Archive for January, 2018

Boerne Chamber goes wild for awards party

The Greater Boerne Chamber of Commerce hosted its annual gala Saturday night at the Cana Ballroom. I have long referred to our local business organization as the chamber that never sleeps. Saturday night was another example why.

Three hundred thirty attendees filled the St. Peter Catholic Church event center that overlooks the hill country. Plenty of leopard prints and Crocodile Dundee wannabes maximized the 1920s era safari-themed night.

Boerne Chamber Events Director Barbara Hooks has breathed new life into the annual tradition.

“We want all our events to deliver a ‘WOW factor’ that will keep people talking,” Hooks said. “We wanted the awards party to be interactive and engaging. I think we accomplished that.”

A ten per cent attendance increase over last year was driven by twenty-eight corporate tables, up from twenty last year. Seats sold out two weeks prior to the event.

Partygoers enjoyed non-traditional entertainment including acrobats from San Antonio-based Aerial Horizon, as well as live exotic animals. An African porcupine, a python, a lemur, a kinkajou and a coatimundi roamed the cocktail hour with escorts from Happy Tails of Pipe Creek.

Even the world’s largest rodent, the capybara, made an appearance. If you’ve never seen one, it’s worth a web search.

The Flower Shoppe provided table centerpieces and crafted a near-life-sized paper mache elephant.

Chamber member chef Johnny Hernandez of La Gloria and Burgerteca fame catered the dinner through his True Flavors entity. A vertical poached pear salad and Akaushi beef pan-seared medallions exceeded expectations.

“We intentionally did a stand up dessert bar to get people up and mingling,” Hooks noted.

By the time San Antonio band Gunpowder Soup took the after-dinner stage, couples took to the dance floor, complete with karaoke mic.

As for the hardware, the evening’s corporate awards went to long-established entities while relative newcomers took home individual awards.

Frost Bank secured large business of the year while All County Home Health and Hospice won small business of the year. Non-profit of the year went to Cibolo Nature Center and Farm.

Businesswoman of the year went to insurance agent Lorelei Helmke. After fourteen years in the wine industry, Helmke purchased a Farmers Insurance shop in 2015.

Matt Nelson of Prime Capital Investment Advisors took home businessman of the year. Nelson moved his operation to Boerne in 2016.

Other award winners included Tommy Mathews of Westward Environmental (Mike Coyle Innovator Award) and Mike and Diane Arthur (Kendall County Air Community Award).

Outgoing Chamber board chair Baron Houser selected Misty Mayo for the Chairman’s Award. Mayo runs the Boerne Kendall County Economic Development Corporation.

“Some people say Boerne, Texas, is gone forever,” Houser bellowed. “I say it’s Boerne, Texas, better than ever!”

Ms. Hooks credited a host of sponsors for a night that went off without a hitch: Bandera Electric Cooperative, Broadway Bank, Centennial Bank, Habagallo Foods, Jefferson Bank and Journey School.

“We had very few hiccups,” Hooks recalled. “Everyone showed up on time; the food came out right. The most challenging part was finding seats for everyone who wanted to come.”

That’s like telling a job interviewer that perfectionism is your greatest weakness!

Kevin Thompson writes a weekly column for The Boerne Star and serves on the Greater Boerne Chamber of Commerce board of directors. He can be reached at

Kids saying (and doing) the darndest things

It’s time for a semi-annual submission of funny things the kids have said and done. This edition goes back a ways as I’ve mined old journals and notes for “never before seen” footage.

For example, the time we couldn’t locate a three-year-old son after church only to find him – with a big smile on his face – urinating like a cherub in a flowerbed.

We needed frequent opportunities to teach this youngster bathroom etiquette. For a time he was using toilet paper without tearing it off. A single flush would carry half a roll down with it.

I suspect it was this son who suctioned a plunger on the hood of my car before work one day.

A family friend once caught him eating his “nasal produce,” for lack of a better term.

“Does that taste good?” the friend asked him.

“Best food on earth,” the little guy replied. He’ll likely need to watch his sodium intake later in life.

He once offered the following nutritional philosophy: “Healthy foods make your muscles strong. Sweet foods make your muscles big.”

His older brother as a five-year-old told me in no uncertain terms, “Dad, I need to watch Toy Story 2.”

“Do you NEED to watch Toy Story 2 or do you WANT to?” I asked in a leading question that I hoped would inspire mature perspective.

“I need to,” he answered, matter of factly.

Nice try, Dad.

When our oldest son was three, the original Toy Story was his favorite movie. One time his grandparents couldn’t find their copy of the movie while babysitting him. Instead they popped in the wedding video of their oldest daughter, my young wife.

“There’s my mommy and my daddy!” our son exclaimed. “Am I going to be baby Jesus?!?”

Raised in the most recent hey-day of Texas Longhorns football, the sport became a big deal to our oldest sons.

As a four-year-old, our second son followed NFL teams as best he could. In his vernacular, the Green Bay Packers were the “Graham Crackers.” New York Giants quarterback “Eli Mayonnaise” was his favorite player.

His big brother would sometimes make him cry on the front yard field. On one such occasion, I heard the following plea from the six-year-old as the four-year-old entered the house crying.

“I’ll make you a deal!” he yelled. “You can have the ball back on the one yard line, but it’s fourth down.”

After receiving no response, the older brother gritted his teeth.

“Come on! It’s not about winning and losing. It’s about having fun.”

Oh, is that so, Mr. Firstborn?

When Mr. Firstborn was 3, our preacher walked through the auditorium asking kids for their favorite Bible story. Our son raised his hand.

“The football player,” he announced. I hope he was thinking about Goliath.

Other facts have gotten crossed. Our three-year-old daughter once invited me into a game of “I Spy.”

“I spy something blue,” she said.

“The sky?” I asked.

“No,” she replied.

Her five-year-old brother had overheard and chimed in: “The tree?”

“Yes!” she announced.

When she was five, she was attempting to improve both her spelling and her handwriting.

“Dad?” she asked. “How do you spell ‘opportunity’ in cursive?”

Here’s to the joy of youth where not even the blue sky’s a limit!


Write to Kevin Thompson at

Sign, sign, everywhere a sign


In its 1971 hit “Signs,” Canadian rock band Five Man Electrical Band sang, “Sign, sign, everywhere a sign; blockin’ out the scenery, breakin’ my mind.”

It’s political season in Kendall County and the lyric applies. You know people are running, but it’s hard to tell for what and against whom.

Between the start of every even-numbered year (no savvy politician obscures Christmas decor with a political sign) and the primary election on the first Tuesday in March, it’s a mad dash for Republican candidates to get their messages out.

This year is especially frantic with a thirty-year Congressional incumbent, Lamar Smith (R – San Antonio), not seeking re-election. Twenty-two candidates have filed for his seat including eighteen Republicans.

Smith’s District 21 includes swaths of San Antonio and Austin, and the entireties of Kendall, Blanco, Gillespie, Kerr, Bandera, and Real Counties.

“It’s stressful,” four-term Texas state representative Jason Isaac (R – Dripping Springs) said about the time crunch and geographic expanse. He was in Kendall County over the weekend for a youth livestock show and door knocking.

Isaac’s “Make America Like Texas” slogan surfs atop both Lone Star pride and President Donald Trump’s winning 2016 message.

Boerne resident Matt McCall has tossed his name into the ring for a third time. McCall was first runner-up to Smith in 2016 garnering nearly thirty-four thousand votes.

McCall hopes to bring America to financial solvency and “slash” the size and role of the federal government, among other strict constructionist hot points.

Kendall County’s state legislators have drawn primary opponents. Hays County attorney Shannon McClendon is challenging State Senator Donna Campbell (R – San Antonio).

State Rep. Kyle Biederman (R – Fredericksburg) will face off against Dave Campbell, also of Fredericksburg, though not the high school football guru. Campbell owns a machine parts manufacturer and has chaired the Fredericksburg chamber of commerce and school board.

The status quo could shift in the newly created 451st District Court which serves Kendall County exclusively. In 2015, the Texas Legislature carved the court out of a larger district court which included Kerr and Gillespie Counties.

In 2016, Governor Greg Abbott appointed long-time county court-at-law judge, Bill Palmer, and assistant county attorney, Nicole Bishop, as judge and district attorney, respectively. Both appointees’ terms expire later this year. Both are running to keep their seats.

And both engaged in a round of he-said, she-said last year over a burgeoning court docket. Bishop claimed Palmer didn’t offer enough criminal court dates. Palmer claimed Bishop didn’t use all the dates offered.

Palmer faces eight-year Boerne city attorney Kirsten Cohoon. Cohoon hopes to get to cases faster.

“Justice delayed is justice denied,” Cohoon said.

Bishop, a Boerne native and Ole Miss law grad, has drawn Dave Parent, a former police officer and homebuilder, and Nick Socias, a former Harris County felony prosecutor.

Incumbents are running unopposed for district clerk (Susan Jackson), county judge (Darrel Lux), county clerk (Darlene Herrin), county treasurer (Sheryl D’Spain) and county surveyor (Wes Rexrode).

Kendall County Commissioner Richard Elkins (Precinct 2 – southeast Kendall County) faces a challenge from Boerne City Councilman Ron Cisneros. Precinct 3 (northeast Kendall County) Peace Justice Debby Hudson will try to ward off Jon Tipton.

Options are a good thing in a constitutional republic. We have plenty in Kendall County at this point.


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Dinner helps The Dienger turn a corner

En route to a concert in San Antonio, my wife and I noticed lights on at the fully decorated Dienger Trading Company next to Boerne’s Main Plaza.

“The Dienger,” as it’s known by locals, has served breakfast and lunch since opening in 2015. I recalled it recently started serving dinner on Fridays and Saturdays. So, we “went local” and gave it a shot.

We were escorted to the dining room that pays tribute to The Dienger’s days as a public library. Bookshelves stock a variety of titles for sale or perusing.

For a time we had the room to ourselves, save for a graceful harpist strumming Dolly Parton’s “Hard Candy Christmas” and other seasonal pieces.

Chef Joseph Moreno has built an “accessible” dinner menu that bridges nicely from the bistro’s daytime options. It’s full of comfort foods with a fresher, lighter, more gourmet feel.

The dinner bread melted in our mouths alongside a reliable tomato basil soup. The cornmeal crusted salmon had just enough curry to pique interest but not enough to smell up the room.

Crabmeat interwove the mac & cheese for a differentiated approach to a classic carb. Flavorful brussel sprouts rounded our meal. Everything we tried was as good as anything we’ve had down Interstate 10.

A pork chop, a shepherd’s pie, and an herb crusted chicken breast filled the entree menu. Black eyed peas, honey carrots and roasted vegetables were among other sides offered.

The veggies remain purposely vague. Their contents is dependent on what the fresh produce farmer brings in his bushel that week.

Moreno sources as much as he can locally. Many of The Dienger’s meats come from Klein’s Smokehouse across Main Street.

Moreno has been in the hill country for four years and at The Dienger for one. The El Paso native was trained at Le Cordon Bleu culinary college in Austin. Once a food truck owner, he particularly enjoys cooking outdoors, but not necessarily Texas barbecue.

“I love the open flame,” he clarified.

Dienger owner Raymond Lunsford is pleased with Moreno’s progress.

“Every month is better than a year ago,” Lunsford said. “The bistro makes up sixty per cent of our revenues.”

He hopes to soon land at a 50/50 split with the boutique before long.

“You’ll find things in the boutique that you won’t at the mall,” Lunsford pointed out. “We’re not a Magnolia, but maybe we’re a mini-Magnolia.”

Lunsford gives credit to chief buyer Michelle Ernst for sourcing inventory from unique brands. My globetrotting sister-in-law attests that what she see at The Dienger is usually reserved for shops in LA, New York, London.

“We got lucky,” Boerne Chamber President Joe Granados noted about Lunsford’s efforts with the 133-year-old landmark. “It could have been office space.”

An Oklahoma-based oil & gas company actually purchased the building from the City of Boerne in 2012 but never occupied it. Together with his wife, Lisa, Lunsford acquired the property in 2014.

Ironically, Lunsford is an oil man himself. The Olney, Texas, native still has interests in west Texas.

“The oil business helped fund what we’ve done here, but the Good Lord put it together,” said Lunsford like he meant it. “I’m not smart enough to do all this.”

Follow Kevin Thompson at


Leave distracted driving in 2017


I had to see it for myself. A roadside warning sign in a new development in Boerne, Texas, USA. When my son first sent me an image of it, I thought it was a Photoshop special, an Internet hoax. Surely, it was a farce.

The sign read – not “Slow / Children At Play” – but “Caution / Children Texting.” A walking stick figure with its head down toward an apparent electronic device accompanied the written message.

Welcome to 2018, home of ubiquitous screen staring.

Somewhere in the madness, at least one of us has this resolution: Stop texting and driving.

“It can wait, Dad,” my kids remind me, borrowing a line from AT&T. “Stay alert, stay alive,” a highway department sign reads. “TALK TEXT CRASH,” states another public service message in shaky, haunted house lettering.

To help someone form the habit of buckling his mobile device in the backseat of his car, I offer my top seven reasons to quit driving distracted in the New Year.

Numbers 6 and 7 are self-evident and should be sufficient, but never underestimate a human’s ability to steal defeat from the jaws of victory.

#7. You could hurt yourself. A plea to self-interest seems to be an effective approach in this age. Some cars are self-driving, yes. Others still roll down embankments. Some still land in ravines.

#6. You could hurt someone else. The National Highway Traffic Safety Administration has plenty of research at that shows distracted driving is as bad as drunk driving. The only thing worse than injuring yourself would be to injure others and have to live with yourself.

#5. You might misspell your text message. Auto-correct is problem enough when trying to get your point across. Don’t add the distraction of seventy miles per hour. You might accidentally tell a client you hate her, or, worse, you love her.

#4. You might miss a beautiful sunset, a big buck or a billboard advertising your favorite cosmetic surgery.

#3. It’s hard to get a good selfie when you’re texting. There seems to be no limit to our culture’s self-absorption. Remember, remote friends once waited weeks for a mailed response. They can wait again. None of us is that important.

#2. It’s the law. According to the National Conference of State Legislatures, forty-seven states including Texas have banned texting while driving. Fourteen states not including Texas have banned all handheld devices while driving. The City of Boerne instituted such a ban for its limits in 2015.

#1. And the number one reason not to text and drive? Drumroll, please…because everyone else does.

Here’s to a Happy (and safe) New Year! As I tell my sixth grade basketball team on a fast break, “Eyes up!”

Read more from Kevin Thompson at

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