Garner State Park has many things that attract families to vacation here. Whether you are into swimming in the Frio, climbing Old Baldy, exploring Crystal Cave, or simply enjoying the outdoor adventure, it is the dance at the pavilion that draws you in, but be warned, it will quietly take refuge in your heart and mind forever. The “Dance” is the essence of Garner State Park and what it is famous for.
A drive or a simple walk through the park during the day will reveal campers preparing for the dance early in the day before they do anything else. You can often see curlers in the girl’s hair in preparation to looking their best, and I have witnessed some actually being as big as orange Juice cans. This may sound funny, but I have to admit that the end result proved that their effort was worth it. The boys are a different story. Most of them don’t even look in a mirror, figuring that what you see is as good as its going to get anyway.
The crowd starts gathering at dusk. The smell of the crystal-clear Frio River right below the dance floor is the first thing that attracts your attention as you near the pavilion, then the smell of a hundred different brands of perfume and cologne assaults your nose. The blend of aromas is as intoxicating as the thousands of stars that can be seen in the darkening sky. A giant oak tree offers sheltering limbs for the dancers until the sun disappears behind the green hills to the west. The huge concrete dance floor is encircled by a rock wall that forms a perfect place for parents to sit and enjoy watching the younger crowd dance, and there are steps that lead down to the river for those that want to escape the dancing throng for a few minutes. However, be warned that the wall also gives the parents a bird’s eye view of what is going on. You boys have been warned!!!
It doesn’t really matter what day of the week it happens to be; you can always find a number of ready, willing, and able dance partners. The juke box is playing songs that have been the same since the 50’s with few exceptions, and that’s the beauty of it. Young dancers can be two stepping to a tried-and-true classic such as “Fraulein” one minute, then “Waltz across Texas” the next, and then let everything bust loose to “Wooly Bully”. Line Dancing has joined the mix of dance types in the last few years but the enthusiasm for the dance has not faded.
The young dancers gather underneath the tree while the boys gather up the nerve to go ask a hopeful partner to dance. Some know how to dance, and some don’t. Sometimes the girls get so frustrated with shy or bashful boys that they make the first overture generally with positive results. The end result is that by the end of the dance that night, everyone is more comfortable with their dancing ability, and they can’t wait for the next night.
Many a lifelong friendship has been made and many romances that were kindled at the dance have led to marriage. Today, many of the visitors return as parents or grandparents that want their children to experience the “Dance”.
My parents danced at Garner in the 40’s. I danced at Garner in the 60’s and I still do. My children dance at Garner, and I plan for my grandchildren to dance at Garner. The dance at Garner State Park is magical. If you ever attend it you will understand!
Story from Garner Trailwork Weekend - January 2000
The Isleib family has been part of the life of Garner State Park since the late 30s / early 40s. My dad was stationed at Fort Clark and my mom worked in the CCC office in Uvalde. They would camp in the back of their car, graduated to a one wheel trailer and tents with 5 kids, a Twilight Bungalow, and ultimately Park Hosts in a Class C Cabover, (retired/grown kids/nobody to set up tent, cots, etc!). Mom was the Recreation Director for the Galena Park School District summer camping program - and with five kids, we ended up spending our summers at Garner growing up. We packed a week’s worth of clothes and went to Happy Hollow to do laundry each weekend.
When Friends of Garner was organized, we of course became involved. Family friendship with George and Diane Foshee kept us up to date on Garner happenings. At the 2000 Trailwork Weekend, my niece, Leah Stewart (at age 11) and I somehow became involved with trying to identify one of the little trails on the CCC boys’ map. Because I was teaching Orienteering in my PE Classes at WC Andrews Elementary School in Portland, Texas, it was the perfect time for investigating where that shortcut was. I call it a little shortcut on the Foshee Trail that avoids the climb up to the Shady Oak tree.
We took the map, compass and orange flagging tape and started searching for the trailhead starting point. I pointed the compass and Leah would walk as far I could see her and hang a tape on a tree branch. From that point, she would walk the compass direction until I couldn’t see her anymore and hang tape on a tree. She just “hop-scotched” on the path ignoring cedar trees grown up in the way and deer/goat paths branching off. We knew we were on the right trail because occasionally we could see rocks along the edge that were originally placed by the CCC boys!
I’m not sure who did the actually clearing of the trail but I’m sure it was FOG folks. Leah ended up earning a badge from Girls Scouts, wrote a report for one of her classes, and I was in utter shock the next time I saw a trail map and it had “Polly’s Trail” on it. I had no idea that Leah and I would be on the trail map of the best, most wonderful state park in Texas! Thank you, FOG!
A woman and her son were hiking in the park this weekend when they came across some fossils. The mother wanted to keep the fossils, but her 17 year old son pointed out that is in fact illegal to take any artifacts from a state park. After some deliberation, they decided the right thing to do was to turn them into headquarters on their way out. Office staff let me know that some fossils were turned in, so I picked them up for identification. I called said “fossil lady,” and emailed her articles I used to help identify a particularly unique fossil in great condition. She was very grateful and kind. I assured her that they did the right thing and I will now use this fossilized echinoid in interpretive programs to help depict what the hill country landscape consisted of millions of years ago!
Attached is a picture of the fossil found and below are links to the articles I utilized to identify and learn more about echinoids.
Park Interpreter & Volunteer Coordinator
Garner State Park
It is with great sadness we want to let you know that Diane Foshee passed away on October 9, 2019. A memorial service was held October 19, 2019, at Leakey United Methodist Church, in Leakey, Texas, where Diane was an active member for many years.
Diane and her husband George were generous and compassionate supporters of and contributors to Garner State Park. She was one of the founders of FRIENDS OF GARNER and a significant developer of Garner’s trail system. Her tales of coming to the park as a child in the 40s and her narration of the history will be missed but have been saved for future generations. Please join us in thoughts and prayers for her loving family.
A MEMORIAL HIKE took place on SATURDAY, JANUARY 18, 2020, during the TRAIL WORK WEEKEND, sponsored by Diane's family.