Category Archives: Community Events

Main Street Event brings together local businesses, families

The city of Irving presented its annual Main Street Event on Sept. 15-16, bringing Irving businesses and families together to celebrate all downtown has to offer.

The Irving Public Library used the event to kick off its annual Community Read initiative by issuing library cards and putting on a children’s puppet show.

“For weeks after, we’ll have people come in and say they saw us at the fest,” said Caila Morgan, who managed the booth. “It’s always good to remind people we’re here.”

CBS 11 Main Stage presented a series of musicians, including Vibe: The Band, Inspiration Band, and AJ Vallejo’s Perfect Nation: Performing Prince’s Greatest Hits on Friday. On Saturday, the Texas Sky Band, Vintage Vibes and Lara Latin performed.

The Family Fun Zone was one of the most robust areas of the fair. Children enjoyed presentations by Window to the Wild, Mikey the Monkey, Snake Encounters, and Geppetto’s Marionette Theater Silly Strings featuring Bug Crazy Celebrities, as well as a Build and Grow station sponsored by Lowe’s Home Improvement. An intersquad cheer competition was hosted by the Irving Girls Cheerleader Association. Face painting, balloons, inflatable rides, pony rides and a petting zoo kept children busy between the shows.

The Manifolds on Main Street Car Show, produced by MSP Car Shows, was one of the more popular spots for adults. The show boasted 30 trophy classes and six Best of Shows.

Just around the corner, a craft marketplace let local businesses display wares from jewelry to woodwork and had booths from a variety of local outreach programs. An adjacent juried art exhibit let shoppers mill around in the air conditioning, enjoying pieces by local artists as well as live performances by Jim Eger Jazz Trio and Bnois King Trio.

Another popular contest was the Irving Hispanic Chamber of Commerce’s Hot Sauce Fest, which offered awards for individuals and area restaurants for the categories of Best Hot Sauce, Best Mild Sauce and Best Non-Traditional Sauce.

For those who do not like their food too spicy, Doc’s Street Grill, Fuzzy’s Taco Shop, Pappy’s Mobile Café, Pineapple Grill Texas, Steel City Pops, 4M Concession and TC Country Corn Roast were all busy, as attendees flocked to their booths and trucks for snacks and drinks throughout the warm day.

Eleven-year-old Olivia McKee liked the pigs at the petting zoo best. The petting zoo and crafts booths are the main reason she and her mother, Erin Mckee, attend the event every year.

“Irving’s so big, and sometimes it seems bigger than it really is,” said Erin, an Irving resident. “This helps show the small town side of it. It’s a good community.”

Mark your calendar!

Teacher’s Pet Adoption
September 23, 10 a.m. to 5 p.m.

 Irving Animal Services is holding a ‘Teacher’s Pet’ adoption at the Irving Animal Care Campus, 4140 Valley View Lane. Adoption fees will be waived for all dogs and cats 1 year and older. Animals being adopted will be: Up-to-date on vaccinations, including rabies if the animal is more than 4 months of age. Spayed or neutered. Given a general dewormer and flea prevention. Microchipped and registered with 24PetWatch.


Sundaes on Sunday
September 24, 2pm-4pm

Join the Entertainment Series of Irving in the lobby of the Texas Musicians Museum, 222 East Irving Blvd., for a free ice cream sundae and to get the “scoop” on the concert series fall lineup. Music provided by pianist Scott Loehr. Door prizes will be awarded and admission is free. Museum tours will be offered at the discounted price of $5 per guest. For more information, visit or call 972-252-3838.

Toyota Music Factory crescendos into debut

The newly renamed Toyota Music Factory debuted to the public on Saturday, Sep.9 with a performance by the rock band ZZ Top.

“This has been a long time coming; we’re thrilled it’s here,” said Danny Easton, COO of Live Nation North America Concerts. “From our standpoint and Live Nation’s standpoint, it gives us so much more flexibility as promoters and bookers in the market because of the different configurations and the way we set up the building. We’re excited about the volume of acts we are getting involved with in the next 30 years.”

Development on the venue began over a decade ago, and ARK, the site’s developers, came on roughly five years ago. Easton says Irving was chosen because the city really wanted the project and was in a central location.

“To have a partnership with a city that is really desirous of a facility like this, that’s a big plus to start with,” Easton said. “If you look at Dallas-Fort Worth on a map and you put your finger in the center of it, it’d be pretty much Irving. We feel like we’re really giving people a shot to come from all over the Metroplex. It’s really not that far of a drive from Fort Worth, from Frisco and all of those places.”

The venue, which opened a week later than expected due to construction delays, has been in full-court press over the last month to meet an early September deadline.

“We had one of the wetter spring and summers on record and so we had a bunch of little weather related delays,” Easton said. “It just cumulatively balled together to put us behind. Rick (Lazes) and Noah (Lazes) of the ARK group have been working the construction crews as hard as they possibly could. It’s been pretty much a sprint to the finish.”

A day before its debut, the $200 million Irving Music Factory gained Toyota as a title sponsor. The car company recently moved its headquarters to Plano. That means the Pavilion at Irving Music Factory will now be called the Pavilion at Toyota Music Factory.

One of the amenities of the new space is the artists’ lounge that Easton hopes will attract prime time performances.

“I’ve been backstage to a lot of places in the country and I would put the backstage amenities here up against anywhere that I’ve been, which were key for us,” he said.

The 2,000 seat indoor venue hosts a $40 million convertible concert venue that has the ability to open up to an outdoor seating area and accommodate up to 8,000 fans. The pavilion also has the ability to convert into a smaller, more intimate venue.

“It’s the first time in the world anyone’s built a building that can have an indoor facility and also turn it into an amphitheater in a few minutes,” said Rick Lazes, co-founder and CEO of ARK. “That gives us a lot of flexibility no one’s ever done before.”

The opening marks a new wave of entertainment destinations for the Irving area with the Westin Irving Convention Center Hotel opening later in the year.

The site will continue rolling out more than 25 restaurants, entertainment venues, the Alamo Drafthouse, and office space through the remainder of the year. According to Lazes, a new site will open roughly every two weeks for the remainder of the year. The last piece will be the Sambuca restaurant opening at the end of the year before a final New Year’s celebration.

Graphic novels exhibit puts comics in spotlight

The Irving Arts Center became a little more animated with the new exhibit: “BAM! It’s a Picture Book: The Art Behind Graphic Novels.”

Featuring the works and publications of five popular children’s graphic novel authors/illustrators, including author of “Miki Falls” and how-to-draw instructor Mark Crilley, “Babymouse” author Matthew Holm, author of the “Lunch Lady” series Jarrett Krosoczka, New York Times bestseller and author of the “Big Nate” series Lincoln Peirce, and Eisner Award-winning author of “SMILE” Raina Telgemeier, the exhibit formally opened on Sept. 9.

The exhibit comes to the Irving Arts Center courtesy of The National Center for Children’s Illustrated Literature (NCCIL) in Abilene, Texas. The Irving Arts Center has been partners with NCCIL for many years and each year hosts several exhibits from the organization.

“I was particularly interested in getting this [exhibit] to Irving, because it focuses on graphic novels,” said Marcie Inman, director of exhibitions and educational programs for the Irving Arts Center. “A lot of their other exhibitions tend to be picture books for younger kids. Graphic novels really span into the pre-teen and teen years. With this particular exhibit, it’s really nice because we have some books geared towards elementary-age kids as well as middle school kids and teens. I really wanted to have something a little different that would appeal to older kids.”

Inman enjoys bringing NCCIL exhibits to Irving because of both their educational and artistic value.

“The whole genesis behind NCCIL was wanting to give artistic credibility to these writers and illustrators as well as recognizing that children’s literature is an important genre,” Inman said. “These are some of the first books kids are exposed to and it needs to be good literature. Part of the whole success of early childhood and elementary-age books is the combination of words and images.”

To celebrate the new exhibit, the Irving Arts Center put on a comic-drawing event, “Comically Yours,” on Sunday, Sept. 10. Children were encouraged to draw their own comic books using the works of the authors featured in the new exhibit as inspiration for their works. Shelia Cunningham, an art instructor for events at the Irving Arts Center, said being both writer and artist is not as easy as people may think and she respects the often times difficult work these authors/illustrators do.

“The illustrators are fabulous. I think it’s really hard for illustrators to distill big ideas down into one little panel or have that very graphic representation for what’s going on [in the story],” Cunningham said. “I think it’s really hard, but they do a super job.”

Kathy McMahon, an employee with the Irving Arts Center, started reading graphic novels at a young age. She said one reason these novels are so popular is because they appeal to people of all ages and all interests.

“I grew up with comic books, and of course they were very engaging back then,” McMahon said. “I began to appreciate the fact that, even as adults, there are graphic novels that appeal to mystery or adventure, and it’s very much a medium for all ages.”

Marcie Inman feels graphic novels are not just appealing and entertaining for children, but they can also serve an educational purpose in teaching children who have trouble reading regular books.

“I think scholars and academics are starting to recognize the benefits of graphic novels for young readers,” Inman said. “In studies, they show that kids who may have problems reading or may have some learning issues often do very well when they’re exposed to graphic novels with the combination of the images, the text and the way to follow the narrative. It’s really starting to improve reading levels for certain kinds of young students.”

The exhibit will be on display in the lobby of the Dupree Theater until Jan. 28.

Set the date!

Irving Main Street Event
September 15 – 6 to 10 p.m.
September 16 – Noon to 5 p.m.

Irving Heritage District 217 S. Main St. Irving, TX. Free Admission, Free Parking.This annual street festival in the heart of the Irving Heritage District celebrates the hometown feel of Irving with attractions for all ages. Each year thousands of people attend this family affair, which offers live music, the Manifolds on Main Street Car Show, free rides and activities for children, food and shopping.

Ballet Folklorico at Cozby Library
September 16, 2 p.m.

Celebrate Hispanic Heritage Month with a performance by Sima Ballet Folklorico! Stop by the Cozby Library and Community Commons to enjoy the bright costumes and traditional Mexican music and dance. All ages welcome to attend.

Compassion Experience brings poverty of Uganda, Guatemala to Irving

Walking through a self-guided tour of a replica schoolroom in Guatemala, Bridget Lewis and her daughter, Joy, were reminded of how blessed their lives are in North Texas.

“One child received a pair of socks as a Christmas gift,” Lewis said. “These are the kinds of things many Americans take for granted. It’s no big deal to get a pair of socks. We have so much. Then you see people who could be helped in so many ways, emotionally, spiritually, and physically, by just a little bit of kindness.”

Lewis and her daughter joined visitors of Compassion International’s “The Compassion Experience” in Irving from Aug. 11 through 14 at Grace Point Church. The event educated visitors about the realities of life in poverty through one of two self-guided tours of the lives of children growing up and overcoming poverty: Carlos in Guatemala and Shamim in Uganda. After the tour, visitors were taught more about the organization’s child sponsorship program.

“We have so much here, and then you see people who need a plate of rice and beans to stand,” Lewis said. “Carlos talked about working all day, going to school, then going to bed hungry. I hope people demonstrate more compassion.”

The 1,700 square foot exhibit space featured models of rooms and environments. The spaces were designed to mirror the real-life environments as closely as possible. The children in the stories helped design the rooms and even donated some of their childhood items as decor. The space takes anywhere from 2 to 8 hours to set up depending on the number of volunteers.

“We hope people learn more about what life is like for children living in poverty,” said Kate Amaya, regional manager for Compassion International. “The Compassion Experience is their opportunity to experience that in their local community without having to travel to the developing world. The stories of Carlos and Shamim are real people.”

Amaya helped place one of eight trailers across the country. The trailers travel almost every weekend of the year to different cities and churches. The Compassion Experience is solely church based, and Grace Point Church in Irving is one of the organization’s U.S. church partners.

Compassion International was founded in 1952 as a Christian child development organization. They provide at least 80 percent of their donor funding to program operations and extend their services to include counseling and preventative services.

Based out of Colorado Springs, the organization works around the world to release children from poverty. They partner with more than 6,700 churches in 25 countries. The core mission of the organization is their child sponsorship program. Amaya estimates the organization has 1.2 million children involved all over the world.

After the self-guided tour, visitors walk into the World Impact Room where they learn more about children in need of sponsors.

“It’s a continuation from the child’s story into this area,” said Emily Mathis, an independent contractor with Compassion International.

Mathis became a sponsor years ago during intermission at a rock concert when she was handed a packet and shown a video of the child sponsorship program.

“I was very moved by it,” she said. “I took the packet, and it was a little boy from the Philippines. I became his sponsor and started volunteering.”

Mathis is trained to have information ready for visitors who have questions about how the program works and about child sponsorship. She lives in the North Texas area and volunteers whenever the trailer passes through the area.

The World Impact Room ushers visitors to the Child Sponsorship Wall where cards hang featuring children living in poverty. Individuals can sponsor a children from one of 25 countries in Africa, Central America, South America and Asia.

Some children had a priority sticker on their card, indicating they’ve been waiting more than six months for a sponsor. On the first day of the event, Mathis displays all of the priority children first. Other stickers include one indicating they live in an aids-infected area as well as a child-rights violation area sticker, meaning there can be ongoing human trafficking. The cards also include the children’s stories on the back.

A basic sponsorship costs $38 a month and includes making sure the child has food to eat, clean water, free education including tuition, books, and uniforms, as well as free healthcare. Another component of the program is letter writing, a feature Compassion International hopes will keep the children involved in the program after their education.

“It’s key to helping them feel the hope they need for their future,” Mathis said. “Now that we’re taking care of their basic needs, we can open their eyes to a hopeful future. Now they can be somebody and change their community, change their environment, and do whatever they want.

“They all have different stories. One’s name is Kiwi from the Philippines. She lives in Dallas and works at one of the medical centers. They grow up and stay involved with compassion and some have started their own compassion centers, or their own ministries, or get their college degrees.”

The organization is Christ centered and part of the program teaches the children about Jesus.

“There can be many denominations,” Mathis said. “We present, and they have a choice.”

Including their basic child sponsorship, the organization offers twelve different categories of funding including emergency, disaster, aids relief and malaria relief.

Mathis estimates that 100 to 125 children will come away with a sponsor during the exhibit.

“Our goal is for people to be moved through compassion,” volunteer Ashley Castleberry said. “You see these hurting kids and then to make a difference by sponsorship is our main goal.”

Children learn ancient art of candy sushi rolling

Benihana, a sushi and Japanese steakhouse located in Las Colinas, hosted a sushi rolling event for kids at Valley Ranch Library on Saturday, Aug. 26.

Kids from ages 8 to eighteen learned about the history of sushi rolling and chopsticks and made their very own traditional and candy sushi.

The step by step hands-on project included two different types of sushi. The kids first made a traditional roll that included seaweed, sticky rice, crab meat, avocado, and wasabi with soy sauce. The second was a candy sushi consisting of a rice crispy treat wrapped with a fruit roll up topped with a candy Swedish fish.

“It was a unique experience we got to share with different cultures, and it was fantastic,” said Laura Escobar, mother of Isabelle Escobar. “I’ve never made sushi before, so I learned how the process works. The kids, including my daughter, really love sushi. Now she had the chance to experience it firsthand.”

The kids were given special chopsticks attached to the base to make them easier to use and a lesson on how to properly use them, including what not to do, rubbing them together, sticking them upright in a bowl of rice and crossing them on a table.

“I enjoyed eating the candy sushi, even though I didn’t get the chance to eat the real one, because we don’t eat meat,” said Isabelle Escobar (9). “When I get home I will make a vegetarian sushi.”

“We wanted to reach out to the community and get involved with the kids,” said Robert Meeker, Benihana’s general manager. “We want to make Benihana more available to kids and let them know that there’s more exciting things going on and the opportunity to eat sushi.

“I really enjoyed introducing them to the Japanese culture, teaching them about the chopsticks, proper etiquette, and getting them to try something that’s different or something that they may not have experienced at home. It’s having the opportunity to teach them something new that they probably haven’t seen before.”

Meeker explained that besides the candy rolling event they host once a year, the only time they offer candy sushi exclusively for kids at their restaurant is on Children’s Day on May 5. This Japanese national holiday celebrates children’s personalities and their happiness. 

“I loved how the kids were so excited about making sushi and how they wanted to come to Benihana for more,” said Manuel Rojas or Manny, Benihana’s head chef. “I am the chef that makes the hibachi and the sushi, so I am very lucky to be here.  

“We do this event every year. This is my first time doing this and I really enjoyed it. I have been working for Benihana for 16 years. Since my major job is doing hibachi this is a major change. I’m use to making sure the guests are being entertained and having fun by doing tricks, but I love being in front of people. I was really happy to be here today with all of the kids.”

Laughs by the Lake brings community together

“I just came to get out of my house,” comedian Dorie Mclemore told a roaring audience sprawled out on lawn chairs and picnic blankets at Lake Carolyn.

While some of the estimated 1,500 visitors of the fourth annual Irving Laughs by the Lake event may have just needed to get out of their homes for a couple hours, many more seemed drawn by the comedy performances, free food and scenic evening lake view.

The event, presented by Frontier Communications and the City of Irving, was held on Sept. 1. Dallas-based Comedian Q hosted Mclemore, Troy Walker and three-time Daytime Emmy winner Ben Bailey. In-N-Out Burger gave two hamburgers, a soft drink and chips to each of the first 1,000 attendees, while Fuzzy’s Tacos sold food and beer.

“I had never booked a comedian before,” said Jasmine Lee, city of Irving special events coordinator. “The main goal was to get a wide range of styles so everybody can laugh at least once.”

For the first time, this year’s event featured a contest for local comedians. Hannah Vaughan, Todd Justice, and David Jessop, were chosen as finalists by a panel to compete onstage for a cash prize and the title “Irving’s Funniest Comic,” determined by an audience vote.

“Normally you turn down an outside event,” said Justice of Carrolton, who won about 70 percent of the vote. “Comedy is not normally an outside event and we made it work tonight.”

Justice said the speaker system and generator allowed the audience to hear and participate, and the crowd’s closeness to the stage and ample laughter set the scene for good performances.

To make the event more accessible for comedians and the audience, Lee and her team have been working to make changes based on feedback from past years.

“The biggest change was to push people to sit closer to the stage,” Lee said. “Comedy is interactive, and our comedians last year told us that would be helpful. We put out a rope around the stage and made people sit in front of the rope. When that area filled up we just moved the rope back.”

“I think the setup is a lot better this year,” said Ernesto Banuelas, who worked at last year’s Laughs by the Lake event. “People have a really nice view now [that the stage faces the lake].”

Changes based on surveys passed out last year include free on-site grass parking which, though limited, proved popular with the crowd. In years past, attendants had to pay for private parking or use Dallas Area Rapid Transit’s Orange Line to Las Colinas Urban Center Station. The city of Irving also provided a complimentary shuttle bus service to the Tower 909 parking garage and Las Colinas Urban Center station.

In the past a band followed the hired comedians but this year the comedy showcase replaced the live music. The audience was asked to vote on their phones for their favorite of the three 5-minute acts.

All of the comic acts were free of adult language and themes and families brought dogs on leashes and children in strollers. According to Lee, Laughs by the Lake is also intended to provide an inexpensive community experience for Irving’s adults.

“Every resident deserves some type of event,” Lee said. “We do a lot for elementary-age kids and families, which is great, but we also wanted people to be able to have a fun night out with the community.”

Irving welcomes Jehovah’s Witnesses

Jehovah’s Witnesses, a worldwide Christian religion, hosted a series of regional conventions at the Irving Convention Center. The first of five conventions, each three days long, began on June 30 and the final convention began Aug. 25.  Held in English, Korean, Vietnamese and the Swahili language, the theme for this year’s conventions was “Don’t Give Up.”

“All of the information provided is to help us build our faith and to endure the difficult times that we live in today,” said Danny Scott, a Jehovah’s Witness minister.

“Each day will have a different focus. Today is our house-to-house ministry work, where we try to help people learn about the bible and conduct bible studies. Because each day is different, there will be a day that deals with family and family life.”

“This is really an educational conference,” said Chance Mizon, the assistance program overseer for the convention. “In this case, we’re looking to help people endure and not give up. This venue allows everyone to be here, and the city of Irving does a nice job working with us. In the Dallas area, we have conventions in Frisco at the Dr. Pepper arena.

“All of the conventions have the same program,” Mizon said. “It’s just delivered by different folks. We’ve been working on this program for a year, so we hope it’s beneficial to everyone. There is a committee of very experienced Witnesses who are looking to benefit not only Jehovah’s Witnesses and to help them not give up, but we are looking to benefit everybody and anybody who wants to come.

“They picked this theme because times are tough. This is not like any other convention. This is educational, and nobody gets put on the spot. We want them to feel comfortable to come in and just listen. Anybody is welcome and anyone can benefit from the program. It’s based on the bible, but it’s broad-based to fit anybody.”

This is one of 40 conventions in the DFW Metroplex. Throughout the summer there are over 500 conventions, which feature several languages. On the fourth floor of the Convention Center, Jehovah’s Witnesses hosted the same conference in the Korean language at the same time as an English conference.

“We follow the same program as the English convention downstairs and the other languages worldwide,” said Ron Puro, the media spokesman for the Korean convention. “We are supporting the Korean communities here in Dallas as well as other locations throughout the country.

“We as Jehovah’s Witnesses feel everybody needs to hear the good news, and there are several immigrants in the United States now. The Korean community is just one of the communities that we are reaching out to.”

“The public is also invited. We want to help them hear the word of God in their language. Sometimes they say the language you grow up with is “the language of the heart.” You may understand English by living in this country and studying it, but our own language seems to touch the heart more.

“We as Jehovah’s Witnesses invite all people. They may even want to learn Korean. We have several learners that are attending the conference like myself, who are either learning the language or showing a great interest in it.”

Humans, canines graduate from Kinkade Campus

Leaving their puppy raisers for the last time, canine graduates crossed the stage with their new owners on Friday, Aug. 4 to receive graduation medals and begin lives as service companions. Canine Companions for Independence (CCI) celebrated the graduation ceremony at the Canine Companions for Independence Kinkeade Campus at Baylor Scott and White Health in Irving.

“CCI is a non-profit assistance dog organization,” said Sarah McCracken, the program manager. “We place dogs for people with disabilities completely free of charge. This ceremony is one we do four times a year where we actually match the dogs with the individuals.”

CCI was founded in 1975 in Santa Rosa, California and now has five different regional training centers across the country.

“This facility is a partnership with Baylor Scott and White Health,” McCracken said. “We opened up in November 2015. Since we opened, we have had people who always wanted an assistance dog, but couldn’t get to California or any other place that had it. Now, this is a possibility for them.”

CCI trains four different types of dogs: service dogs that assist adults with physical disabilities by performing daily tasks; hearing dogs for the deaf and hard of hearing, who alert their owners of certain sounds; facility dogs, who work with people in special settings like education, criminal justice, or healthcare; and skilled companions, who will enhance independence for children and adults.

“We have over 100 puppy raisers in our south central facility right now,” McCracken said. “When they turn in for professional training, we have three trainers on staff that do six to nine months of professional training.”

“It’s a lot of work [being a puppy raiser]” said Diane Greytak, a puppy trainer whose dog graduated. “It’s a wonderful thing to do, and then it becomes very sad when you have to turn them in. When they graduate, it’s wonderful again. It really has some highs and lows.”

Greytak trained a black Labrador named Caesar.

“This is my eighth dog,” Greytak said. “When you consider two years for each dog, I have been doing this for 16 years.”

“I like to see the light bulb come on with them. When they finally get something, and then it finally stays with them. I think it’s wonderful.”

The assistance dogs are trained in over 40 commands, including turning light switches off and on, opening doors, pulling wheelchairs, and picking up items.

“We need more puppy raisers,” Greytak said. “We have many people who need dogs. We don’t have enough puppy raisers to get them to a point where they can go into professional training. If anyone out there is even considering it, they need to look into the program and do it for us.”

CCI breeds Labrador retrievers, golden retrievers, and a mix breed of the two.  

“We are a national organization, but this facility is still fairly new.” said Courtney Craig, the public relations coordinator. “We are always looking for volunteers, especially volunteer puppy raisers. People would raise these dogs for a year and a half and generously turn them in back over to us, so they can be trained professionally and hopefully be given to someone with a disability. Our graduates are extremely grateful for these dogs.

“[The dogs] truly change the lives [of people with disabilities]. Whether it’s picking up dropped items or opening doors. They are giving them enhanced independence they didn’t have before.”

Around 35 to 45 percent of the puppies that go through the training will graduate from the program and become a certified skilled assistance dog. The ones that do not pass the program will go on to become therapy dogs, guide dogs, law enforcement or search and rescue dogs.