Two years ago the mayor of Athens declared May to be Texas Swing Month. Since that time, the Swing Festival has expanded each year, and the month of May 2013 offers a full line up of activities. This heritage festival, based on the fiddling tradition for which Athens is well known, is being nurtured through community involvement. “We are partnering this year with the Humane Society to heighten awareness for their cause,” said festival promoter Michael Lenz. “It is our goal to involve the community as we strive to preserve and carry on the rich musical history of our city,” Lenz added.
Several related events are planned for the month of May. On May 4th there will be a fundraiser at the Henderson County Performing Arts Center. The spotlight will be on local fiddle players and swing dance. That same day there will be live swing music at the local Farmer’s Market.
On May 11th, a kick-off fundraiser will take place at the Roellen Ranch. The $50 General Admission ticket price will include a performance by The Marshall Ford Swing Band, barbecue and local beer and wine. Ruby Jane will perform for the VIP party which will feature heavy hors d’ oeuvres by Chef Justin Boswell of Railway Cafe. VIP tickets are limited and are $150. Tickets may be purchased by contacting903.677.4247 or through the local Human Society.
On May 25th, Tara Winery will host a barn dance. This will likely be developed into a monthly event. Those who wish to polish up their dance moves should contact Lenz for information regarding dance lessons.
“We have become so separate in our daily lives, this is a way to come together to learn about the history of our town and to work together to build a future,” Lenz said. “We have chosen not to pursue corporate sponsorship. I feel very strongly that it is the involvement of the community that will make this have real meaning,” he added. “We are depending on the success of the fundraising events we have scheduled in May to allow us to present a bigger, better festival in the fall.
” The culminating event of the month will be the Old Fiddlers Reunion at the end of May, which will be held according to tradition on the square in downtown Athens.
The Texas Swing Festival will take place this year on October 19th at the Cain Center. This one-day festival has been organized upon five pillars. There will be a dance competition designed and promoted by Joel Gamage, fourth generation hatmaker from Texas Hatters, who is known as “the dancing king of Texas.” Harkening back to the old days of Fiddlers, there will be a lecture series on agriculture development, featuring up-to-date topics such as organic farming and innovative livestock feeding methods. New to the festival this year will be Cowboy Poetry. This aspect of the festival will be hosted by the Gillette Brothers and will include poetry, cowboy history, and a chuckwagon. Also included in the festivities will be a fiddle competition and a musical masters series which will offer classes on several different instruments. The musical line-up for that day includes: Warren Hood and the Goods, Marshal Ford Swing Band, Ruby Jane, The Jitterbug Vipers, the Bordertown Bootleggers, and the Gillette Brothers. General admission tickets for the Swing Festival will be $25, with entry fees being charged for individual competitions.
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