Conflicting demands on my time have prevented me from blogging the fact that New Braunfels has gotten into the public art act as well this year. Only, well, this is New Braunfels. This town can't do anything without tying into its German heritage. So a cow parade was right out. Instead, residents and tourists have been treated to--I kid you not--the world's first Stein Parade! There's supposed to be 41 of them around town--I haven't managed to see all of them yet, and doubt I will, but the ones I have are pretty nifty. The steins are roughly five feet tall, so they're not as large and dramatic as life-size cows would be, but hey--they're five-foot steins!
"Tooben-Stein," above, was the first of the steins I'd encountered. I was captivated, to say the least, when I saw it sitting on the sidewalk right outside the Shell station at the corner of Walnut Street and I-35 where I was gassing up. The old-style gas pump topper is a particularly nice touch, as is the German men in lederhosen tubing down the Comal (or Guadalupe) River. Yes, it's as much a billboard as it is art, but at least there was effort put into it, as opposed to some of the real estate companies that sponsored steins. They pretty much had their logos painted on the steins, and that was it. Ugh.
This is one of the most spectacular of the steins. I want it. Bad. "Stein Meister" is on display at Tan 2000 in the Marketplace Shopping Center. Which brings me to my biggest complaint regarding the stein parade: More than half of the steins are displayed inside businesses. The whole concept of the public art cow parades is that the works are outside, visible 24/7. I don't know if the owners are worried about vandals or thieves, but it kinda defeats the purpose if it's kept under lock and key, not readily visible to random passers-by, don'tcha think?
The dreadfully punny "Farmer N D'Ale" is another one of the steins kept under lock and key, this time a land title company. I was able to get a sort-of-decent shot of it through the window, but in most cases like this, reflections made my stein-under-glass shots unuseable. Kudos go to Granzin Bar-B-Q for keeping their "Steer Stein" out front on display at the entrance to their new restaurant.
"Stein2-D2" is on display at the local Children's Museum. What can I say? It is simply awesome--my second-favorite behind the dragon. And before anyone gets huffy about a stein promoting drinking amongst children, my daughters love to help me brew and bottle my beer and mead, and have learned a great deal about yeast and fermentation in the process (despite the fact they insist the stuff is yucky). Which is a roundabout way of saying I believe every child should have a Stein2-D2 of their own. "A Moment In Stein" on display in front of Josef Studios isn't the most dramatic of the bunch, but it depicts various landmarks and scenes around New Braunfels, including the large fountain in the city square (actually circle, but who's keeping score?). It's a pleasant stein and gets bonus points for being outside (albeit protected from the elements by a porch) 24/7.
"Wein Stein" is a colorful stein outside of the Friesenhaus restaurant, featuring designs and motiffs of the annual Wein & Saengerfest in town. The "Teepee Stein" is one of those dull real estate steins I mentioned earlier. The whole theme of this one is "Need A New Teepee?" with the realtor's logo printed large on the side. When I was taking this pic (another inside-the-building jobs) one of the realtors kept turning the stein around, insisting I photograph the logo. Sorry, bud, but I'm not your shill. Businesses need to understand that the sponsorship of the stein itself is what generates your public goodwill--using it as a billboard without going the extra mile to make it art (see "Tooben-Stein" above) is merely crass.
"Stein-Way" out in front of the Uptown Piano Bar is a personal fave. It's hard to tell from this photo, but the hands are 3D, coming out of the stein to play the piano keyboard. Cool and clever. "Prime Stein" in front of Myron's Steak House is weak, mostly because it just features the steak house logo and little else. They do get bonus points for displaying it outside, however.
"Lick-ten-Stein" was inside an antique mall downtown. I saw it on display outside once while driving by, but that's been the only time thus far. What's more, this clever stein is set back behind some displays so that it isn't visible from the street--you have to actually enter the antique mall before you can see it, which poses a problem when it's closed. And "Ruben-Stein" was yet another of the shamelessly punny approaches to stein art, but this one, in reproducing some classic Renaissance masterworks, came off as perhaps the most stylish.
Finally, Seekatz Opera House gets the prize for having the most fun with their stein while tying it in with the business motiff. The original facade of the 1901 building is depicted on the front with a crowd of patrons, but the back of the stein is what generates the most smiles. It ain't over 'til the fat lady sings, and I can't help but hear the Viking-helmeted valkyrie belting out a rousing chorus of "Kill the wabbit!" every time I look at it.
I hope you've enjoyed this little stein tour I've taken you on today. I may post a follow-up, but as the event winds down in a couple of weeks, I doubt I'll have much opportunity to visit the steins I've missed thus far.
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