Buy your tickets early. Arcadia Theatre, Kerrville. Photo by David Johnson

Music, they say, is balm for the soul. And since it seems our souls are in need of some healing after the few years we’ve had, not to mention the tumultuous year unfolding as we write these words, we figured now was as good a time as any to celebrate the upcoming music festival season.

Most of our life experience teaches us to protect our hearts and distrust words that are thrown at us. But at the festival, one receives gentle nudges through songs and camp dynamics within a space that allows our vigilant defenses to relax. An openness curls into our souls like smoke, and we find the doors to our own creativity thrown wide-open. Love for creative expression, love for one another, and a spirit of hope are set free. From this sprang the notion “it can be this way always.”

The Kerrville Folk Festival, which turns 50 this year, is captured in all its “rustic” glory in a new book of photography by David Johnson, out this month at University of Texas Press. The Kerrville Folk Festival community is resilient, and fragile. It is ideal, and flawed. It is hot, dusty, rustic and sacred. It is our chosen family. The phrase “it can be this way always” springs from idealism on Day 1 and degrades into wry cynicism by Day 18. Even so, when it is time to leave the ranch, there are always tears and hugs, life lessons, love and a sense of community that festival goers carry away from the ranch and out into the world. And we are compelled to return each year and be renewed.

“We washed and drank in God’s tears of joy, And for once … and for everyone … the truth was not a mystery. Love called to all … music is magic.”

It was Woodstock Festival that Jimi Hendrix was trying to capture when he wrote the above words, now collected along with his other poems in “Cherokee Mist: The Lost Writings.” But given his subject, we’d venture to say that the magic was as much about the community that Woodstock gathered, and that the festival was as potent a force as the music itself. 

Now, if it’s magic you’re after, then here’s a lineup of some of the longest-running heritage music festivals around the state with help from the Texas Music Office.

4/1 - 4/3, Llano Fiddle Fest (38 years), Llano
5/7 - 5/8, Pecan Street Spring Festival (47 years), Austin
5/14, The Big Squeeze (16 years, the baby of the bunch!), Austin
5/16 - 5/22, Tejano Conjunto Festival (40 years), San Antonio
5/27 - 5/28, Athens Old Fiddlers Contest and Reunion (91 years), Athens
6/11, Kolache-Klobase Festival (31 years), East Bernard
6/23 - 6/26, Luling Watermelon Thump (69 years), Luling 
10/8, Guadalupe County Fair Fiddlers Contest (139 years), Seguin
10/20 - 10/22, Elgin Hogeye Festival (34 years), Elgin
November, Accordion Kings and Queens (32 years), Houston

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