|Tommy Alverson's Family Gathering||Texas Outside Home Page|
What makes Tommy Alverson's Family Gathering Music Festival one of the best music festivals in Texas is that like it's name, this fantastic 4 day music event feels just like a family gathering where all the family get along and have a lot in common - a love for Tommy Alverson, camping, country music, cold beer, friends, and good times. Tommy's Family Gathering is an opportunity to greet friends you met at Tommy's previous festivals and to make new friends who may be attending this year for the first time. You'll see lots of hugging, high fiving, kissing, back slapping, two stepping, toasting, knuckle knocking, and warm smiles as fans reacquaint with good friends, someone they met last year, or a new face sitting next to them. Everyone gets along and goes out of their way to be friendly. As Amos Staggs said, "it takes a whole lot of work to make this event happen, but a lot of love to make it fun - and it's a blast!"
The Family Gathering attracts an older more serious group of music fans - with few to no rowdy drunken kids gabbing to their crew or talking on cell phones. That's not to say this is a quiet, sober, bunch, cuz that's not the case. Everyone is here for the music and the good times and it starts at noon and continues until just before dawn for four days! One of the other good things about this festival is that Tommy keeps it small and intimate with around 2600 to 3800 music fans - half of which you'll probably get to know after your second or third time at the Gathering. This year was Tommy's 14th Family Gathering and there are several fans and musicians who haven't missed a year! This was our sixth year and they just seem to be getting better! I do find that after three days of music, beer drinking, dancing, socializing, and all sorts of fun, I sleep in later each morning, maybe doze off in my chair for 5 minutes, can't make it past 2:30 AM, and need a week to recover after the festival - but it's worth it. .
This year, the music started on Wednesday night (officially this is a few hours of sound checks) with whoever is there and would like to play. On Thursday, Friday, and Saturday, the music kicks off at 12 and typically continues until after midnight. And then continues around the campfires with no fires thanks to a burn ban! The campfires are a blast with some excellent pickers and singer songwriters and you'll typically see some of the main stage artists around the campfires.
Check out this lineup of 40 of some of the best Texas Singer Songwriters who played at Tommy Alverson's 14th Annual Family Gathering:
Each year at Tommy Alverson's Family Gathering there is usually something that you'll remember for years, typically for me it has been Tommy's set with a huge talented band, his free loving spirit, and all the fellow musicians who join his set for a few songs or pickin' and playin'.
But Tommy, I'm sorry to say, that the something special and unique and magical this year was Walt Wilkens and The Mystiqueros set. Wow. Walt has assembled a very talented group of singers, songwriters, and musicians to form The Mystiqueros and they entertained us for at least three hours. Tommy's picking and singing contributed to making this one of the best sets ever.
Some of the other highlights from this year's Tommy Alverson Family Gathering included::
From my perspective, it doesn't get much better than:
The 14th annual Tommy Alverson Family Gathering may have been defined by the "battle of the big bands." Walt Wilkens' started his with his band of 8 very talented musicians and singers plus honorary member Tommy Alverson. The Mystiqueros members grew to over 13 when Owen Temple, Mike Blakely, and some others joined Walt for a couple songs. But Cornell Hurd broke Walt's record with 9 band members and Tommy made it 10! And then Tommy and his band set a new record with 11 including 3 fiddlers, a bongo player, and anybody else, including Dale Watson, who wanted to join him for a song or two.
In addition to the big bands, little bands, and acoustic music, part of what makes Tommy's Family Gathering fun are the fans. This is a true family gathering with young and up and coming music affiianotos,
some old timmers and inbetweeners, a few family dogs enjoying the show, some wierd outfits and hats, and even a biker.
There is lots of dancing with people you know and love or somebody you just met and want to take for a twirll or maybe your best friend,
and there is always plenty of drinking, singing along with the bands, and cheering for the excellent music from your lawn chair or up near the stage or on daddys shoulders
fans seeking autographs and musicians hob knobbing with their fans who love them
which was enjoyed by the fans as much as the musicians
Most of the above pictures are thanks to Tara Bone - you can find her and lots more pictures from the festival on her Facebook page.
For the last three years, Tommy Alverson's Family Gathering has been held at Loyd Park on Joe Pool Lake in Grand Prairie. Tommy's fans take over the entire park and the campsites are typically sold out within a couple days after he announces the festival dates. Loyd Park is a fantastic park with excellent sites, cabins, boat ramp, hiking/biking trails, and more. A perfect place for the Family Gathering - and Tommy told me that he found it on Texas Outside! Read our review of Loyd Park to learn more. And there is always some music to be found somewhere in the campground from after breakfast to just before sunrise.
A shuttle, typically pick up trucks towing trailers with hay bales, runs from the time the music starts until it ends to get fans back and forth to their campsite. The shuttles are a friendly, lively, and a fun ride, especially when everyone has had a few drinks - another great way to meet fellow music fans. One shuttle is particularly popular thanks to bench seats, including two tractor seats in the rear and a strippers pole with a water sprinkling system for wet tee shirt contests. And it's lit up like a Christmas tree.
This festival could never happen if it weren't for Tommy's heroic efforts and the fantastic staff of helpers and volunteers. Walt Wilkens said it best, "from the time we arrive to the time we leave they make us feel like the kings that we aren't." This event wouldn't be as fun, clean, well organized, or on schedule it if weren't for the volunteers and staff that include the ticket takers at the entrance, the stage hands efficiently lugging all that heavy gear on and off the stage, the cleaning crew that makes the next morning look like the previous night never happened, the excellent sound crew, the merch booth group, the MC that keeps this event running on schedule, and lots more. Thank you very much!
A very special thanks go to Gary and Charlene Newell (executive and assistant director), Joe Dye who has responsibility for the vendors, merchandise manager Karen Staton, Dirt Stinnett and Gary Davis (production), and James Mills who does a superb job as MC. And we'd also like to thank all of the sponsors who contribute to making this one of the best Texas music festivals.
And the biggest thanks of all go to Tommy Alverson for making this happen for 14 years. Throughout the festival, you'll see Tommy everywhere you go - mingling with the fans, driving around checking things out in a golf cart, sharing a beer with a fellow musician or fan, sitting in the sponsors area or a corner of the stage enjoying the music, singing around the campfires, picking or harmonizing on stage with most of the artists, and from his position above the stage making sure that everything is going as planned and the musicians are playing their best for his fans!
As I mentioned, Joe Dye has responsibility for the vendors who ensure that we don't go hungry, can buy a hat to keep the sun out of our eyes, get a massage to work out the kinks from dancing, or take home a souvenir. For food you'll have several choices from corny dogs to BBQ to burgers or fajitas. One of the highlights for us each year is Katies Cafe that serves the best french fries and patty melts in Texas, as well as a darn good burger. But man can not survive on beef along, and Gino's Fired Up Kitchen serves some fantastic pizza that is baked fresh in an authentic wood oven - you'll want a couple of these. New this year was Lockhart BBQ who in conjunction with Lone Star beer opened a cantina in front of the stage. They sold some good BBQ brisket and sausage and served hard liquor, cold Lone Star, and margaritas plus they set up an exclusive Cantina area in front of the stage with picnic tables where you could sip your drinks, devour the BBQ, and get up close to the musicians.
In addition to great music, there is a typically a golf tournament the day before the festival and a sanctioned chili cookoff during the festival with the award winners announced on Saturday afternoon.
Can't wait for next year! Hope to see you there.