Young and old swing together at Texas Natural Fest, which comes back for the 17th time Saturday on the Hays County Courthouse lawn.
By HAP MANSFIELD
Sometimes, it seems like Americans will form a festival for something at the drop of a hat. As a state, Texas has a mighty large number of festivals and events. Of course, that’s partly because Texas is a mighty big state with a diverse population. Some of the festivals are a bit odd, though.
There is the World Championship Rocky Mountain Oyster competition in Throckmorton. If you don’t know what a Rocky Mountain Oyster is, ask your dad. There is also the Great Texas Mosquito Festival (Clute), a Mud Festival (San Antonio), the Corncob Festival (Holland), the Texas Pinball Festival (Grapevine), the Fire Ant Festival (Marshall) and that art car thing in Houston, just to name a few. If you weren’t a Texan, you’d think we were nuts. And maybe we are, just a little.
We’re the kind of nuts who like to eat, drink, socialize with our neighbors, put on a throw down, holler at a hootenanny, boot scoot and show up at a shindig. You know, Texans.
Natural Fest and the Western Swing Hall of Fame is not one of the wackier festivals, although people do have a crazy good time. It’s about celebrating the extraordinary natural resources of our state. One of those resources just happens to be Western Swing.
When you go to celebrate at Natural Fest/Western Swing you are also celebrating the distinct honor we have of being caretakers for our state and a musical style that has never been equaled for its jazzy Western style.
We hope to see you at Natural Fest/ Western Swing Hall of Fame festivities this weekend. And if you have plans for a Drop of a Hat Festival, let us know, we’ll bring the Frito pie.
Friday, May 15
Friday night is Bingo night at the VFW in Wimberley, but this Bingo is not the lukewarm game you may be remembering from years gone by. This Bingo game is enlivened by intriguing sets, loads of prizes and just plain fun. The Ladies Auxiliary operates a concession stand that offers a wide variety of drinks, snacks and desserts, as well. The action gets started at around 6:30 p.m. The VFW Post is located at Veterans Park on Jacobs Well Road. All proceeds go to vets, so it’s a worthy cause as well as a barrel of fun.
If you want to limber up for Natural Fest tomorrow, swing by the San Marcos Activity Center (501 East Hopkins Street) for a little JoyDance, which is free-form dance movement fun. The fee is a mere $5 and the movin’ and groovin’ starts at 7:30 p.m.
It’s true that some mighty big names are going to be in town for Natural Fest, but don’t forget that if a town could have a middle name, San Marcos’ would be Music. Tonight at the Triple Crown (206 North Edward Gary) the estimable RC Banks will be playing the early show at 6 p.m. followed later by Scott Biram.
San Antonio’s own Mitch Webb and the Swindles will be at Riley’s. If you have never heard them, you are missing out on hearing one of the best representatives of Texas rock and roll since Doug Sahm’s Sir Douglas Quintet.
Texas Renegade, a band that started by playing parties in Wimberley, will be motivating motility at the Cheatham Street Warehouse (119 Cheatham Street) graduation bash. Southside Union opens, and the night will certainly give you a Master’s degree in rockin’ country blues and good fun.
Saturday, May 16
At the San Marcos Public Library, photographer Andy Heatwole will be instructing on the art of real estate photography. This class will guide you through the process of capturing and creating great looking photos. You’ll learn the essential photographic skills necessary to create the best photos possible, as well as the all-important Photoshop techniques that will turn your existing photos into real eye-catchers. This free workshop will be from 10 a.m. to 3 p.m. with a break for lunch. Workshop attendees are welcome to bring a brown bag lunch.
Debbie Ropollo, a writer who has been a contributor to the Chicken Soup For the Soul book franchise, will be at Hastings Books, Music and Video (917 SH 80) for a book signing from 1-3 p.m. A signed book makes a really wonderful gift for birthdays and holidays, so do take advantage of this great opportunity.
The Annual Garden Tour is a wonderful way to spend an afternoon in picturesque Wimberley. The tour starts at the Wimberley Visitors Center, tickets are $15 and the event goes from 10 a.m. to 4 p.m.
Of course the big event of the day, and one that we look forward to with happy anticipation, is Natural Fest/ Western Swing Hall of Fame from 10 a.m. to 5:30 p.m. on the courthouse square (the Hopkins Street, LBJ Drive, Guadalupe Street, San Antonio Street quad). Since Natural Fest has teamed up with the Western Swing Hall of Fame, the marriage has been a happy one with great events that attract swing enthusiasts from all over the country. There’s just so much for the whole family to see and do and hear at the 17th annual Natural Fest.
There will be a Heritage Area with crafters, horse shoeing, a chuck wagon and blacksmiths. Since Natural Fest is all about the natural beauty and resources of Texas, and most particularly San Marcos and Hays County, you will find a plethora of Texas crafts and produce. And food, don’t forget the food! There will be a children’s art booth as well.
And will there be music? You bet your Western Swing boots! As you peruse the booths and enjoy a snow cone, you will hear some of the most lauded musicians of Western Swing. Bandleader Al Dressen keeps it lively, MC Tom Mac Holmes moves it right along and some of the Texas Playboys will be here swingin’ it reunion style. Herb Remington, Walter Lyons and Johnny Cuviello are just three of the extraordinary performers who will wow you. The only thing missing is Bob Wills himself, and as long as we treasure this music and keep it going strong, his spirit will always be here, as well.
Down at River Park (CM Allen Parkway and Hopkins Street) a Western Swing Hall of Fame concert will knock your socks off, guaranteed. There’s also the $12 all-you-can-eat catfish dinner before the music starts at 7:30 p.m. Hall of Fame inductees Jody Nix and the Texas Cowboys will be featured and just take a gander at this list of musicians slated to play: Herb Remington, Dayna Wills, Janet Lynn, Mary Ann Price, Louise Rowe, Paul Glasse, Floyd Domino, Danny Levin, George Uptmor, Billy McBay, Bill Dessens, Jimmy Young, Al Dressen, Brent Wilson, Neal Clausnitzer, Tom Mack Holmes, and special guests The Great Baritones of Western Swing Bill Adams and L.J. Prichett, Kimarie Lynn, and Dixie Reel. Boy Howdy!
Bring your lawn chairs and enjoy this amazing free concert. There is limited reserved seating available for $20. Now, can you imagine anything nicer than sitting by the gorgeous San Marcos River enjoying the Texas night sky while listening to classic Western Swing? And if it rains, well, that’s good for Texas, too, and the music will be played, if necessary, at the San Marcos Activity Center.
Let’s not forget that the Cheatham Street Warehouse will have the fabulous Dr. G and the Mudcats and Big John Mills playing tonight, as well. Riley’s features Beau Hines, and the Back Porch Shufflers are at Riley’s. It’s an embarrassment of riches, but we’ll take it.
If Western Swing just ain’t your thing, the Triple Crown features Hammer, By Any Means Necessary and Trashy and the Kid.
Sunday, May 17
You may be weary from all that walking around and foot tappin’ at Natural Fest, but rouse yourself to hit the Cheatham Street Warehouse from 4-8 p.m. for the Ben Morris/George Macias double CD release party.
Ben Morris and the Great American Boxcar Chorus won Live Band of the Year at the 2009 Texas Music Awards, and you can hear why for yourself at the Cheatham Street today. Macias has been a necessary musical fixture in local bands for quite a while. This day of music is like two events squashed into one wonderful double gig and, as always, it’s a pleasure and an honor to be at the Cheatham Street on a leisurely Sunday afternoon.
The mics are open at the Triple Crown and Riley’s, so you can start your own music career after being inspired by so much great music over this weekend.
If you haven’t seen the new X-Men movie, it might be a really nice night to watch it out under the stars at the Coral in Wimberley (Rocky River Ranch on Flite Acres Road), the original walk-in outdoor theater. The movie starts at what they call Dark Thirty p.m., so get there a little after sunset. Tonight’s movie is a benefit for the Wimberley High School Band Boosters.
Or you could just kick off your shoes, curl up on the couch and watch TCM’s two rodeo classics, Junior Bonner with Steve McQueen and J.W. Coop with Cliff Robertson.