Texas Culture Bash '96

In I'll Take Texas, Mary Lasswell wrote, "I am forced to conclude that God made Texas on his day off, for pure entertainment, just to prove what diversity could be crammed into one section of earth by a really top hand." Nobody knows this better than the staff of Texas Folklife Resources (TFR). For 11 years, the private, non-profit organization has recorded, researched, presented, and illuminated all sorts of traditional Texan cultures from every nook and cranny of the state.

Lately, the offices of TFR are crammed even more than usual with cultural artifacts and curios. The Thai xylophone, Amazonian urn, Mexican candelabra, and many other items that make what otherwise might have been a doctor's office into a cross between a museum and grandma's attic, will be auctioned off Saturday as part of the "Texas Culture Bash (TCB)," TFR's combination fundraiser/clearance sale/party going on this weekend.

The TCB is about celebrating what makes us Texans, all the diversity that God crammed into the Lone Star State. There's a saying that when God made Texas, he forgot to paint half of it. He was probably too busy trying to cram all this culture into it. Think about trying to do that in three days.

The bash kicks off Friday, September 20 at La Zona Rosa with "The Language of Tradition," where a variety of Texan and honorary Texan writers will be presenting readings. Look for Sarah Bird and Dagoberto Gilb as well as Pulitzer Prize-winning author E. Annie Proulx (Shipping Days), who will be reading from her new novel Accordion Crimes. Interspersed with the readings will be live performances from a few accordion kings, Ponty Bone and Mingo Saldivar, 6-9pm. The show is free.

Saturday, September 21, at Laguna Gloria is the silent auction and folk art party. Besides emptying their offices of the aforementioned items, TFR will host a Texas-style barbecue for its annual main fundraising function. Look for Veracruzan harpist Gonzalo Mata to supply the sounds for the evening. Tickets are $20 for general admission or $32 for reserved and cover your admission for Sunday's show. They can be purchased through AusTix (499-TIXS) and TFR (320-0022).

Sunday, September 22 the big shebang goes all day at Laguna Gloria (noon-10pm, $5). This one's got it all: traditional Texas folkcraft including stonecutting, horseshoeing, trick roping, cascarones-making, quilting, and woodcarving; a children's area with games, crafts, workshops, and demonstrations; the "Language of Tradition" stage featuring readings by several noted Texas writers and storytellers including Don Graham, Marion Winik, Jan Reid, Mia Carter, and Joe Holley; a folk-art marketplace with all kinds of stuff for sale; and more music than hell has sinners.

"We just get up there and play what we've been playing all our lives." That's what Texas fiddle legend and TFR veteran Johnny Gimble and his band Texas Swing plan to do Sunday; they will be joined by a host of musicians representing every possible permutation of Texas music. There will be zydeco from Houston's Sam Brothers, blues from Houston stalwarts Carol Fran & Clarence Holliman, gospel from San Antonio's a capella fivesome Atonement, the Derailers' cheerful retro-country, Western swing royalty the Light Crust Doughboys, Chinese jinghu (a two-string cousin to the violin) player Zongti Lin, more accordion fun from the Vrazels Polka Band, a children's show from Tish Hinojosa, and the conjunto stylings of San Antonio accordion princess Eva Ybarra y su Conjunto, who is plenty familiar with traditions.

"What Texas Folklife likes about me is that I make the accordion sound a little bit different," she says. "Scales, chromatic scales, runs, and I also play with chords and inversions, that's my style. I stay within the traditional style, but it's a little bit different. For them I think that's important."

The importance of traditions, both old and new, will be on display courtesy of TFR all weekend. It all fits the words of Robert Ruark, who said "Texan is what you are, not what you were or might be." -- Chistopher Gray

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