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Brackettville’s Alamo Village Provides Hours of Fun

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A family trip to Alamo Village (seven miles north of Brackettville on Hwy. 674) a while back provided a great weekend of memories.

The village, open year round except for several days in December, was Texas’ first permanent outdoor movie location. It was built in the 1960s by James T. “Happy” Shahan, specifically for John Wayne’s epic The Alamo, but numerous movies and commercials have filmed there in the years since. It has often been referred to as the “movie capital” of Texas.

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Alamo Village sits on the 18,000 acre Shahan HV Ranch and is a complete town with jails, saloons, general stores, hotels, stables, church, bank, school, undertakers and blacksmith shop. The town features full-scale buildings with complete interiors, not merely building facades like many “old west” locations. Near the town site, the Alamo mission replica and several Alamo compound buildings were recreated with great attention to detail. According to literature available there, Happy Shahan built the village with a complete dedication to authentically replicating San Antonio during the early 1800s.    One of the buildings houses a John Wayne Museum which features photos and props from the Alamo filming. There is also a cantina and store.

In 1999, special ceremonies were held at the village in honor of the 40th anniversary of the filming of The Alamo. Among those on the program were James Drury, star of The Virginian, who spoke eloquently of Wayne and the other stars of the Alamo. Also on hand were Happy Shahan’s widow, Virginia, and one of their daughters.

Other movies filmed at Alamo Village through the years, include Bandolero, Houston-Legend of Texas, Thirteen Days to Glory, Lonesome Dove, Bad Girls, Good Old Boy, and Streets of Laredo.

There have also been numerous television shows, documentaries, travelogues and commercials filmed there. According to Alamo Village officials, some of the companies who filmed commercials there include Shepler’s Western Wear, Pontiac, Shakespeare Fishing Rod, Uncle Ben’s Rice, Kodak, Texas Army National Guard, Marlboro, Jax Beer, A. J. Foyt, Mercury, Peace Corps, El Charrito, and Wrangler.

Through the years, the collection of buildings has served as forts, haciendas, modern European villages, frontier towns and Mexican villages for various filming endeavors. Alamo Village also has a huge collection of wagons, surreys, buckboards, stagecoaches and buggies, and well-equipped prop rooms.

In October of 2007, in a telephone interview, Virginia Shahan, 91, said she still operates the ranch, and the village, with help from her two daughters and one son.

“And I now have five grandchildren, and 11 great-grandchildren,” Shahan said, “and everyone just helps out where they can. It just depends on who’s here at the time. They all bring me such happiness. I have so much to live for. I feel like the richest person in the world.”

The village is open daily from 9 a.m. to 5 p.m. except for the week of Christmas. For more information, including ticket prices, call 1-830-563-2580.

—— by Laura Kestner

ALAMO REPLICA. Alamo Village’s mission replica, where John Wayne’s epic The Alamo was filmed.

Photo Copyright© Laura Kestner

MERCHANTS HOTEL. This is one of two buildings designated as hotels at Alamo Village.

Photo Copyright© Laura Kestner

UNDERTAKER. The undertaker’s office is one of the businesses at Alamo Village.

Photo Copyright© Laura Kestner

ALAMO COMPOUND. This building in the Alamo compound has a very authentic look, complete with native plants and crumbling stone wall.

Photo Copyright© Laura Kestner

AUTHENTIC DETAIL. This building at Alamo Village features a well, balcony, and portico.

Photo Copyright© Laura Kestner

MILLINERY SHOP. Another hotel and the Alamo Village millinery shop.

Photo Copyright© Laura Kestner

THE VIRGINIAN. James Drury, of T.V.’s The Virginian, was one of the special guests at Alamo Village during the 40th anniversary celebration in 1999 of the filming of John Wayne’s epic The Alamo. Shown with Drury is one of Happy and Virginia Shahan’s granddaughters, Lashawn McIvor.