Several hours before the drama starts down on the amphitheater stage, a different kind of drama---call it "culinary drama" is unfolding with the food service staff at this satellite branch of the world-famous "Big Texan Steak Ranch" of Amarillo, Texas. (You know the one I'm talking about----famous on the Travel Channel show for filming folks who dare to take the challenge of eating a 72 oz. steak, with the promise of getting the meal "free" if you can do it.) There are no contests at the Palo Duro Canyon site, but before you even make it to the entrance gates of the Pioneer Amphitheater, the enticing aromas of grilled steak make you glad you purchased the optional supper meal that is served before the performance begins. As a Registered Dietitian, I was especially pleased to see the gigantic bowl of salad greens at the start of the buffet line, followed closely by tiers of fresh fruit---green and purple grapes, plus juicy red watermelon slices (lower left photo). There were also several starchy dishes to choose from, fresh rolls, as well as grilled jalapeno peppers, and a big, sizzling, grilled steak of beef to chow down on. Add your choice of several kinds of beverages, and you have a meal fit for a real cowboy (or a hungry automobile driver in my case--lower right photo). Diners have their choice of eating on picnic tables under a shaded pavilion, or out in the open, on tables painted with the familiar state flag of Texas design (top right photo). The hospitality staff, all dressed in western attire, are easily lassoed into bringing you beverage refills or assisting in other ways as needed (top left photo).
As darkness engulfs the outdoor stage, various sections of the canyon walls are lit up, along with a bath of light illuminating the performers on stage (upper left photo). There are special effects that include a lightning strike, igniting a tree behind the stage, a wagon catching on fire, as well as the cowboy with the wagon (I was assured no one is injured for these stunts, and members of the local fire department are always present for any emergencies that might occur.) And, for sure, do not leave early from the amphitheater, in hopes of beating the traffic out. That's because, there is a terrific fireworks show at the end of every performance that you will not want to miss! (three remaining photos). I say "HATS OFF!" (Cowboy hats, of course!) to the cast, crew, cowboys and cowgirls that make up the Texas Panhandle Heritage Foundation---the main producers of the drama. Happy Trails to you, until we meet again! Tricia