I'll bet there are few Texans who haven't heard the song "What I Like About Texas":
"You ask me what I like about Texas
I tell you it's the wide open spaces!
It's everything between the Sabine and the Rio Grande.
It's the Llano Estacado,
It's the Brazos and the Colorado;
Spirit of the people down here who share this land!
You ask me what I like about Texas
It's the big timber round Nacogdoches
It's driving El Camino Real into San Antone
It's the Riverwalk in Mi Tierra
Dancing to the Cotton-eyed Joe
It's stories of the Menger Hotel and the Alamo!
Hey, you ask me what I like about Texas
It's Bluebonnets and Indian paintbrushes
Swimming in the sacred waters of Barton Springs
It's body surfing the Frio
It's Saturday night in Del Rio!
Driving across the border for some cultural exchange!
It's another burrito, it's a cold Lone Star in my hand!
It's a quarter for the jukebox boys
Plays The Son's of the Mother Lovin' Bunkhouse Band
You ask me what I like about Texas"
— From the album Home with the Armadillo: Live from Austin City Limits, June 1984)
Texas Music Hall of Famer Gary P. Nunn released this song in 1984, and the very next year was named an Official Ambassador to the World by then-Texas Gov. Mark White. Twenty years later in 2004, Gov. Rick Perry declared Nunn an Ambassador of Texas Music.
Now here we are 13 years further down the road, and Nunn is back in the Texas ambassador seat singing that same great Texas tune, the theme of this summer's travel and tourism #WhatILikeAboutTexas campaign. The campaign is spearheaded by the Texas Travel Industry Association (TTIA) and underwritten by partnering communities, Denton being one.
"This campaign celebrates the people of this state alongside its natural, well-known and even obscure attractions," TTIA president and CEO David Teel said. "It welcomes all visitors to our state through ideas and experiences about Texas, from Texans — all types of Texans."
The campaign officially kicked off May 26 with What I like About Texas day on the south steps of the Texas State Capitol. Nunn performed the song and others among his many hits, while Texans from all walks of life, including some legislators and staff members, sang along.
The source of this fun campaign is the website, www.whatilikeabouttexas.org. The site is live, but it is still largely unpopulated right now. Why? Because Texans and visitors will fill it up with their own likes about Texas. I imagine content will include everything from tacos and margaritas to jamming on great Texas music and outdoor adventures to uniquely Texan characters.
What I Like About Texas is all about the best kind of storytelling. It's you telling me, me telling my friend in Florida, my neighbor telling her sister in Wisconsin, and that guy visiting Denton last weekend from Chicago telling his friends. And how do we tell these stories in today's world? You guessed it — social media, the tool for spreading stories, seeds that will sprout into new visitors and motivate us Texans to stay on the move, visiting across our state.
Celebrity-status Texas personalities will get the ball rolling in a series of short videos where they tell what they like about Texas and invite others to do the same. Think Willie Nelson, Beyonce and Tony Romo for example. Throughout the summer, more and more people, famous and not, will add their own videos, pictures, Snapchats and posts talking about trip highlights, favorite memories, exceptional experiences, great food and cool people they've met on their Texas journeys. And it's all tied together with the hashtag #WhatILikeAboutTexas.
As happens during politically charged seasons, recent months have been fraught with discourse and polarization. Hence another beautiful side to the summer's campaign. At the end of the day, we are Texans, and what better way to reconnect than to remember all the things we love about home.
There truly is no place like Texas, no people so fiercely proud of their state as are we. There's mystique in that, something that sets this place apart. On top of that, we are Denton, the most original, independent nook in the state. It's our top attraction for Texas and Denton, and people are drawn to it. Being part of this mega campaign is a refresher for all of us, visitors included, that Texas is a whole other country.
In the words of Gary P. Nunn: ""You ask me what I like about Texas? Well, I could tell you, but we'd be here all night long!" (whatilikeabouttexas.org).
KIM PHILLIPS is vice president of the Denton Convention & Visitors Bureau at the Denton Chamber of Commerce. She loves promoting Denton's original, independent spirit through the city's sense of place and cast of many characters. She can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.