updated 2:19 PM UTC, Oct 15, 2020

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Tyler County Fair spotlights area youth

Eli StandleyEli Standley has shown animals at the Tyler County Fair since the third grade Photo courtesy of Eli Standley

By Jacob Spivey
AgriLife Extension Agent

If 2020 has taught us anything, it’s that nothing stays the same. Back in April when the Tyler County Fair Board made the decision, in the beginning days of the Covid-19 pandemic, that we would proceed to tag steers and plan on having a county fair it became my goal, to make sure we would have a county fair no matter what obstacles we may face.

Ultimately, in working within the confines of the county requirements and the state orders, we had to make some changes. Nobody on the fair board wanted to see changes, but the goal was to have the kids get as much normalcy as possible. With that in mind, in order to follow the guidelines we were given, we had to space out the schedule, we had to add additional seating, and we had to cancel a few things. We didn’t want to cancel anything that would take an opportunity away from a kid, but we were unable to have our carnival, and we had to cancel the barbecue cook-off. Other than that, we were able to keep all our livestock, ag mechanics, home economics, and art show opportunities for our kids. There have been numerous challenges, a few false starts, and a few times we were worried, but the time is here, and our kids get to show.

Abby LeBlancAbby LeBlanc, of Spurger, lovingly tends to her rabbits. Photo courtesy of Abby LeBlanc

In my family, they know that I profess that for me, the holiday season beginnings that weekend in October when we kick off the county fair, it is, for me the most wonderful time of the year, and it’s a thrill to see the best parts of our community showcased, our hard working people, and their generous spirit.

In the last few weeks I got a chance to talk to a couple of our long-time showman about their projects for this year and what has been different as they get ready for the 2020 Tyler County Fair. Abby LeBlanc is a Junior at Spurger High School where she takes dual credit classes in preparation to be a member of the Fighting Aggie class of 2026. Abby has been a member of 4H for several years and enjoys learning new things about agriculture. Abby has shown since she was in the PeeWee division, and this year she is showing a steer, Rip, a pen of broilers and a pen of rabbits. I asked Abby what she liked best about showing and the Tyler County Fair and she said “I love the Tyler County Fair because we are all one big family. Showing for me is about the love of animals, but I also get to meet other students my age that enjoy the same thing. We all like competition, but no matter where you are if a trailer breaks down or you need to borrow a show stick, someone is always willing to step up and help each other.”

Eli Standley is a senior at Warren High School and a President of the Warren FFA. Eli has shown at the county fair since he was in the third grade. Eli has shown nearly everything at the fair over the years, including a pig and a steer this year. After high school he plans to pursue a degree in sports management. Eli says” The Tyler County Fair is my favorite time of the year, because not only do I get to show off my animals that I’ve worked so hard with during the year, but I also get to relax and enjoy all the parts of the fair with friends and family.” Eli also talked about understanding what it takes to make the Tyler County Fair successful, it’s not just showing up, but that there are countless hours put in by volunteers all year round to make the fair the success it is. He hopes to someday be able to give back to the fair the way he has seen his parents and family do over the year, not just financially, but with time and effort.

To paraphrase the second paragraph of the FFA Creed by E.M. Tiffany, to be engaged in agriculture is pleasant as well as challenging, and our Tyler County Fair kids know the joys and discomforts of agricultural life, whether they are involved with 4-H or FFA, or are Steer Kids, Baking Kids, or all of the above. Ultimately the county fair, is just one of those associations which, even in hours of hours of discouragement, can not be denied. 2020 has been tough, we have had many hours of discouragement in the last eight months, but I believe in my heart of hearts, that Tyler County, The Tyler County Fair, the state of Texas, and the United States of America will rise from the ashes of these challenges, to be stronger and a little more sturdy in the future.

I can believe those things because of young people like Abby and Eli, that again borrowing for the FFA Creed, take it seriously that they can exert an influence on their home and community, so that it can stand solid for years to come. We can look around our country, we can watch TV, and find discouragement on every channel, but I challenge you, this week, come out to the fairgrounds, and see the real future of our country, these young people representing Tyler County, they will be the ones who will lead us into tomorrow. These young people, who are doers, not just talkers, will shape tomorrow, and when I look at those kids, who will spend this week tired, dirty, and worn out, but still willing to lend a helping hand whenever it’s needed, for friend or competitor, I have to think we are in some pretty good hands. And if those hands happen to be a little calloused and have some dirt under their fingernails it’s even better.

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Senators can deliver fairness for East Texas


By Cathy Bennett

IVANHOE - There is a question facing U.S. senators right now that should matter to all of us, because it will affect the short- and long-term economic health of our region: Will they treat East Texas fairly?

The Senate has the chance to pass legislation, already approved unanimously in the House, that would expressly allow electronic bingo on the land of the Alabama-Coushatta Tribe near Livingston and Ysleta del Sur Pueblo near El Paso. This would stop the state’s misguided efforts to shut those facilities down.

East Texas knows all too well how important it is for the Alabama-Coushatta’s bingo facility, Naskila Gaming, to remain open; Naskila is responsible for 700 direct and indirect jobs in our region and generates $170 million a year in economic activity while providing a highly limited, regulated form of gaming.

Some say Texas’ two senators, John Cornyn and Ted Cruz, will never support the East Texas and El Paso facilities because they do not want gaming. But here’s the problem with that argument: Texas already has gaming on tribal lands. Due to differing federal laws, the Kickapoo Tribe in Eagle Pass near the Texas-Mexico border already offers electronic bingo and will continue to do so. The state isn’t trying to shut that facility down.

This, in other words, comes down to fairness. Why should Eagle Pass reap the community benefits of an electronic bingo facility — the jobs, the economic activity — while providing the exact same form of gaming that the state is trying to shut down in East Texas and El Paso? It makes no sense that the border region gets to play by a different set of rules. When our state is enduring a recession like this, our elected officials should be looking for ways to create jobs rather than taking them away from us.

East Texas strongly supports the Alabama-Coushatta Tribe and Naskila gaming. More than 70 organizations have passed resolutions or taken votes to support the facility, including county commissioners courts and city councils, county Republican parties and chambers of commerce. The conservative Republican congressman who represents Livingston, U.S. Rep. Brian Babin, authored the congressional legislation that would allow the facility to stay open. Not only did his bill pass the House without dissent, but 19 members of Congress representing Texas from across the ideological and partisan spectrum sent Cornyn a bill last month urging him to help the bill move forward.

Now, the ball is in our senators’ court. They can save Naskila and hundreds of East Texas jobs by helping Babin’s bill move forward before Congress adjourns at the end of this year. Cornyn asked his Senate colleagues to block the bill last year. But if he drops his opposition, he can save hundreds of good jobs at this moment of economic pain. And, just as importantly, he can show that he listens to East Texas and is committed to a bright future for our region.

Cathy Bennett is the Mayor of Ivanhoe, Texas.

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Ina Dilemma brings soulful sound to area (Gallery)


sterling hannahCALEB FORTENBERRY | TCB Mike Hanna (left) and Felesha Sterling (right) rock the Magnolia Bar and Grill

By Caleb Fortenberry
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Residing in Tyler County is a soulful rock band with a country twang, southern rock some might call it. The band, Ina Dilemma, started their rise to rockdom, with Mike Hanna on lead guitar and vocals, Krista Thompson on drums and Mike Jones on bass. The story goes, Jones wouldn’t play unless they had a guitar player. Once Hanna was on board, Jones followed shortly after. The music was there, but they needed a vocalist. After some time, the found their lead singer Felesha Sterling, who joined the band five years ago.

All of the band members developed their inspiration from different avenues. Hanna heard Stevie Ray Vaughan and was hooked on those sweet licks and soulful style and has been playing for 15 years since. “My mom was really big into music, got me into the rock and roll side of things, and then I discovered Stevie Ray Vaughan,” said Hanna.

Hanna’s tasteful playing, which ranges from crunchy rock riffs to soaring, bluesy leads, is a perfect counterpart to the charismatic presence of the band’s front-woman Sterling.

Sterling provides plenty of vocal firepower said she received her inspiration from singer and actress Julie Andrews. “I loved her vocal ability, and I just thought it was a great challenge to try to mimic her. Of course, it turned into my own little thing,” she said.

Thompson, who is a powerful force behind the kit, explained her inspiration came from the idea that music lifts a person’s spirits. “Without music you get depressed, music can lift you and sometimes it can take you down little bit when it’s sad, but most of the time people like music when you get to tap your foot,” she said.

Jones, a lifelong musician, described the relationship of the band and why he still plays. “I love music, it’s all about music to me, friendship. Being in a band is almost like being in a family. Actually, it’s like being married to four of my ex-wives at the same time, but that’s family, you know. We’re always in a dilemma,” said Jones.

Currently, the band has no plans to record an album, and all of its members have no plans of moving from their Tyler County home base. With mostly covers as the bulk of their repertoire, they play all over the East Texas region. The typical set list at an Ina Dilemma show ranges from classic blues and rock tunes to more recent songs by Texas and Red Dirt artists.

Two establishments in the area they frequent are W.O.’s Friendly Tavern at Village Milles and Magnolia Bar and Grill in Woodville.
You can book Ina Dilemma through their Facebook page, find out where they are playing next or view recent videos of them playing live.

Ina Dilemma Horozontal 091720
Mike Hanna shreds
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Three Guys Eating week four: Gigi's - Gi-Luxe burgers

3 guys eating


Finally, we get to Gigi’s and taste the Gi-luxe burger. Laura mostly missed us and went east to Louisiana and things returned to mostly normal in Tyler County. Our thoughts and prayers go out to those folks hit by Hurricane Laura and we have some of our people headed your way to help. While we were thinking of the folks there, Caleb, Chris and I finally made it to Gigi’s and were very excited to hit the Village Mills area.

Located on 69/287 South right next to W O’s Tavern, I’ve driven by Gigi’s for a while now. I have stopped to eat and the food was good so getting an opportunity to try the burgers had our mouths watering. Chris, as you may know, is also a musician and has regaled the folks at WO’s with tunes in the past.

He said he often had wished Gigi’s was open so he could sample their food prior to playing. Well Chris, they are granting your wish. Starting next week they will be opened on Friday and Saturday late so you can pick up the food and step over for tunes. We started this out looking at the Cheeseburger (Homestyle) and then moved to the Gi-luxe. The homestyle weighed in at 12 ounces pretty much in line with the others we have tried. The taste was excellent on the Homestyle and I rated it 4 burgers with Chris and Caleb coming in with a 4 as well.

gigi hsCALEB FORTENBERRY | TCB Gigi homestyle burger

We all agreed this burger was like you would make at home and as Chris pointed out a little better. Texture of the burger was excellent as the bun was toasted just right, the patty cooked to juicy tenderness without having the greasiness you find in some burgers. The weight of the burger was primarily meat centered as the vegetables were lighter than most places. The tomatoes sliced just right on each burger a little lettuce and some onions that strangely after last time, were a little light for me; however, the taste was a solid 4 all around and the overall rating was 3.61 burgers. It is truly a burger worth the trip to Village Mills. Now we brought out the massive and unique Gi-Luxe Burger. This is a burger worthy of the title Specialty. Gigi has several unique offerings but the Gi-luxe is the king of the house. Like most kings it wears a nice crown, this one happens to be an inverted onion riing filled with Philly cheesesteak.


Sound a little strange to you? Well I encourage you to come down and try one for yourself. The really amazing thing is the lack of greasiness with the cheese steak. I am not sure how they mange it, but the balance of flavor and juciness blends well with the burger to form a unique experience. Even though Chris and I offered assistance Caleb was so impressed he ate the whole burger even after his homestyle. The overall rating of the Gi-luxe was a 4.13 Burgers on a 5 burger scale. The price is a little higher than some and that kept this burger from rocketing to the top. The sourdough bun ads a touch of sweet that plays well with the flavors. Like always we encourage you to come to Gigi’s and sample for yourself.

All of these stops will be open to the title of Best Burger in Tyler County 2020. You will be the ones to decide. Next week we head to Magnolia Bar and Grill to sample another burger offering. Tyler County, you should be proud of the quality burgers you have from which to choose. See y’all next week with the review of Magnolia Bar and Grill. Don’t forget to like the Tyler County Bosster on facebook and watch Three Guys Eating , share the videos and give us a little feedback.

If you have been here or any of the locations we have tried feel free to drop a comment to let us know what you think. We always have a good time and look forward to sharing our thoughts on food. Remember COVID-19 had decimated some of these businesses and their servers, so tip generously and come on out and try the best food in the county.

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