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Go Texan

Eagle’s Trace residents celebrate Lone Star history and traditions

Created date

July 1st, 2016
Eagle’s Trace residents sample chili at the community’s chili cook-off on Go Texan Day.

Eagle’s Trace residents sample chili at the community’s chili cook-off on Go Texan Day. (From left) Ben Johnson, Betty McDuffie, Stella Krischke, and Judy Doba.

Bill Mellin’s career as a computer programmer took him to ten states, finally depositing him and his family in Texas in 1972. 

“As far as anything that represents Texas, the rodeo is about as Texan as it gets,” says Bill, a Massachusetts native who lives at Eagle’s Trace, the Erickson Living community in West Houston.

Houston’s Livestock Show and Rodeo (HLSR) is more than an annual event. The nearly month-long celebration highlights the best of the Lone Star State in categories ranging from cattle to wine to elementary school art.

“When our kids were young, we used to take them to see the animals,” says Bill. “It was a fun family tradition.”

Rodeo’s honored guests

For the past two years, Bill has experienced the rodeo in a different capacity. As a Korean War veteran, Bill and other Eagle’s Trace residents who served in the military were invited to participate in HLSR’s Armed Forces Appreciation Day. 

“It was an incredible experience,” says Bill. “This year, we had a police escort accompany us from Eagle’s Trace to the rodeo. We spent the entire day there—from 10 a.m. to 10 p.m.—and enjoyed every minute of it.”

Bill and the other veterans from Eagle’s Trace enjoyed a barbecue lunch in the Hideout with a private performance by the Marine Corps Band from New Orleans. They enjoyed hot dogs and wine in the Champion Wine Garden, and they toured the exhibits in NRG Center before heading into NRG Arena for the rodeo.

“The whole day was a highlight for me, and I look forward to going again next year,” says Bill.

Chili cook-off

Back at Eagle’s Trace, the Texas pride inspired by the rodeo was on full display as the community celebrated its own Lone Star-themed activities.

Residents and staff kicked off Go Texan Day with a chili cook-off. Sixteen staff members and residents each cooked up a pot of chili, some opting to put a unique spin on their dish.

“We had chili with shrimp, a vegetarian chili, spicy chili—it was quite the competition,” says Lisa Hadley, community resources coordinator.

Participants voted on their favorite chili by number, without knowing the chefs’ identities. Nick Tondeur, restaurant manager at Eagle’s Trace, took home top honors for his chili, a savory blend of meat, beans, and seasonings (see recipe).

Texas history lesson

Residents also had the opportunity to listen to guest speaker Nina Hendee, co-owner of the Taste of Texas restaurant in West Houston and a Texas history buff. 

Hendee gave an animated summary of the events leading up to the Battle of San Jacinto, when General Sam Houston and 900 civilians fought General Antonio López de Santa Anna and 1,200 Mexican soldiers near the present-day ship channel. The Texan Army won the quick, decisive battle and their freedom.

“In 18 minutes, Texas became a nation,” says Hendee.

Eagle’s Trace residents Bill and Roma Wantuck were among those captivated by Hendee’s storytelling.

“We’ve lived in Houston for 54 years, and Go Texan Day is always a fun day to celebrate,” says Bill.

Eagle’s Trace chili cook-off winner
Nick Tondeur, restaurant manager


3 lbs hamburger  

1 onion, chopped

16 oz tomato paste 

24 oz water

1 clove garlic, minced, or 1/2 tsp garlic powder

1 tsp pepper 

2 large cans of light red kidney beans

Homemade chili seasoning (see below)


Cook meat in a large pot with ¼ of the chopped onion. Drain grease. Add remaining ingredients, including remaining onion, and simmer two hours. 

Serve with your choice of toppings: shredded cheese, onions, Fritos, cornbread, or saltine crackers.

Homemade chili seasoning

2 Tbsp chili powder

½ tsp garlic powder

1 ½ tsp onion powder

¾ tsp paprika

2 ½ tsp cumin

1 tsp salt