Tuesday, January 18, 2011

Sugar Land is a Real Place

In the first conversations that I have with someone, I can expect an interesting reaction to the following truths:

1) My name is Stefanie, spelled with an f.
2) Last name Pepping.
3) I grew up in Sugar Land, Texas.

That last one is usually the kicker. If the person hasn't smiled yet, by now they can't help it. I'm often met with disbelief, to which I reply, "No, really! There's even a movie about it. Sugarland Express, Goldie Hawn, 1974. Google it." This is inevitably followed by some crack about Candy Land, or how sweet the women must be. (And we are.)

Sugar Land grew around the original Imperial Sugar Factory, built in 1843. I remember spending field trips at that factory, and let me tell you something, you would be surprised at how terrible the smell is in a place that makes sugar. Alas, the building has been empty for a while now, and was demolished a few months ago to make room for residential and business development. (Destroying a landmark that precedes the town itself? Bad move.)

Sugar Land is now one of the fastest growing cities in Texas, named the third best city to live in in the U.S. by CNN in 2006. The current population is over 79,943, and growing. Since my family moved there around 1990, they've built a mall, a movie theater, an ice rink, shopping centers with places like Williams Sonoma and the Cheesecake Factory, places for nightlife, etc. Houses continue to pop up, fields continue to disappear, and traffic gets worse every year. One of the newest additions, believe it or not, is the Sugar Land Town Square. Most Texas towns start out with a square. They did it a little bit backwards.

Sugar Land is not home to the country band Sugarland. Nope, not at all. However, the prison did house a favorite new discovery, folk/blues legend Lead Belly. Professor Terry Morrow turned me on to him today. With a style similar to that of Son House, his music will take you back to the old south. In a good way.

Black Betty, lyrics possibly in reference to the Texas penitentiary transfer wagon

Let's get real, Sugar Land is a pretty strange place. Growing up there, I called it "The Bubble." I felt suffocated by the overwhelming sense of suburbia. Every store was forced to have the same tan brick color and same white type, trees grew in straight lines, houses could only be painted certain colors, and when I would visit a friend's house down the lane, chances were one in three that the layout would be the spitting image of mine. Nothing was allowed to be unique. Not only that, my family lived near the country club, where palm trees lined the streets and houses were big enough to be hotels. My high school parking lot was filled with shiny new Hummers, Mercedes, Lexuses (Lexi?), etc. At times it was completely ridiculous and I just wanted to pull my hair out.

In spite of the way I felt about it back then, I have developed a sense of pride in the place. It is actually very pretty, almost dream-like. The streets are lined with trees that were planted when I was a kid, now full-grown and lush. The crime rate is very low, and the people in the community are generally active and good-natured. When I visit home, I feel safe. Sometimes that's a pretty great feeling.

So to the skeptics, Sugar Land is a real place.

Other interesting facts:

Sugar Land has held the title of Fittest City in Texas for four consecutive years now.

The Sugar Land Town Square used the 3D projection technology used in the 2010 Olympics on New Year's Eve 2009. That's right, we're ahead of the game.

Sugar Land is unique in that it boasts the highest concentration of Asians in Texas, 34% of the population.

The climate is described as "humid subtropical." Winter temperatures average in the 60s.

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