Delegates to 2008 General Conference were treated to a Texas-sized party April 27 — their one night off.
After a concert by the Texas Boys Choir, delegates spilled out onto the Water Park courtyard at the south end of the Fort Worth Convention Center for food, music and fellowship. Visitors from all over the world were treated to Texas delicacies including empanadas, quail eggs and Blue Bell ice cream.
"Each station has a different kind of Texas food, and we hope people are enjoying this taste of Texas," said Bishop Ben Chamness of the host Fort Worth Area and Central Texas Annual (regional) Conference, wearing a bold "lone star" shirt. "People are having a lot of fun. It's not often that many of these folks can listen to a yodeling cowgirl. And there's a long line for the steer."
Yes, delegates could line up to have their photo made on a genuine Texas longhorn steer named Lucky. Judging by the length of the line, it seemed to be the most popular part of the evening.
A short distance away, Devon Dawson and the Fort Worth Opry Cowgirls played Western swing music. Dawson voiced the character of Jesse in the animated "Toy Story" movies and demonstrated her yodeling skills.
"I'm sure it takes a long time to develop that talent, and a long time to acquire a taste for it," joked Bishop Robert Schnase of the Missouri Area.
Students from Lydia Patterson Institute in El Paso played in a mariachi band that entertained the crowd as people arrived.
Inside the convention center's ballroom, delegates were entertained by the Texas Boys Choir, founded in 1946 and based in Forth Worth. The group of about 35 young men-outfitted in jeans, black cowboy hats and red or blue vests-normally sing classical and baroque music, but are often asked to sing patriotic and Western songs.
"We want to sing in many different genres so that these young musicians get exposure to as many different types of music as possible," said conductor Mark Stamper.
Hundreds of blue-vested volunteers from United Methodist churches in the area made sure that the visitors had all the food they could handle.
"We've been preparing for your arrival and to show you the most gracious hospitality that we could," Chamness told the crowd at the start of the evening. "Nothing pleases us more than to have our United Methodist friends here with us."
*Neill Caldwell is editor of the Virginia United Methodist Advocate and a reporter for United Methodist News Service.
News media contact: Kathy Noble or Tim Tanton, e-mail:firstname.lastname@example.org.
Phone calls can be made to the General Conference Newsroom in Fort Worth, Texas, at (817) 698-4405(817) 698-4405 until May 3. Afterward, call United Methodist News Service in Nashville, Tenn., at (615) 742-5470(615) 742-5470.