Special to the Review
The Athens Review
There was a time when swing was the most popular kind of music in America, and western swing was king in Texas.
The Texas Swing & Heritage Festival celebrates the art at Cain Center in Athens on Saturday. The Festival was founded in 2011 to promote Texas musicians and artists, while keeping alive the cultural heritage.
Director Michael Lenz and Festival officials want to see it become the premier festival showcasing unique and emerging Texas music and arts.
Highlights include the Heart of Texas Blues Challenge, which provides a springboard to the Blues Foundation International Blues Challenge, held annually in Memphis.
The Athens winner gets an expenses-paid trip to compete in the Austin Blues Society Heart of Texas finals in Austin.
Women are increasingly adept with the bow-in-hand, and will be spotlighted at the festival in the Swing Chick Fiddle Contest. They’ll hit the stage at 2 p.m.
Swing music is meant to be dance music. Winners of the Festival’s swing-dance competition will win custom-made Texas Hatters hats.
A barbecue cook-off will be held on the grounds. Awards will be presented to cookoff winners at 4 p.m.
The 2013 Festival will honor Al Dexter, a Jacksonville native who made it the Nashville Songwriters Hall of Fame in 1971 and the Texas Country Music Hall of Fame in 2010.
Dexter rolled out 12 Number-1 songs in the early 1940s, the best known of which is “Pistol Packin’ Mama,” a turn covered by many artists, including Bing Crosby and the Andrews Sisters. Dexter died in 1984.
Here’s the festival’s slate of events:
• Swing Stage
– 10 a.m. - Elizabeth McQueen
– Noon - Swinging on the Lone Star dance competition with Shoot Low Sheriff
– 2 p.m. - Texas Swing Chick fiddle competition
– 4 p.m. - Magic of Swing Hour with Paul Anastasio
– 7 p.m. - Tribute to Al Dexter; Lone Star Swing.
Ends at 8:30 p.m. - Bordertown Bootleggers.
• Blues Stage Admission is $35 and VIP tickets are $150. The VIP ticket offers an all-access experience.
– 10 a.m. to 4 p.m. - Heart of Texas Blues Challenge
– 5 p.m. - JT Coldfire
• Heritage Stage
– 10 a.m. - Valerie O’Brien presents the Bluebonnet Belles
– Noon - Beyond the Pale
– 2 p.m. - Deadman
– 5 p.m. - Good Girls with Bad Intentions.