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Conference of the Texas Press Association and

Conference of the Texas Press Association and

Trade fair – always time well spent!

I attended the 144th Annual Texas Press Association Convention & Trade Show at the Hilton College Station Conference Center & Hotel in College Station from June 20-22 along with several of my colleagues. We attended numerous information sessions on current industry topics and participated in several question and answer sessions. It's always a great opportunity to network, see what others in the industry are doing, and share experiences. I usually leave feeling refreshed and ready to work harder. This year was no different.

In fact, I left this year's conference more motivated than ever, with fresh ideas and an eagerness to implement many of the things we learned. I can't say whether other fields are evolving at the same pace as ours, but I do know that the way we report news and keep our communities informed is evolving at sometimes breakneck speed. And that's OK. We're ready to take on this challenge and will continue to serve our communities.

I brought my husband and daughter, as usual. This is an opportunity to get them out of the house and connect them with a different group of people. Because the Texas Press Association partners with the Freedom of Information Foundation, a seminar on Texas Open Government was included in the convention agenda, with some bonus sessions offering refresher courses on the Texas Public Information Act and Texas Open Meetings Act. These courses were scheduled to start promptly at 1 p.m., so we had to grab some lunch before they dropped me off at class while they killed time until our hotel room was ready.

There was a place right across from our hotel that we had never heard of that looked interesting. It was called Snooze an AM Eatery and was a fresh, modern take on a retro setting that offered an impressive selection of creative breakfast, brunch and lunch dishes.

My daughter chose the “Sleeper Classic,” which was three free-range fried eggs with bacon, hash browns, and toast. My husband ordered “Habanero Pork Belly Fried Breakfast Rice,” which was jasmine garlic fried rice with apple cider-braised habanero pork belly, sautéed red peppers, onions, poblanos, carrots, and pineapple, topped with homemade sriracha maple aioli, two crispy fried eggs, green onions, and kimchi seasoning. I ordered chilaquiles, which were crispy corn tortilla chips layered with black beans and green chile, topped with homemade cilantro garlic aioli, two free-range fried eggs, homemade pickled peppers and red onions, cotija cheese, cilantro, and fresh lime. Every single bite was delicious and we will definitely look out for “Snooze an AM Eatery” on our future trips.

Following the second day's classes, a luncheon was held to recognize and honor the inductees into the Texas Newspaper Hall of Fame and to present the Golden 50 Awards, which recognize those who have served in the newspaper industry for 50 years or more.

The meal was the usual convention fare – grilled chicken breast, rice pilaf and steamed vegetables. The star of the show, however, was the dessert, especially if you're a chocoholic like me. It was an incredibly large slice of a multi-layered chocolate cheesecake with toasted slivered almonds, a caramel topping and a dollop of whipped cream. It was super rich but decadently fantastic.

After the afternoon class, we took a bus to Lucky B Bison Ranch in Bryan where we admired the herd of majestic and beautiful animals before being treated to a chuckwagon meal of brisket, sausage, ribs, baked beans, potato salad, coleslaw and all the trimmings, followed by blackberry pie. It was all absolutely delicious.

The highlight of the evening, however, was a concert by Michael Martin Murphey. Widely referred to as America's number one singing cowboy, Murphey is a legendary, award-winning singer, songwriter and artist. I had the opportunity to meet Murphey two years earlier when he, his wife and several of their relatives were in Livingston for a holiday.

The first of several events that day was the presentation of “One Feather: Walks in Two Worlds,” a historical musical production about Chief John Blount, paramount chief of the Apalachicola Indians and an ancestor of Murphey’s wife. Another was the unveiling of a historical monument to Blount near the newly restored Jonas Davis Log Cabin in Heritage Park. The highlight of the afternoon was the inauguration ceremony for Murphey’s wife, Chief Cynthia Healing Woman Tune Murphey, the new chief of the Apalachicola Band of Creek Indians. I had covered the event for the newspaper and even wrote a feature story about it that appeared in the Summer 2022 issue of East Texan, our full-color quarterly magazine. It was a joyful and educational day that we all enjoyed, and my husband and I even got to have our picture taken with Murphey.

When I heard that Murphey was going to speak to the conventioneers, I went to CVS and got an 8×10 photo printed out, thinking I could get him to sign it. I also got five or six copies of that magazine issue to take to him as well.

Murphey came out just before the show to greet people and sign merchandise. I was second in line to talk to him, and he was pretty surprised when I pulled out the photo, and even asked if he could take a photo of it to send to his wife. “Sure. But if you like this, you'll really like what else I brought,” I said, pulling out the magazines and turning the top one over to read my coverage of his visit. He was shocked and asked again if he could take photos of it for his wife. “I brought these for you. You can bring them all to her,” I said. It was pretty obvious that he was touched by it. As he excitedly texted his wife, I nervously looked at the long line forming behind me. It was a nice exchange, the kind that makes you feel good as I went to find Hubby and pick out some seats for the show.

If you know Murphey even a little, you already know that he is a brilliant storyteller and that he intersperses his songs with wonderful stories and anecdotes throughout the performance. I never expected him to speak to me during the show, but he actually did. When he spotted me in the second row, he waved and called me by name. He told everyone in the audience that I had written about the restoration of his wife's ancestor's log cabin and had even brought him copies of the magazine. He thanked me and said, “The big city newspapers would never have done that.” The entire audience of newspaper people looked at me smiling and clapping. It was an affirmation of the importance of the local newspaper and I couldn't wipe the smile off my face for the rest of the evening.

After classes on the last morning, we all gathered in the convention hall, where the trade show and silent auction had just ended, and were excited to see who the winning bidders would be. We ended up being the winning bidders when it came to snagging two galvanized metal buckets overflowing with all sorts of official UT stuff provided by the Moody College of Communication, the school of journalism at UT. Since our daughter will be attending the University of Texas at Austin this fall, we knew we couldn't come home without this stuff. It was packed with t-shirts, mugs, cups, stickers, note cards, playing cards, a set of grilling tools, bags, and even a sock monkey-style Longhorn, to name a few things. We were all excited about it.

From there we gathered again for the final dinner and awards ceremony. Lunch was quite a pleasant surprise, consisting of steak with a demi-glace studded with capers and parsley, green beans with bacon and onions and roast potatoes, followed by a slice of strawberry cheesecake.

I've always enjoyed attending the Texas Press Association's annual convention because everything there is top notch, but more importantly, they're great people and I always learn so much. This year was no exception.