SpaceX Plans to Move Commercial Launches to Texas


Space Florida is bracing for a major blow to the Sunshine State that could come as soon as this week.

The state agency said SpaceX is close to publicly announcing a new commercial launch complex in Brownsville, Texas.

"We kind of have known it's coming for a while," said Dale Ketcham, of Space Florida. "But it's still going to be traumatic and not insignificant disappointment."

Just last week, SpaceX cleared a Federal Aviation Administration environmental review at the potential launch complex. The Brownsville site means commercial satellites, like the one set to launch Monday from the Cape Canaveral Air Force Station, will eventually be launched from Texas instead of Florida.

It's a sign that Florida's Space Coast may be losing its grip as America's go-to place for launching missions to space. Virginia is launching NASA missions to the International Space station.

"It is naïve for us to assume the loss of SpaceX commercial activity to Texas is not a significant blow to our plans and our future," Ketcham said. "It is. And our job is to be aggressive as possible seeing to it that more of that work doesn't leave and next year, somebody is announcing they're going to Georgia."

Space Florida officials said they need their own launch site — independent on NASA and the U.S. Air Force. It would be a site where commercial companies can launch without extra government regulation.

They said it's the only way they can compete with other states on a level playing field. Space Florida has identified a site called Shiloh on the northern portion of the Merritt Island National Wildlife Refuge for a new, independent launch complex.

Residents, anglers and environmentalists, however, are critical of the plan and are worried about what it would mean for that portion of the refuge.

Although commercial launches will eventually be moved to Texas, SpaceX will continue to launch NASA and defense missions from the Space Coast.

Jerry Hume




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SPI Turtle Lights Flipped On

The streets of South Padre Island were lit for the first time by solar-powered street lamps Friday night as part of phase one in an expansion project to protect the Island’s sea turtle population.
Sea Turtle Inc., by way of a $30,000 donation from Green Mountain Energy Sun Club, installed eight amber streetlights on Turtle Drive, said Katie Ryan, the public relations specialist for Green Mountain.
Sea Turtle Inc. is a rehabilitation center for turtles found stranded on the Island’s beach. They are nursed back to health at the center until they can be released into the ocean or kept at local zoos as ambassadors to the sea turtle cause, said Jeff George, the executive director at the center. George said these lights, aside from lessening the carbon footprint of the Island, will help turtles find their way to sea at night because they are blind to amber and red tones.


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Beachcombers Art Show Fundraiser To Be Held July 26th and 27th

The Harlingen Art Forum is hosting the annual Beachcombers Art Show fundraiser on South Padre Island on July 26 and 27.

The show has been held for 55 years and features artists from the around the Rio Grande Valley and the state.

It is an annual fundraising event for the Harlingen Art League, a nonprofit organization.

Although the art show is held on the Island, it benefits the whole Valley and enables the organization to continue its gallery at D’Arte Centre at 115 E. Jackson Ave., as well as continue art classes for adults and children, scholarships and other activities.

The art show will be held at the South Padre Island Convention Centre and will be open July 26 from 10 a.m. to 6 p.m. and July 27 from 10 a.m. to 5 p.m.

Several art leagues are involved in the show. Also involved in the effort are the Willacy County Art League and the Laguna Madre Art League.

Admission is $3 per person and is good for two days.

Children under 12 get in free.

Your hand will be stamped when you enter the first day, allowing admittance on the second the day.

Franke, Realtors offers great rental specials for that weekend and an OPEN HOUSE at 8225 Breakers Blvd at The Shores form 11:00 am to 1:00 pm. Call Franke, Realtors at 956-761-2606 for details on the open house.


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Island Musician, Professor Travels Many Roads

Local performer and Texas Southmost College (TSC) professor Dr. Jonathon Dotson arrived for his scheduled interview carrying his guitar case. Hopes for an impromptu performance were quickly squelched, however, when he revealed he’d only brought it with him because it was too hot outside to leave the valuable instrument in his vehicle. “This guitar is worth more than my car!” said the guitarist, gently setting the case close to his chair.
Dotson, originally from St. Augustine, Fla., is an instructor of music at TSC and an adjunct professor of classical guitar at the University of Texas-Brownsville (UTB). Donning rumpled khakis and rust stained T-shirt, and coupling a few days’ worth of stubble and a soul patch, the affable Dotson looked more like a college student than the owner of a Doctorate of Musical Arts from UT Austin.
Dotson, in his late 30, was a self-professed professional college student, starting his academic career at age 18 and culminating it in 2010. He has been teaching and performing in the Rio Grande Valley since then, dividing his time between teaching Music Appreciation and guitar, performing local and road gigs – both alone and with his two other groups (Isla Flamenca and the Texas Guitar Quartet), and hosting an acoustic guitar night every Wednesday at the Half Moon Saloon in Brownsville. He loves to teach, proudly mentioning two students who just graduated from his program. “I am excited to turn students on to new music. I get to geek out in front of a 100 people about Beethoven!” he said laughing.
Dotson began playing guitar at age 7, coming from a musical household where both parents played guitar. “They actually met at a picking party,” he said. After going through the requisite Jimi Hendrix/Jimmy Page period, he focused his guitar studies on the classical genre. “I play from three to eight hours a day, it’s my passion. Pop is my hobby, where I can cut loose,” Dotson said, citing Paco de Lucia, Segovia, Bream and David Russell as some of his influences. Dotson noted that, “Despite the recording industry being in turmoil, the classical world relies on patrons and is very lucrative.”
Dotson travels extensively for gigs and is currently preparing for a one-month tour in Spain nest week and a trip to Mexico in September. While he loves traveling and touring, he says the lifestyle does have its downside.  “I’m a really busy musician, get called away a lot. The only issue is it keeps me from getting regular gigs locally,” he said. Despite this dilemma, Dotson’s schedule is jam-packed. “I play a lot of private gigs, weddings, and bar mitzvahs,” he said.
Dotson’s new CD, entitled, Musica del Camino, will be released in August. The young professor is an exciting performer, with sublime technique and capable of playing a vast array of musical styles. Those who get the opportunity to see him play are bound to walk away with a memorable musical experience.
To find out more about Jonathon Dotson, check out his Facebook page or visit his website at


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75th TIFT Begins July 31st

The 75th Annual Texas Fishing Tournament (TIFT), held from July 30 to August 3, is supposed to attract as many as 1,500 anglers and more than 500 boats during the two-day fishing competition. The tournament will be divided into three divisions: Bay, Tarpon, and Offshore. Anglers will haul in catches of speckled trout, redfish, and flounder. Every registed child participant will receive a trophy for their efforts.  

Registration will be held on Wednesday and Thursday with a special playday set for junior anglers on Thursday. Fishing will begin early Friday morning: bay boats will be required to return to their berths each night: however, offshore boats will be allowed to stay out overnight while adhering to the official start and stop fishing times.

The festivities will conclude with a lunch and awards ceremony on Saunday. 

As always, the year-long TIFT Cares scholarship propgram is open to all junior anglers, 16 and under, who register for this year's tournament. Any angler who catches one of the specially-tagged fish will receive a $10,000 scholarship.

"The purpose of this new program is to invest in the future of TIFT', said TIFT President Charles Kennedy Jr. "We feel this is a wonderful complement to our existing annual scholarship program and encourages the family-friendly experiences that have kept our tounrnament growing."

Madeline "Mattie" Rowe, 19, of Harlingen, has been named this year's official TIFT Hostess. The Texas State University freshman received a TIFT scholoarship last year  and will add a $2,000 scholarship this year for her service as hostess."Being TIFT hostess has been a dream of mine since I was a little girl," she said in a statement. "I was quite the tomboy growing up, but I always secretly looked up to theTIFT hostesses as my own living princesses. Making kids smile, mingling with all the anglers and meeting all of the families are things I love doing."She added that she strives to be a woman that young girls can admire, one who carries herself  "in a way that shows respect towards others."

Mattie's older sister, Alexandra Rowe, previously served as TIFT hostess.Tournament Director Betty Wells shared some background on the event's 75-year run and discussed plans in store to recognize the tournament having reached this remarkable milestone. "The TIFT Executive Board has been planning this 75th anniversary for several years and there are a variety of events that will focus on both our history  and our future," she said. "Although this is the75th tournament, TIFT was actually founded in 1934 by the- Port Isabel Mayor J. A. "Doc" Hockaday." She added that Hockaday saw the event  as a means to promote tourism in the Valley and to form an ideal platform for PI to boast about the area's fishing bounty. "In many respects, TIFT remains true to his vision today," Wells said. 

The tournament was forced to cancel only twice since its inception: during World War II when fuel was rationed; and following Hurricane Dolly in 2008. 

Wells said this year's guests can expect improved meals service, video displays and special appearances by former TIFT presidents and hostesses. "As the second-oldest tournament in Texas, we are proud of our heritage and realize the challenges that make it rare for other tournaments to achieve this milestone," She said. " Port Isabel and South Padre Island were, in many ways, founded upon the popularity of our fishing (It) has (remained) an important draw for tourists and continues to be a major economic factor."

TIFT organizers also remind the public that any adult or non-registered person who catches one of the tagged fish to release the specimen back into the water and allow on of the eligible, youth participants a chance to win the scholarship.

The event was founded by Doc J.A. Hockaday in 1933 and was designated to showcase the remarkable fishing bounty that graces the Laguna Madrea.

For more information call 956-943-8438 or visit to register.

Franke, Realtors offers families and participants great rental rates during their stay on South Padre Island. Call today for details 956-761-2606.


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SPI Officials to Increase Patrols During Summer

Officials at South Padre Islans are increasing patrols to keep tourists safe this summer. The Cameron County Precinct 1 Constable, Horacio Zamora, tells Fox 2 News, thousands of visitors keep coming from Central Texas and Mexico to enjoy a few days at the beach, but with the increase the number of tourists, authorities have also seen an increase in emergency calls ranging from missing persons reports to speeding and rescues. To keep visitors safe, they’ve added 12 watch towers and 45 lifeguards at the beach. Authorities are also keeping a close eye on drunk drivers and liquor sales to minors. Frnake Realtors encourages everyone to have a safe and enjoyable vacation while on South Padre Island. 


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FAA Gives SpaceX the Go- Ahead

The Federal Aviation Administration has approved SpaceX’s proposal to develop the world’s first private commercial vertical launch site in Cameron County.
FAA on Wednesday issued its Record of Decision, a critical step that paves the way toward licensing launch activity at Boca Chica Beach.
Finding that the proposal by Elon Musk’s Space Exploration Technologies would have unavoidable impacts on the environment, which would be mitigated, the Record of Decision explains why it approved the proposal and outlines SpaceX’s proposal.
It also identifies actions the FAA and other federal agencies must take, explains the alternatives analyzed and which one is environmentally preferred, and identifies the measures required for mitigation.
This latest clearance allows SpaceX to apply for licenses from the FAA to launch the Falcon 9 and Falcon Heavy orbital vertical launch rockets, which also could carry the Dragon capsule, and a variety of smaller, reusable sub-orbital launch vehicles from the Boca Chica site.
“I am elated,” Cameron County Pct. 1 Commissioner Sofia Benavides said. “The whole region stands to gain.”
Leaders in communities in both Cameron County and Hidalgo County came together to support the project, she said.
“We have a ways to go, but at least Mr. Musk has gotten the green light from FAA,” Benavides said.
SpaceX proposes up to 12 launches a year through at least 2025, carrying payload to the International Space Station.

Franke, Realtors will make sure to have you and your family's rental needs covered while you visit South Padre Island to view these exciting launches!!!




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Hang 10 Ya’ll - Photographer Captures Texas’ Surf Culture

Kenny Braun's life changed the day his next-door neighbors came home with a pair of surfboards.

It was the mid-1970s, and from then on Braun's life in Houston centered around strapping boards on the car and driving south to Galveston. He and his two high school buddies were far from the first to catch waves along the Texas Gulf Coast, but they were early members of the Texas surf scene. Since then Texas has become one of the top six states for surfing in the country. "We didn't even know what we were doing," said Braun, now a professional photographer based in Austin. "We'd mostly go to Surfside because the big jetties help set up the sand bars better."  The University of Houston auditorium used to show surfing movies like "Endless Summer" on the weekends. "The auditorium was full of other surfers," Braun said. "You watch and try long enough, and you get the hang of it. One good ride, one good turn is all you need, and you're hooked. There's just something about sliding down these walls of water."

Braun's decades of familiarity with the Texas surf culture are on display in "Surf Texas," published by the University of Texas Press this spring. In it, he captures the euphoric highs of carving the waves - in one shot, a trio of surfers are joined by a dolphin - as well as the quieter moments of hanging out on the beach, all presented in a nostalgic black and white. "Texas surfers have to be more patient. They have to settle for lesser waves," Braun said. "We know there's better surf breaks out there, but Texas is our home break, so we love it."

When Braun started out as a photographer in the mid-1990s, shooting surfers from the beach was a passion project and an excuse to return to his beloved shores. Since then, he's photographed surfers and the beaches they populate from Galveston to South Padre Island. The beaches along the southern Texas coast, he said, have the best and the most consistent waves, especially when a distant storm churns up the calm Gulf of Mexico waters.

One sight that's unique to Galveston is tanker surfing, a sport reportedly invented by Galveston's James Fulbright and his friends that involves riding along the shoulder of a wave created by a tanker ship on its way to the Port of Houston.

"Galveston Bay is perfectly shaped and formed geographically, with the ship channel at one end and open gulf on the other. When these fully loaded oil tankers come in through the bay, they make these beautiful, shoulder-high waves you can ride for 20 minutes," Braun said. "It's really mellow because you see the wave coming forever and it breaks in the shallow bay. It's the perfect setup for a nice ride."

Braun says that in his years of surfing along the Texas coast, the only changes he's seen are that surfers have gotten better at watching weather patterns to predict good waves and that there are overall a lot more surfers in Texas now than when he started back in the '70s.

"There are more surfers in Texas now than there are cowboys," Braun said. "Most people don't realize it because they go to the beach in the summer when the waves are flat and nothing is going on. Usually people make excuses for the beaches here: 'Oh, it's not California; it's not Florida.' I'm not making excuses. I love it."


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Air and Sea Chase Lands Haul of 16 Sharks and Dozens of Snapper


U.S. Coast Guard officials have intercepted a group of Mexican fishermen and seized a haul of 16 sharks and 45 snapper after a 40 minute chase in 4 foot seas off South Padre Island.

The boat was one of five spotted fishing illegally in U.S. waters north of the Mexican border, the Coast Guard said. Four others escaped.

An Ocean Sentry airplane first spotted two boats near the U.S./Mexico maritime border 30 miles from shore. Three further fishing vessels were sighted 42 miles from South Padre Island.

A Coast Guard Cutter Amberjack patrol boat was deployed with helicopter support.  After a 40-minute chase crews succeeded in boarding one vessel.  The crew admitted illegal fishing according to a Coast Guard news release.

Over 500 pounds of fish were seized; 16 small sharks weighing 231 pounds and 45 snapper weighing 378 pounds.



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Inaugural Beerfest Taps South Padre Island

The first SPI Beer Fest will take place Saturday Aug. 23 at the convention center from 6 p.m. - midnight.
The event will showcase over 200 beers ranging in styles, flavors and breweries. Tickets can be purchased at There will be a $100 VIP, $20 General Admission (Pre-sale), $30 General Admission (at the door), $30 Designated Driver VIP Band, $10 Designated Driver Band General Admission.
Due to the recent rise in craft and speciality beers SPI Beer Fest promises to give the a one-of-a-kind opportunity to sample a wide range of beers, speak to brew masters and learn about home brewing.
The event came together when members of the SPI Beer Fest board were talking about how many beer festivals they had been involved with over the years.
“We wanted to do something at South Padre Island because it's the Valley's playground,” XXXX Gaby Jones said. “You can get people from Brownsville, Harlingen, Weslaco, McAllen and anybody to go to South Padre.”
The event will also feature live music and cuisine from the Rio Grande Valley's most popular restaurants. The headliner for the event will be Clarissa Serna, who was featured on NBC's The Voice and was part of Team Shakira. Other bands include The BrownsVillians, Chris Marshall, Rockstar Denied, Tragedy N April, Moonstar, Issac & the Gentlemen and Costello.
A portion of the proceeds from SPI Beer Fest will benefit Sea Turtle Inc., whose mission is to rescue, rehabilitate and release injured sea turtles, educate the public and assist with conservation efforts for all marine turtle species.
“We wanted to (benefit) something local and that was on the island,” Jones said.

Franke, Realtors will be offering special rates during this time for visitors to the area. Call Franke Realtros at 956-761-2606 for details and more information and mention BEERFEST2014.


Pedro Perex IV


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