As anybody who organizes festivals knows, “firsts” are rarely easy to pull off. Add the middle of the Chihuahuan Desert in August to the mix and you have more than the usual obstacles to overcome. Still, the first-ever Viva Terlingua Festival managed to sell 120 wristbands in advance of the event’s debut the weekend of August 15th, and organizers say there were close to 150 people who attended the several events.
The festival was billed as a celebration of music, film, and photography, and the weekend featured competitions in each of those categories.
Musical acts included Joe King Carasco and the Crowned Kings of Tex-Mex from Austin; Matt Harlan & Rachel Jones of Houston; Jesse Brand of Nashville; the up and coming Bottom Dollar String Band as well as the legendary Butch Hancock. A crowd favorite, performing for their first time in far west Texas, was The New Vagabonds of San Antonio.
Film and photography ended up being “no contest” as there were a limited number of entrants although the several that did enter were remarkable. Among the photographs on display were those of Jennifer Pena, Frann Brothers and Crystal Allbright. Allbright is a resident of Terlingua and an acclaimed artist. (The 2015 Big Bend National Park calendar is a collection of her work).
Among the films shown at the Festival were “The Grove, Texas” directed by Lori Najvar; “Road to Austin” directed by Gary Fortin; “Breadwinners” Directed by Vanessa Cook & Charles Monroe and “Trash Dance” by filmmaker Andrew Garrison. Cook & Monroe were on hand for the screening of their film.
“Trash Dance” was a Winner (Audience Award) in each of the 2012 Full Frame Documentary Film Festival and The Discovery Channel’s Silverdocs Documentary Film Festival. It received Special Jury Recognition at the 2012 SXSW Film Festival.
“Road to Austin” made its world premiere at the 2014 SXSW Film Festival in the 24 Beats Per Second Category that showcases the sounds, culture & influence of music & musicians, with an emphasis on documentary.
As to the songwriting competition, there were categories for Best Singer/ Songwriter (Male and Female); Best Instrumental, and Best Band.
The winners, respectively, were Brandon Luedtke of Austin; Zoey Carter of Lubbock; Aaron Todd of Tyler and Grand Old Grizzly of Houston. As Terlingua is well-known for its music scene, as laid back as it may be, organizers of the event established a Legacy Hall of Fame and inducted Dr. Fun, Crystal Allbright, Alex Whitmore and Jeff Haislip. The Song “79852” – co-written by Alex Whitmore and Jason Blum was named the official theme song of the Festival.
Jalapeno Schwartz, judge of the Songwriting Competition, is no stranger to music competitions, having been a part of the Kerrville Folk Festival for years, the current host of the “Far Out West Texas Blues Show” on Marfa Public Radio, and a respected musician in his own right.
Pat O’Bryan, organizer of the 2014 Viva Terlingua Festival said that he “absolutely” plans on having the festival again in 2015 and hopes it will become an annual event.
Sharron Reed is a resident of Terlingua and a freelance contributor to Marfa Public Radio.