Special Olympics Texas

And they're off! The Special Olympics World Games Berlin kicked off this past weekend, and several world class athletes plus coaches from Texas are involved as participants.

And the games aren't over yet — so let's meet our local competitors, shall we? First off is Allison Dohrman of College Station, competing in the cycling category. Dohrman has competed in the Special Olympics for an incredible 13 years and counting. In addition to her incredible athletic prowess competing in bowling, bocce, and now cycling, Dohrman also manages to find enough time to work hard as a server at her local Texas Roadhouse.

Joining Dohrman as a fellow Texas athlete is Tyler Dodson, who hails from Desoto. The silver medal-winning sailor (he won at the Special Olympics World Games in Abu Dhabi back in 2019) is back this year competing in the same sport. He had also represented Texas at the Special Olympics USA Games the year prior, winning the gold medal in stand-up paddleboard.

Davy Holak joins Dohrman and Dodson as a Special Olympics unified partner. At 69 years old, Holak has been training diligently in golf (a sport relatively new to the Special Olympics veteran), in order to best represent Special Olympics USA at the Berlin World Games in the sport.

Speaking of golf, we have Holak's fellow Special Olympics veteran Kevin Harrell also competing in the sport. Harrell has been competing in the Special Olympics in some capacity since he was only 8 years old. Although Harrell has previously competed in sports like basketball, bowling, bocce, and softball, golf is his favorite sport to play, per the athlete himself.

Joining the three Texas-based athletes are two Texas-based coaches and one more unified athlete: Houston's resident Special Olympics sailing head coach Jack Yoes, Robert 'Bobby' Westlake of Midlothian, competing as a unified athlete in sailing; and finally, San Antonio's own Special Olympics kayaking head coach, Teresa Sullivan.

The Special Olympics World Games Berlin are ongoing until Sunday, June 25. You can support our local Texas athletes by following along on their progress via the official Special Olympics World Games Berlin website.

Because even if they don't win gold, they're all winners in our book.

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CultureMap Emails are Awesome

3 booming Houston 'burbs' rank as most 'house rich' cities in U.S. leads week's top stories

this week's hot headlines

Editor's note: It's time to recap the top stories on CultureMap from this past week.

1. 3 booming Houston 'burbs dominate top 10 list of most 'house rich' cities in U.S.. With Houston's median household income, affording a starter home in the city might not be as unattainable as potential homebuyers might think.

2. Promising, star-staffed River Oaks upscale Mediterranean restaurant shutters — with plans to reopen. The restaurant sent diners a message that read in part "due to unforeseen circumstances, we will be closed until further notice."

3. Underbelly's beefy burger restaurant and new volleyball themed bar open in Spring Branch. The two establishments will soon be joined by Texas comfort food restaurant Wild Oats.

4. Heights neighbors feel 'trapped' after city construction demolishes their driveways. Barrels, heavy equipment, and construction crews are not what neighbors living in The Heights expected this week.

5. UH officially breaks ground on its game-changing new $130M football center. The facility, soon to be known as the Memorial Hermann Football Operations Center, will feature up-to-date amenities.

Houston holiday happenings for the whole family: immersive magical moments, staycations, and more

Holiday houston

The holidays have now descended upon Houston, which means a seemingly endless array of festivals, light shows, performances and other opportunities to make merry.

With that in mind, we've rounded up a list of favorites for getting into the holiday spirit, from events, activations, hotel happenings and staycations, and more.

A very Houston holiday experience

The Houstonian Hotel, Club & Spa aka Houston’s presidential palace (the former home of President George H.W. Bush) welcomes holiday revelers with a consummately elevated, Houston-centric experience. Head to the hotel’s Great Room to take in the towering, Texas-sized Live Oak tree adorned with more than 100,000 lights and munch on the hotel’s signature chocolate chip cookies, made with beloved Former First Lady Barbara Bush’s recipe.

Snap photos and take in the holiday decor and the “Merry Mansions” gingerbread house display sitting above the lobby’s 30-foot stone fireplace. The “Merry Mansions” exhibit boasts hundreds of pounds of actual, intricately decorated gingerbread, gumdrops and candies that rise up to six feet above the fireplace. Local design aficionados should take note that the exhibit pays homage to noted architect John Staub, who designed the elegant Bayou Bend mansion for oil heiress Ima Hogg in 1927, as well as numerous River Oaks estates and The Houstonian’s Manor House estate, built in 1941 for oilman Thomas Lawrence. Staub’s home of Ernest Bel Fay, now the Fay School, is also featured in the exhibit.

Houstonian Hotel, Club & Spa Mistletoe MomentsMerry Mansions at The Houstonian Hotel, Club & Spa is an actual gingerbread display that nods to notable architect John Staub and his elite Houston homes.Photo via The Houstonian Hotel, Club & Spa Mistletoe Moments

While in the Great Room, head to the picturesque staircase for “Mistletoe Moments” with a sweetie and steal a kiss under the large mistletoe at what’s dubbed the “most kissable place in the city.”

The smooching couple who scores the most like for their IG kiss photo — be sure to use hashtag #houstoniankisses2023 — will score a free night at the hotel (canoodling couples must tag @houstonianhotel and use the hashtag to enter).

After gingerbread home tours and Christmas kisses, check out Tribute, the hotel’s restaurant for a meal or drink, and stroll the property’s woods and green space — and the majestic Grand Texas Live Oak that glows with more than 70,000 lights.

Staycation Indulgences

Staying in Houston this holiday? There are plenty of offerings to get a little bit of pampering and luxury. Stay inside a Hallmark Christmas movie with the Hilton Americas-Houston "Haul Out the Holly" Suite, an ultra-exclusive spot that comes complete with Christmas lights and a gingerbread bar. Packages are available beginning November 25.

The Perks and Presents Package at the Houstonian Hotel, Club and Spa offers and array of goodies, including two complimentary holiday-themed cocktails, a hand-painted Merry Mansions ornament, holiday coloring books for children, and more. Guests can book the special package from November 25 through December 30, and enjoy the posh hotel's other holiday amenities, such as 18 Christmas trees and 30,000 ornaments throughout the property, gingerbread houses, the huge mistletoe ball that's "the most kissable place in the city," a Holiday Hideout for kids that delivers their very own teepee to guests' rooms, and a host of additional holiday cheer.

The Couples Winter Value Package at Moody Gardens gives guests two passes to the Ice Land Sculptures, the Festival of Lights Walking Trail, unlimited rides on the Arctic slide, and admission to Moody Gardens attraction. Rates start at $392. (For more Moody Gardens fun, see our Experiences listing below)

Houstonian Hotel, Club & Spa Mistletoe Moments

Photo via Houstonian Hotel, Club & Spa

Sneak a kiss and maybe score a night's stay with The Houstonian Hotel, Club & Spa's Mistletoe Moments.


There's something for every taste on stage across Houston this holiday season. At the Houston Ballet, there's The Nutcracker, the annual favorite that tells the story of Clara and her journey to the Land of Sweets. The Alley's A Christmas Carolfinds Scrooge transformed thanks to a Christmas Eve visit from the Ghosts of Christmas Past, Present and Future.

Kick it old school in Rice Village at the cozy Ovations Night Club, where Paul Hope Cabaret's We Need A Little Christmas includes some holiday favorites and rarely performed gems. Right next door at Main Street Theater, Georgiana and Kitty - Christmas at Pemberley is a must for Jane Austen fans, centering on Mr. Darcy's younger sister and the youngest Bennet sister. Can't get enough Jane Austen? 4th Wall Theatre Company's Sense and Sensibility is a modern take on the classic story.

The Houston Chamber Choir's Feliz Navidad; Christmas at the Villa takes place in arguably the prettiest place in Houston, the chapel at the Villa de Matel. The Houston Symphony's Very Merry Pops offers favorite Christmas songs, while its annual production of Handel's Messiah traces in soaring song the greatest story ever told. Early music ensemble Ars Lyrica presents Awe and Wonder at St. Philip Presbyterian Church, two major works for chorus and orchestra, one telling the creation story and the other the incarnation of Christ. Head to Queensbury Theatre to see A Charlie Brown Christmas on stage. At the Hobby Center for the Performing Arts, TUTS takes over both stages, and audiences can catch Rodgers and Hammerstein's Cinderella or the all-new, original The Ugly Christmas Sweater Musical. Stages collaborates with TEATRX on this year's Panto show, Alicia in Wonderland.

Family fun

Green Mountain Energy Ice at Discovery Green offers plenty of fun for the young and young at heart. The popular ice skating rink returns to the downtown park, giving revelers the opportunity for winter fun against the backdrop of the Houston skyline. The ice is open daily through January 28, 2024, and admission is $17. It's $8 on Cheap Skate Mondays.

discovery green ice skating rinkHit the ice at Discovery Green. Photo courtesy of Discovery Green

On December 3, families can take part in the Holly Jolly - Santa's Workshop at the Houston Museum of Natural Science where they can make an ornament or a holiday card to take home. And, of course, there will be photos with Santa. Through December 19, The Christmas Train in Alvin is a chance for families to ride in the open-air car through a wonderland of twinkling lights.

Family performances of Main Street Theater for Youth's production of Disney's Beauty and the Beast run through December 23 at the MATCH. Children and adults will love this tale as old as time, with its enchanted candlesticks and clocks, magical mirrors and a story of seeing the good in others.

Book photos with Santa at the Galleria through December 24. Kiddos can share their Christmas wish lists with Santa, while moms and dads can ooh and aah. Everyone can enjoy ice skating at the mall before or after visiting the man in the red suit.


Moody Gardens' Holiday in the Gardensis a multi-activity extravaganza with something for everyone. There's the Ice Land and Festival of Lights, with a stroll along a mile-long trail of twinkling lights that transform the space into a fairy land. There's A Christmas Wish Holiday Spectacular, spellbinding show combines the artistry of Broadway-style song and dance with mesmerizing acrobatics, and more. There are holiday films, an ice rink, Christmas Break camps for kids, holiday buffet dinners, breakfast with Santa, hotel specials, and a wealth of other opportunities to enjoy this beloved Galveston getaway.

Dickens on the Strandmarks its 50th anniversary in Galveston (with a nod from Parliament, no less), with characters in Victoria costumes, live entertainment, parades, Tiny Tim's Play Land, roving peddlers, and other revelry. This beloved holiday tradition returns to the island December 1 through 3.

Dickens on the StrandDickens on the Strand, Galveston celebrates half a century this year. Dickens on the Strand Facebook

Enjoy The Lancaster Hotel's Holiday Tea every Saturday and Sunday now through December 31. Seating times at Noon and 2:30 p.m. Enjoy an array of tea sandwiches, cranberry scones, seasonal patisseries, and a selection of exquisite teas from around the world. Guests also receive a complimentary tea tin with their specialty holiday spiced black tea. Call 713-228 9500 to book.

Visit the Christmas Village at Bayou Bend December 8 through 30 and take part in tours of Ima Hogg's historic home, hear costumed carolers, toss snowballs, sled on a faux-snow slide, and take photos with Santa (through December 23). Check out Architecture Center Houston's 14th Annual Gingerbread Build-Off at Levy Park on Saturday, December 9. Competing teams will create 100% edible, architectural masterpieces using gingerbread, candy, and all sorts of other sweet treats. Cheer on the teams, let the kiddos play in the kids' construction zone, race throughout the park to complete a scavenger hunt, enjoy holiday music and performances, and even take a picture with Santa.

The Post Oak Hotel offers myriad holiday experiences for the young and young at heart, including Breakfast With Santa December 9 and 10, the transformation of Stella Wine Bar into a holiday chalet with wine specials and fondue through December 30, and decorating gingerbread houses on December 18.

The Mingle Holiday Market at Stomping Grounds on December 2 from 10 a.m. to 4 p.m. is a chance to shop for unique items for everyone on that gift list, and take in food and drink from some of Houston's best eateries, pose for selfies, and other holiday fun.

Steven Devadanam contributed to this article.

Jealousy, intrigue, and weirdness make Saltburn an eat-the-rich hoot

Movie Review

Writer/director Emerald Fennell made her feature film debut with the provocatively great 2020 film, Promising Young Woman, which saw its protagonist single-handedly – and, perhaps, foolishly – taking on male sexual predators. Her follow-up, Saltburn, has another protagonist with a one-track mind, this time a young man obsessing about joining upper-crust English society.

Barry Keoghan in Saltburn

Photo courtesy of Prime Video

Barry Keoghan in Saltburn.

Oliver Quick (Barry Keoghan) is a student at Oxford University who longs to be part of the popular crowd, especially the group led by Felix Catton (Jacob Elordi), who has everyone he meets fawning over him. Through a few chance meetings, Oliver does manage to endear himself to Felix, who invites him to spend the summer with him and his family at their estate called Saltburn.

There, Oliver is able to participate in the seemingly carefree revelry enjoyed by Felix and his family, including mother Elspeth (Rosamund Pike), father Sir James (Richard E. Grant), and sister Venetia (Allison Oliver). With hangers-on like fellow school friend Farleigh (Archie Madekwe) and Elspeth's friend Pamela (Carey Mulligan) along for the ride, Oliver discovers exactly how the filthy rich live, slowly but surely insinuating himself into each of their lives.

Films set on ornate British estates tend to be stuffy period pieces, so Fennell’s story is initially a breath of fresh air, telling a more modern version that’s full of life. Colors pop from every shot, especially the film’s many party scenes (and their aftermath). The sequences are the definition of excess, but deliciously so, as Fennell also fills them with hilarious dialogue that highlights the privilege of rich people who’ve never known a day of need in their whole life.

The strength of Oliver’s desire to join their ranks shifts constantly in the film, at first subtly and then in huge jumps. Fennell appears to have taken inspiration from The Talented Mr. Ripley, both in the haves vs. the have-nots aspect of the story, and in the fluctuating sexuality of Oliver. If it helps him get closer to his goal, Oliver has no trouble playing both sides of the fence, as it were, and in increasingly bizarre ways.

Just as she did in Promising Young Woman, Fennell makes certain storytelling choices that may not sit well with all viewers. The third act has more than a few of these, especially the culmination of the story, and while those decisions don’t always work, the fact that she went for them at all is deserving of some credit. Too many filmmakers try to play it safe, and it's much better to have someone try and fail than not try at all.

Keoghan has an innocent look to him that belies the intensity he can bring, which makes him ideal for a role like this. He’s up for whatever Fennell throws at him, which is quite a lot, and he succeeds even if the scenes don’t always work. Elordi plays a spoiled-but-empathetic rich kid well, and Grant, Pike, Oliver, and Madekwe give equally interesting performances. Mulligan has a short but funny role in which she plays against type.

While not as good as Promising Young Woman, Saltburn demonstrates that Fennell is still a filmmaker to watch. Her ideas are off-kilter enough to give her a distinctive voice, and she deserves to be given many more opportunities to bring her perspective to the big screen.


Saltburn is now playing in theaters.