A Look Back at Volume I, Issue I of The Bend Magazine

A Look Back at Volume I, Issue I of The Bend Magazine

Take a trip down memory lane and revisit the stories published in the very first issue of The Bend Magazine in April 2014.

a photo of the first cover of The Bend Magazine in April 2014

The first issue of The Bend Magazine was published in April 2014, with a quintessentially coastal photo of a sand sculpture by artist Fred Mallett gracing the cover, and an ambitious mission to encapsulate Coastal Bend life with its stories.

Inside the first issue of The Bend Magazine, readers heard from Reid Ryan, co-founder of the Corpus Christi Hooks, on bringing professional baseball to Whataburger Field. A Portland family shared their struggles and triumphs in autism awareness and advocacy for their children. “Rodeo Royalty” Sissy Winn shared the inception of her rodeo career and Shannon’s Distinctive Fashions’ owner gave tips and trends for summer dressing. Fast forward 10 years and these local people and organizations have found continued success. Here’s where they are today.



Corpus Christi Hooks Remain Hooked on the Future

When Reid Ryan, son of famed Houston Astros and Texas Rangers player Nolan Ryan, set his sights on Corpus Christi, it wasn’t just happenstance. Between the hospitality and general baseball knowledge of the Coastal Bend community, Ryan determined that “Corpus is a real baseball town,” and that has proven true over the last 10 years. Throughout his tenure, he sought to secure the future of the Hooks franchise in Corpus Christi and to ensure the club would remain an Astros affiliate for the long haul, which is exactly what he managed to accomplish in selling the club to the Astros. 

Ten years later, the Corpus Christi Hooks have managed to consistently be a vehicle for players to improve their skills and get used to playing a larger volume of games in regular and playoff seasons. In fact, six of the nine players on the Astros’ starting roster of Game 1 of the 2022 World Series were former Hooks players, including Jose Altuve and Alex Bregman. The Hooks provide a space for baseball fanatics to follow players in their journey to the big leagues, and at the same time give locals and tourists an opportunity for family fun at the ballpark — with the best fireworks show in town after every Friday night game. 


The French Family Commits to Autism Awareness and Advocacy 

“There are all these hopes and dreams that you have for your kids, all of the ignorant stuff you think of like wanting them to be the valedictorian, the star athlete or just great at all these things. But then, your focus changes — I just want them to talk,” said Katie French in 2014. French is a mother of three, and after her experience with an autism diagnosis for her two sons when they were toddlers, she became committed to autism awareness and advocacy. 

 In our first issue, the French family discussed the surprise diagnosis and their family’s uphill journey to get their sons the support they needed to thrive. Katie and her husband Chris French managed to get their local elementary school to implement the Applied Behavior Analysis program in 2005, allowing their kids to lower their ratings on the autism spectrum scale and learn in a traditional Gregory-Portland ISD school setting with other kids their age. 

 Today, their middle son Rig is 24 years old, and has owned and operated Mr. Rigaroo’s Shaved Ice since 2016. His connection with the Portland community has grown over the years, especially his connection with T.M. Clark Elementary, which he attended. Through pop-ups at Portland community events, Mr. Rigaroo’s gives a percentage of its profits back to local schools. Perhaps the most notable achievement is Rig’s partnership with Howdy Homemade Ice Cream, a shop out of Dallas whose sole purpose is to employ individuals with special needs. The brand now offers a special blue autism awareness ice cream with Rig’s face on it. The ice cream debuted at the Portland H-E-B and is available year-round in Portland and at H-E-B Plus, but flies off the shelves because of Rig’s popularity within the community.

 “I’m never going to tell my kids that they can’t do something,” Katie said. It is with that mantra that Katie and Chris French empower their kids to embrace their gifts and chase opportunities that allow them to give back to the community.


Sissy Winn Lives Her Rodeo Dreams

When Sissy Winn was only 5 years old, she was introduced to the rodeo world and hasn’t looked back. In her feature from the April 2014 issue, Winn was just 16 and spoke about her rodeo aspirations and thoughts about “giving going pro a try.” Try she did, and 10 years later — after getting a bachelor’s from Texas A&M University-College Station, becoming a Women’s Professional Rodeo Association member in 2017 and competing around the country — she’s made rodeo her full-time career, and a successful one at that. 

Winn stated that making rodeo a career would require a few well-performing horses and a lot of weekends away. Keeping horses healthy and high-performing is a full-time job in itself, in addition to the time it takes to hone a skill. Today, Winn competes as a professional barrel racer with her horses Scoop and King, and travels the country with her parents as her managers and built-in support system.

Career Highlights:

  1. Entered first NFR ranked 7th in the world and finished ranked 13th.
  1. Texas Circuit year-end champion and qualified for the NFR Open in July 2023.
  1. Won the Bozeman (Montana) Stampede, the Jerome (Idaho) County Fair – Rodeo, the Livingston (Montana) Round-Up and the Rio Grande Valley Livestock Show & Rodeo (Mercedes, Texas).
  1. Finished second at Cascade (Montana) Pro Rodeo.


Summer Trend Forecasting with Shannon Bartkowiak

 Shannon Bartkowiak, owner of Shannon’s Distinctive Fashions, knows a thing or two about owning a clothing boutique. After purchasing the dress shop where she grew up working in 2002, Bartkowiak made it her own and continues to operate the store today. Inside the first issue, Bartkowiak styled a fashion piece focused on summer attire. Regardless of how much trends change over time, one thing remains a constant necessity in the South Texas summer heat: breathability. “With our warm summers, it’s important that a fabric can breathe well — if you put it on and it feels good, you are going to want to wear it more often,” she said when asked about summer fashion trends 10 years later. Bartkowiak predicts a focus on flowy linen pants and shorts and easy cotton dresses and skirts this summer season. She also expects a return to solid, muted tones and tailored fits. 

Flip through the entire Special Anniversary Issue of The Bend now.