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T-Squared: 2018 Texas Tribune Festival tickets are finally on sale. Seriously, it's our best program ever.

Our annual ideas conference is bigger, better and especially star-studded this year. Join us for discussions of #tx2018, the 86th #txlege, the 2020 presidential race, public ed, immigration, health care, real news vs. fake news and so much more.

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The big day has arrived: 2018 Texas Tribune Festival tickets are finally on sale. This is our eighth annual fest, a jam-packed ideas conference focused on politics and public policy, and while we've loved the previous seven, this one trumps (Trumps?) the rest. In a political moment like no other, in an election season like no other, in a state like no other, putting more than 250 big names and big brains on stage talking about the most important issues of our day seems like a great way to achieve a public service mission. You'll come away from this amazing series of days (Sept. 27-29) smarter, more engaged and more motivated to participate civically. You'll be better for it. So will Texas.

Nope, we're not ready to tell you who's speaking. We release the full program and schedule on Aug. 1. But trust me that it is the most star-studded lineup we've ever assembled — a mix of state, national and international luminaries talking public and higher ed, the economy, health care, immigration, energy and a host of issue areas that should be familiar to anyone who reads the Trib or attends our events across the state.

Okay, okay, you forced it out of me: I can be *a little* specific. For our eagerly awaited festival kickoff at legendary Franklin Barbecue, we're pleased to welcome, in conversation with yours truly, New York Times Executive Editor Dean Baquet. That'll be Wednesday night, Sept. 26. Two nights later, on Friday, Sept. 28, we'll have our third TribFeast, a gala dinner to support nonprofit journalism, and we're equally pleased to welcome the cast of the Showtime series "The Circus": John Heilemann, Alex Wagner and Mark McKinnon. That same night, MSNBC's Steve Kornacki will be emceeing our political trivia extravaganza at Scholz Garten.

There's more. We'll have up-to-the-moment discussions on the hottest 2018 races and the looming challenges and controversies as we head into the 2019 legislative session. We'll have a whole bunch of prospective 2020 presidential candidates on hand. We'll consider what Texas will look like in 2050 and contemplate what it will take to get there. And of course — my favorite — we'll tackle the voguish topic of how the press covers politics, with Pulitzer Prize-winning reporters and marquee pundits on hand. As someone said last year, it's like your Twitter feed and cable box come to life.

Some logistical notes: For the first time, this year's fest has moved off of the University of Texas campus and onto the streets and into the venues of downtown Austin — appropriately enough, in the shadow of the state Capitol. We've expanded our program from one full day to two and tweaked our ticket prices to be more a la carte than prix fixe. We'll open the thing Thursday night and close Saturday night instead of our usual Friday night open and Sunday morning close (alas, no more politics church). And we have surprises in store. You'll have to sign up for updates to learn about those as we gradually roll out our various plans and schemes between now and festival weekend.

Seriously: It's going to be our best fest ever, and you'll want to be a part of it. See you there? Get your tix today.

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