Rock stackers compete at festival in Llano this weekend

Hundreds of rock stacks rose along the banks of the Llano River during last year's Llano Earth Arts Fest. Photo courtest Llano Earth Arts Fest
Hundreds of rock stacks rose along the banks of the Llano River during last year’s Llano Earth Arts Fest. Photo courtesy Llano Earth Arts Fest

 

So many rock towers sprouted along the banks of the Llano River during last year’s inaugural Llano Earth Art Fest that for days afterward, school buses drove kids there to take a look at the artwork.

Expect even bigger things at this year’s event, set for March 11-13 at Grenwelge Park in downtown Llano, 70 miles northwest of Austin.

This year's fest is set for March 11-13 in Llano. Photo courtesy Llano Earth Arts Fest
This year’s fest is set for March 11-13 in Llano. Photo courtesy Llano Earth Arts Fest

 

What organizers last year proclaimed the Rockstacking National Championship has morphed into the Rockstacking World Championship in this, its second year. Organizers don’t know of any other rock stacking competitions anywhere on the planet, but they have fielded calls from interested rock stackers as far away as Yemen.

Binky Morgan hatched the idea for the rock-centric fest in 2015, after seeing some beautifully designed rock stacks. With rock stacking as a focus, the event grew into an entire earth art festival. She expected it to draw a few hundred attendees; it attracted 5,000.

“People are digging this,” Morgan said. “It’s taking natural elements and making art out of them.”

The rock stacking competition includes a category for juniors. Photo courtesy Llano Earth Arts Fest
The rock stacking competition includes a category for juniors. Photo courtesy Llano Earth Arts Fest

 

This year’s three-day festival runs from 10 a.m. to 11 p.m. Friday through Sunday. Besides rock stacking, activities include live music and workshops on everything from light pollution and primitive fire starting to shamanic practices. Admission is free; entry into the competition costs $5.

Attendees will include three nationally known rock stars – Michael Grab of Colorado, Tim Anderson of Pennsylvania and David Allen of Maine. They’ll demonstrate their skills all weekend long, but the main competition will unfold Saturday, with amateurs, juniors and experts vying for honors in four categories – tallest stack, best rock balancer, best arch maker and most artistic stack.

Llano’s location at the center of the Llano Uplift, a dome-shaped formation of Precambrian rock, primarily granite, makes it perfect for the event, said Rich Houston, who is heading the competition part of the festival.

Festival admission is free. Photo courtesy Llano Earth Arts Fest
Festival admission is free. Photo courtesy Llano Earth Arts Fest

 

“We’ve got no shortage of rocks in Llano,” he said as he took a break from loading rocks into his truck and hauling them to the festival site so rock stackers wouldn’t have to look far for building materials. He also planned to create a giant rock chair to serve as a photo op for festival goers.

Rock stacking doesn’t come without controversy, however.

Weeks after last year’s event, someone toppled the still-standing stacks along the riverbanks, supposedly because they were pagan, Houston said. Otherwise, locals seemed to love it. Some even headed back to the park to restack the tumbled stones.

“I’m a liberal redneck cowboy, and barflies were coming up to me, telling me, ‘Yeah, that thing was great,'” Houston said. “We still get people who come down and stack rocks randomly.”

For more information about the festival, go here.

Rock stackers can compete for honors in tallest stack, best arch, most artistic and best balance. Photo courtesy Llano Earth Arts Fest.
Rock stackers can compete for honors in tallest stack, best arch, most artistic and best balance. Photo courtesy Llano Earth Arts Fest.

Shake Shack launches running group

Shake Shack is launching a running group that will meet the first Tuesday of every month at the South Lamar Boulevard location of its restaurant. Photo courtesy Shake Shack
Shake Shack is launching a running group that will meet the first Tuesday of every month at the South Lamar Boulevard location of its restaurant. Photo courtesy Shake Shack

 

Because fast food and running go together like burgers and fries, right?

Shake Shack, a chain restaurant known for its burgers, hot dogs, frozen custard and crinkle cut fries, announced this week the launch of a running chapter at its South Lamar Boulevard location in Austin.

Shake Shack is known for its burgers and crinkle-cut fries.
Shake Shack is known for its burgers and crinkle-cut fries.

The “community fitness club,” called Shack, Track and Field, will meet once a month for short, 3- to 5-mile group runs or bike rides. The sessions are free and open to all ages and abilities.

Let’s face it. Most folks won’t show up for the calorie burn. They’ll go in hopes of getting free food.

They’ll get a free soft drink and some unspecified Shake Shack swag. They’ll also get the chance to buy a Shack, Track and Field technical T-shirt for $25. If they wear that to the next run, they’ll get a free cone or cup of custard.

The group will meet the second Tuesday of every month, rain or shine, starting March 8. The group will meet at 7 p.m. at Shake Shack, 1100 South Lamar Boulevard, No. 2100. Runners will head to Lady Bird Lake, where they’ll do the short loop, and then return to the Shack.

For more information, go here.

Shake Shack opened on South Lamar Boulevard in May 2015.  DEBORAH CANNON / AMERICAN-STATESMAN
Shake Shack opened on South Lamar Boulevard in May 2015. DEBORAH CANNON / AMERICAN-STATESMAN

Pitch in at It’s My Park Day this Saturday

Brian Granger, Jeb Boyt, and Bill Talbot dig a trench to place a pipe to carry runoff at Pease Park during It's My Park! Day in this Austin American-Statesman file photo by Matt Rourke.
Brian Granger, Jeb Boyt, and Bill Talbot dig a trench to place a pipe to carry runoff at Pease Park during It’s My Park! Day in this Austin American-Statesman file photo by Matt Rourke.

Want to pitch in to spruce up your neighborhood park?

Thousands of volunteers will grab rakes, shovels and bags of mulch Saturday as they man the 115 designated improvement projects that make up this year’s It’s My Park Day, organized by the Austin Parks Foundation.

Improvement projects include creek cleaning, tree pruning, trash pick-up, planting and trail cleanup at parks all over the city. Participants will do maintenance work at the disc golf course at Roy G. Guerrero Park, tidy up Mount Bonnell and spread mulch at Ramsey Park, plus a lot more.

To register for the event go here.

Elena Barrera-Waters help clear brush at Norwood Park during It's My Park! Day in this file photo by Matt Rourke/Austin American-Statesman.
Elena Barrera-Waters help clear brush at Norwood Park during It’s My Park! Day in this file photo by Matt Rourke/Austin American-Statesman.

 

“It’s My Park Day is about investing in our city – an investment in the shared spaces that improve the quality of life for residents and visitors,” said Colin Wallis, executive director of the Austin Parks Foundation.

It’s a fun day, too. I volunteered a few years ago, planting bushes and flowers in front of Deep Eddy Pool. Now every time I drop by for a swim, I feel a little surge of pride in the landscaping.

For more information, go here.

Al Bastidas stepping down as director of Please Be Kind to Cyclists

Al Bastidas places a sign encouraging awareness of cyclists' safety in this file photo by Bret Gerbe for the American-Statesman.
Al Bastidas places a sign encouraging awareness of cyclists’ safety in this file photo by Bret Gerbe for the American-Statesman.

After nearly 10 years of encouraging motorists and cyclists to safely co-exist on Austin area roads, Alvaro Bastidas is stepping down from his role as executive director of Please Be Kind to Cyclists.

City officials will present him with a Distinguished Service Award at 5:30 p.m. Thursday in the council chambers at Austin City Hall, 301 West Second Street.

Al Bastidas is stepping down as executive director of Please Be Kind to Cyclists. He'll be honored for his work Thursday at City Hall.  File photo by Ashley Landis for the Austin American-Statesman
Al Bastidas is stepping down as executive director of Please Be Kind to Cyclists. He’ll be honored for his work Thursday at City Hall. File photo by Ashley Landis for the Austin American-Statesman

Bastidas, who was injured in a cycling crash in 2002, along his wife Patricia, and Scot Simmons, whose sister died when a vehicle struck her while she was cycling, started the non-profit organization in 2006. Since then, they’ve worked to raise awareness, provide educational materials and encourage harmony among all road users.

The group created an educational video in collaboration with the Texas Department of Transportation which is now used in driver education and defensive driving classes around the state. It also launched a tragedy assistance program to help families of cyclists affected by crashes. Its Cyclists VIP program reminds cyclists to stay “visible, in the moment and predictable.”

Please Be Kind spearheaded a “Rally for Safe Roads” bus wrap campaign that featured buses bearing messages reminding motorists to give bicyclists at least a 3-foot berth when they pass, and noting that it’s against the law to use hand-held devices while driving or biking.

The organization also distributed more than 25,000 of it’s popular Please Be Kind to Cyclists bumper stickers, which can be spotted on cars all over the United States.

Please Be Kind to Cyclists hired its first paid executive director, Gonzalo A. Ponce, last year. This year, the organization will formulate a strategic plan.