Hub of Happenings

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Everybody knows footballs is a religion in Texas, and nobody knows that better than Odessa, which inspired “Friday Night Lights.” Maybe an underdog once, the city nowadays racks up big points on the Things to Do & See scoreboard.

“The passion behind sports in this town carries over to our residents’ passion for the community,” said Dawn Stringer of the Odessa Convention and Visitors Bureau.

Likewise, Randy Ham sounds more like a cheerleader than a player; he’s Executive Director of the OdessaArts.

“I see movement,” Ham said. “I see more and more families engaging in cultural activities every day. We are beginning to believe in our own self-worth, and it is amazing to behold.”

Indeed. The city of Odessa and its parks & recreation department play host to nearly two dozen family-friendly activities year-round; those don’t include such assets as the nationally recognized museums, public art and parks.

Odessans flock to events ranging from 5k fun runs to Movies in the Park and from the Parade of Lights to the Daddy Daughter and Mother Son dances, among numerous others — in addition to the Fall Festival and, of course, football.

More is coming. Odessa Arts’ 40th anniversary heralds the ArtPocalypse with 30 events and exhibits based on a 12-week reading program for adults and children.

“Odessa has a small-town feel, and these events bring the community so much closer,” Stringer said.

Both officials laud the considerable financial and promotional contributions from an array of sponsors, including the likes of First Basin Credit Union, which underwrites the weekly Hot Summer Nights concerts; University of Texas Permian Basin, Chevron and Odessa Regional Medical Center; the Ellen Noël Art Museum, a Smithsonian affiliate; and the Junior League of Odessa.

Of the latter’s latest initiative, Stringer said the Junior League Jurassic Jungle Sprayground opened in July with a dinosaur theme and a flood of response.

“By engaging families in the cultural community here, we are showing that this is more than just a place to live and work,” Ham said. “This is a place to call home.”