El Paso Offers State Park, Sun Bowl and its Own Star
Smack in the center of El Paso, Texas, is Franklin Mountains State Park, a 26,000-acre spread that draws recreation connoisseurs from extreme thrill seekers to casual strollers.
"From the west to the northeast side of El Paso, you go over this winding mountain road and it's really quite spectacular," says Nanette Smejkal, El Paso Parks & Recreation director. "People look at that and they think, 'My gosh, there's a mountain in the middle of the city.' And they're right. There's this wonderful open space. So right away, you know El Paso has something to offer."
Locals are also treated to El Paso's very own star standard - the Guiding Star. It can be seen from 30 miles away on the ground and 100 miles from the air. The illuminated star on the south side of Franklin Mountains has been an El Paso fixture since 1940. The star measures 459 feet in length and 278 feet in width and sits at an angle of 30 degrees, giving the appearance that it is at the focal point of major intersection Texas and Alameda avenues. The Star on the Mountain shines each night at dusk.
To match the star, El Paso offers its own version of the Sun. The first Sun Bowl football game was played on Jan. 1, 1935, as a fund-raising event for the El Paso, Texas, Kiwanis Club to help pay to upgrade El Paso High School’s football stadium. These days, the annual game has grown into one of college football’s major bowls, pitting two of the Bowl Championship Series' teams against each other. The 2009 Brut Sun Bowl tilt featured Oklahoma vs. Stanford. Famous football alums of the Sun Bowl include Merlin Olsen, Tony Dorsett and Barry Sanders. Games are played in the 50,426-seat Sun Bowl. A slew of events coincide with game week including a parade, golf tournament and basketball tournament.