overcrowded mall parking lots. For those who missed the previous gallery openings, it’s an opportunity to visit. For those attending in the past at the old Valley View Center location, it’s a chance to see the new space. And for those already familiar with the gallery, it’s a nice nondenominational respite from the outside. With carnivorous plants.
As for questions:
What are the dates and hours for the Nightmare Weekends?
All times for Nightmare Weekend openings are from noon to 6:00 p.m., but these may be adjusted on request. The dates include:
Friday, November 24, 2017 (Friday)
Saturday, November 25, 2017 (Saturday)
December 2, 2017 (Saturday)
December 9, 2017 (Saturday)
December 16, 2017 (Saturday)
December 23, 2017 (Saturday)
Are you open at other times?
The Triffid Ranch is always open by appointment, but the Nightmare Weekends are for when everyone is free. During the week, the Day Job prevents being able to keep the gallery open all day, but consultation appointments are always available in the evenings and on Sundays. Also, the hours on the Nightmare Weekends aren’t absolute: if work schedule or other logistics prevent you from getting to the gallery by the normal hours, give us a call and we’ll accommodate you.
Do you have accommodations for children?
Parents attended by their children are always welcome, but any unattended parents will be given six shots of espresso and an American Express Card application. (Unfortunately, because of the sudden nature of the gallery’s move to its new location earlier this year, the Triffid Ranch entrance is not ADA-compliant. However, we’re looking at rectifying that in the future, as new locales in our neighborhood open up closer to the end of our lease.)
Are you working with other galleries and stores in the area?
That’s a very good question, because one of the disadvantages of having a separate gallery is not having the community that those who attended the late, lamented ARTwalk events at Valley View Center may remember. At the bare minimum, Tawanda! Jewelry will be set up in the front of the gallery, but that’s the advantage to being married to the proprietor. Other venues wanting to participate in the Nightmare Weekends are encouraged to get in touch, and additions will be shared before the actual date.
Will you have Venus flytraps?
Sadly, no. Like the vast majority of carnivorous plants from temperate climes, Venus flytraps have to undergo a dormancy over the winter, and all of the flytraps here are in a cold frame awaiting spring. They’ll bring themselves out of dormancy around the middle of March, but until then they HAVE to stay dormant, because forcing them out of dormancy early could kill them. This also applies to North American pitcher plants (Sarracenia) as well: not only do they require the same sort of cooling off period as flytraps, but that dormancy is necessary for the huge display of blooms around St. Patrick’s Day. The gallery has a lot of tropical plants on display, though, and those don’t require a dormancy, so those are the stars this time of the year.
Suppose I’m looking for something other than the enclosures already available. What are my options?
That depends upon what you’re seeking. Are you looking for a whole new unique enclosure? Are you wanting to convert an existing reptile enclosure or aquarium into a carnivorous plant display? Do you want specific elements, such as a rock sample with sentimental attachments or a specific lighting arrangement? Come in during a Nightmare Weekend for a consultation. Depending upon its elements and construction, as well as the date in which it’s commissioned, the final enclosure may not be ready by the end of the holidays, but there’s always the surprise of getting a gift during the post-holiday doldrums.
Can I come by to watch the plants eat something?
Well, that’s problematic. With the plants that aren’t dormant for the winter, most either capture prey too small to see without a microscope, or they have passive traps that don’t move. However, that said, thanks to the wonders of modern technology, getting a bug’s-eye view of the inside of an Asian pitcher plant is now both possible and easy, so expect a viewing schedule soon.
Will Shirt Prices still apply?
That’s just silly. Of COURSE they do. The gallery has a limited number of Triffid Ranch shirts for sale, but if you want to order one online, come out to the gallery while wearing it and take advantage of the lower prices.
And that’s about it. Keep an eye out for specific attractions on specific days, as well as notices about new enclosures constructed in between weekends. To quote one of Dallas’s greatest culture writers, you’ll boogie ‘til you puke.
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