To showcase the culture and lifestyle of the region, some folks in far West Texas decided to start a new bluegrass association. Part of that involved firing up a new fest.
Now that the second year of the two-day Big Bend Bluegrass Festival has successfully come and gone, organizers are looking forward to year three of what will hopefully become a flagship bluegrass event of the region. The most critical of those organizers is Cyndi Perdue, a musician with a lot of heart invested in this event.
“My relationship with this festival goes back many, many years,” Perdue explained. “My family and I played and performed bluegrass. My dad started a small festival in Wickett, Texas, because he loved the music and wanted others to experience the same. He held the festival for many years and passed shortly after the 19th year. Dad had wanted to see the festival have a life of at least 20 years.”
Perdue said she and her mother decided to keep that event going in his memory and were able to do so for two more years “until Covid shut everything down.”
“I moved to Alpine, Texas, during that time, and you can say that the Big Bend Bluegrass Festival is a spin-off of my dad’s festival in Wickett,” she said. “I formed the Big Bend Bluegrass Association and haven’t looked back.”
As a 501C3 charity, the association and its fest are tasked with perpetuating the bluegrass genre.
This is in an effort to preserve bluegrass music while introducing bluegrass to new audiences and working to grow the interest in the genre in far West Texas,” Perdue said.
In those parts, Perdue said there is no lack of talent. She mentions performers hailing from that region, such as Lynn Morris and banjo player Alan Munde. She also notes Joe Carr, who “had a music store in Levelland, Texas, that I visited now and then. I bought some of Joe’s books and CDs to teach myself mandolin and guitar.”
At first, she wasn’t too interested in making that music a big part of her life, but it just…happened.
“Playing bass in a band was not something I dreamed of doing,” she recalled. “I wasn’t real crazy about being in front of people. My parents came to me once asking if I would play bass for their band since the bass player they had quit. I said, nah…not interested.”
About a month later, they asked again…only the asking had turned to begging.
Okay, she said. Okay.
“I took three lessons. I was put on stage, and the rest is history,” she said. “We initially played for country dances but migrated into the bluegrass/gospel scene. You can say that I’ve played music my entire life, starting out with piano, school band, and then our family band.”
After losing her dad, she said she hasn’t played or performed much. “When I moved to Alpine, I had the opportunity to start playing again and saw an opportunity to rekindle the bluegrass festival scene. Playing and performing bluegrass has been one of the best things I have done! It brought our family closer and eventually boosted my self-confidence.”
Perdue said one of the reasons she wants to be a part of keeping the genre alive is she had worried it might be waning.
“When I was younger, bluegrass was being played much more than it is today in our region,” she explained. “I would like to see bluegrass grow more and thrive in my immediate and surrounding areas, which is what we are working hard to do!”
Even with the inaugural event, Perdue could already see that her work was making a difference.
“For the first year, it was surprising to see a younger group in attendance, which is awesome,” she said, describing the first year as “a breeze.”
For the second year this past October, they homed in even more on promoting and raising volunteer involvement. Both years, the performers were well-received, and the fest will continue to include local talent in the lineup. Perdue said they will look at “rotating” bands/acts yearly “to keep the lineup from getting stale.” She also said they “want to showcase young groups to get them exposure.”
Now is a good time to mark calendars and plan transportation and lodging for the next Big Bend Bluegrass Festival on October 4 and 5, 2024. The event is held indoors, where various artists performing at the fest also host free songwriting, guitar, fiddle, and mandolin workshops. Perdue said it is simply two days of “jamming, food and fun.”
“There are several lodging facilities, Air BNB rentals, and RV campgrounds in Alpine and the surrounding area,” Perdue said. “Our area boasts the Big Bend National Park and many other outdoor activities to do while you are here to participate in the festival. Downtown has several art galleries and shops to visit, too.”
Once all is said and done, Perdue spearheads this labor of love because it sounds like she … well …LOVES everything about the traditional ways of bluegrass and its people.
“Bluegrass fans are different and fiercely loyal in their following,” she said. “Friendliest people one can meet! You become part of a tight-knit community, and they all know who you are. They do have old-time or traditional values, and it is refreshing to see and experience.”