Sunday, February 16, 2014

Rio Grande Valley Music Festival

Mention "Texas" and folks will imagine longhorn cattle, cowboys, oil fields, Hispanic culture, sagebrush, and wide open spaces.  Rarely will the Lone Star state be associated with music.  But, last week we enjoyed some of the best (and some not so good!) Country Western music and Mexican folksongs.

We spent a day at the Rio Grande Valley Music Festival.  It is an annual event, held at the Livestock Show Grounds in Mercedes, just a half hour's drive southeast of our winter home.  Entertainers donate their talents and time and all proceeds go to a fund which supports music education in the schools of the area.

This was our first chance to attend, and the event reminded me of the county fairs I had attended so often back in Ohio.  Only, instead viewing livestock and domestic arts, on the five stages set up for the festival we listened to a wide variety of  entertainers. 

Some of the artists were local, but many had traveled a great distance.

For example, the "Manitoba Sisters," performing in a tent on Stage 4, had traveled many miles from home.  The four sisters performed on banjo, guitars, and keyboard and were backed up by a band of RGV Music Festival volunteers.
A group of mostly young persons, who called themselves "Cross Strung"  hailed from Salt Lake City, Utah.  They are seen here performing on Stage 1 in the main building on the show grounds, 
 They featured acoustic guitar, electric guitar, violins (fiddles), and the adult of the group played several different instruments including bodhrán (Irish frame drum), guitar, and Irish flute. 

This unique combination of instruments enabled them to play both Country Western music and Celtic (Irish) music,
Jeff Gordon, apparently a perennial favorite, also performed on Stage 1.  He, too, had musical back-up support from a band of RGV Music Festival volunteers.

Winter Texans are well represented in the festival crowd, as you can see from the preponderance of  gray heads!


A variety of vendors, selling items from CDs and ceramic pots, jewelry to T-shirts gave the day a bit of merchandising appeal.  But it was the food vendors who really did a brisk business; hot coffee in the morning's cold temperatures to corn dogs and Bar-B-Que later as the sun came out and warmed the crowd.
 Public School musical groups are frequent performers for the festival, which provides financial aid for their departments.  Here, the Edcouch-Elsa High School Estudiantina performs Mexican folk songs for the audience.  An Estudiantina group is similar to a mariachi group except it includes only string instruments and no brass.  The students were talented and enthusiastic and the audience showed their appreciation by a standing ovation.

What a fun day!  Over our years in south Texas, we have become enthusiastic fans of the classical music offered by the Valley Symphony Orchestra and mariachi music performed at the University of Texas Pan-American and several local high schools.  The Rio Grande Music Festival expands our list of opportunities for music enjoyment here in south Texas.