The Best Things to Do in Houston This Weekend: Dead Rock Stars & 3 Festivals

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We've got three festivals going down in Houston this weekend: the Houston Italian Festival started serving 15,000 meatballs on Thursday, the Korean Festival has kimchi and bulgogi fries, and the HUE Mural Festival is painting the town red, green and everything in between. We've also got plenty of art, ranging from tributes to dead recording stars at Cactus Music to the sublime at MFAH's Degas exhibit. And, because we're halfway through National Adopt-A-Shelter Dog Month, don't miss Pup Squad's Yappy Hour and Barkitecture events.

The Houston Italian Festival is bringing the tastes of Italy to H-Town with fun, festivities and tons of food. To get the juice buds flowing, here’s a sneak preview: The organizers hand-made 15,000 meatballs. Joining the symphony of mouthwatering morsels are other delights, including chicken marsala, gelato, Italian wines and beer and, of course, spaghetti. Festival representative Margaret Bannon says, “This is an introduction to the Italian-American foods and the fun our culture enjoys. It’s a time to get together and have fun.” No festival would be complete without a visit from an authentic opera singer: Soloist Aaron Caruso headlines the entertainment this Friday at 6:30 p.m. (he's the nation's top Italian tenor), and party band Hit & Run cranks it up at 8 p.m., making this event our recommendation for kicking off the weekend. Come back on Saturday for DJ Italia, a flag ceremony and awards presentation, a pasta eating contest, an adult grape stomp and Italian folk dancing.

11 a.m. to 10 p.m. Friday and Saturday, 11 a.m. to 6 p.m. Sunday. University of St. Thomas, 3800 Montrose. For information, call 713-524-4222 or visit houstonitalianfestival.com. Free to $25. 

“The Korean community isn’t the largest one, but it’s a powerful one,” says 2016 Korean Festival co-chair Beatrice Chan. Boy, is she correct: The small-but-mighty community is banding together for this one-day showcase of traditional Korean dancers, folk musicians, Taekwondo masters and Korean-American musicians, with an expected attendance of more than 30,000, putting this on our short list for a great way to spend a Saturday. Special guests include emcee Terry Im (a.k.a. KRNFX), fashion designer Jasmine Park, spoken-word artist Jason Chu and singer/violinist Joe Kye. The family-friendly festival also features bites from more than 20 restaurants, including The Republic, Hoodadak, Coreanos, Café Bene, Oh My Gogi! and SW Sushi. Be sure to bring cash; the food is available via a ticket economy — trade cash for tickets at booths located throughout the park. 

11 a.m. to 9 p.m. Saturday. Discovery Green, 1500 McKinney. For information, call 832-758-1868 or visit koreanfestivalhouston.com. Free.

Fashion meets function at the 8th Annual Barkitecture Houston, where creative architects, designers and artists build amazing doghouses (one year they made one that looked like a rescue helicopter). The event benefits Pup Squad Animal Rescue, which devotes its energies to pregnant dogs, nursing dogs and puppies. The fun begins with a dog-friendly Yappy Hour and raffle from 6 to 9 p.m. on Friday at The Lawn by McCormick & Schmick's. Come back on Saturday to see the one-of-a-kind doghouse exhibition: the Double Decker, the Hole in One, the Mod Con, 2015's Best in Show, the Pant-Theon and even the Hollywood House, made from an old JC Penney television. "The silent auction takes place Saturday; we close the auction at 4," says Kristy Bell, one of eight volunteers who serve on the board of Pup Squad. "Noon it kicks off, [we have] vendors, food trucks, music, a small stage on GreenStreet's center court mall, a pet CPR demo, blessing of the animals, Halloween pet costume contest, K-9 demo from HPD and a pet trainer (still tentative)." She says they also have a grooming salon, nail trims and dog painting, and proceeds benefit Pup Squad, making this our second choice for Saturday fun. 

Barkitecture Houston runs from noon 4 p.m. Saturday, 1201 Fannin, greenstreetdowntown.com or pupsquad.org.

It's hard to believe it's been ten years since Carlos Hernandez first wowed us with his homage to Johnny Cash in the first ever "Day of the Dead Rock Stars" exhibit. While there have been iconic album covers over the years, this next-gen marriage of music and art allowed us to mourn our rock gods while honoring the traditions of Día de los Muertos (November 1) and All Souls Day (November 2). That 2007 debut of El Johnny Cash at Record Ranch Gallery inside Cactus Music set in motion so much more: Hernandez's career as a fine artist, a boost for Cactus as a power center for music lovers, and even a new brand of Santo beer at Saint Arnold Brewing Company. Come celebrate the tenth anniversary at "Day of the Dead Rock Stars: Ten Years Gone" with homages to Lou Reed, David Bowie, Janis Joplin, Frank Zappa, Dennis Wilson, Prince and other recording artists from rock, country, jazz and blues. Saint Arnold will be serving up the Santo, plus we've got live music and a DJ spinning beats, making this our third choice for Saturday night in the city.

6 to 9 p.m. Saturday, Record Ranch Gallery, 2110 Portsmouth. For information, call 713-526-9272 or visit cactusmusictx.com. Free.

TSA prohibits aerosols, so we're guessing the shelves of every hardware and art supply store have been cleared of Krylon right about now. Street artists from as far away as Iran, Spain, Brazil and Australia are tricking out H-Town with 20,000 square feet of colorful, original murals over the festival's eight-day run. It will take roughly 190 hours, with assistance from about 100 volunteers and local artists, to pull off the second iteration of the Houston Urban Experience Mural Festival. What's even better is that almost 90 percent of the murals painted last year remain, so we'll be looking pretty good for Super Bowl LI come February. There are a lot of moving parts and locations with this year's HUE Mural Festival, plus parties, happy hours and a festival. This Sunday's lineup begins at 11 a.m. for a one-hour VIP HUE talk with Miami artists and a magazine owner at The Pilot on Navigation, 5102 Navigation. Over at 2011 Leeland, check out the cool artists and vendors from noon to 5 p.m. There's a 55-and-up graffiti artist workshop from 1 to 3 p.m. at The Graffiti and Street Art Museum of Texas at 2219 Canal for $40, and a walking tour of mural and street art from 5:30 to 7 p.m. for $40 (wear comfortable shoes). Sunday events end well for 100 VIPs, with a HUE Happy Hour at Boheme, 307 Fairview.

For more information, visit huemuralfestival.com. Free to $80.

“Art is not what you see, but what you make others see,” said one of the 19th century’s greatest creative minds, the late French artist Hilaire-Germain-Edgar Degas. Now the Museum of Fine Arts, Houston is exhibiting more than 200 of his paintings, sculptures and photographs in a 30-year retrospective, “Degas: A New Vision.” Developed by MFAH along with the National Gallery of Victoria in Melbourne, Australia, and featuring an additional 60 pieces exclusive to Houston, the exhibit looks at the impressionist’s singular takes on ballet, the bourgeois, horses and the naked form, including his opus Dancers, Pink and Green, on loan from the Metropolitan Museum of Art in New York. The exhibit opens this Sunday and there's a lot of buzz about this one: MFAH is the only United States venue for this exhibition. 

12:15 to 7 p.m. Sunday. Continuing 10 a.m. to 5 p.m. Tuesdays and Wednesdays, 10 a.m. to 9 p.m. Thursdays, 10 a.m. to 7 p.m. Fridays and Saturdays, 12:15 to 7 p.m. Sundays. Through January 16. Museum of Fine Arts, Houston, 1001 Bissonnet. For information, call 713-639-7300 or visit mfah.org. Free to $23. 

Sam Byrd and Vic Shuttee contributed to this post.

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