GALAX, Va. — Didn’t get enough of Steep Canyon Rangers or Blue Highway at MerleFest 2015? Well, you’re in luck because both bluegrass bands are back in the Piedmont on May 1-2, this time performing at the fifth annual HoustonFest along with Marty Stuart, Doyle Lawson & Quicksilver, Sierra Hull and The Church Sisters, among others.
Now, more than 85 years later, some of Nashville’s top recording artists have hit the studio with Grammy Award-winning producer Carl Jackson and veteran songwriter Rusty Morrell to capture the magic of those songs. With support from the Virginia Tourism Corporation, Tennessee Department of Tourist Development, Bristol Convention and Visitors Bureau, and the Birthplace of Country Music, the album was created and produced throughout 2014 and early 2015.
Galax has long been known for making furniture as the home of Vaughan-Bassett Furniture Co. (and the soon-to-be subject of an HBO mini-series starring Tom Hanks), but it’s also the home of the historic Rex Theatre and the annual Galax Fiddlers Convention.
Similar to its much larger cousins MerleFest and Memorial Day weekend’s RoosterWalk, HoustonFest is a memorial to Houston Caldwell, an 18-year-old banjo prodigy, died in a motorcycle crash in 2010. According to the website, “his musical legacy, passion for the continued growth of our musical heritage and his spirit of community service will live on as we continue to fulfill his vision. Join us as we use the power of music and community service to transform lives as well as provide inspiration and avenues for regional youth to pursue their artistic endeavors preserving the musical heritage of this region.”
Festival proceeds go to the Galax Volunteer Fire Department with discretionary contribution to be made to local youth music education programs, according to organizers, who say, “Artists in Galax and surrounding communities are often referred to as a “family” of musicians, and they are always ready and willing to gather in support when one of their own is in need.”
Regional tourism organization Blue Ridge Travel Association of Virginia (BRTA) selected HoustonFest 2011 as the Best New Event of the Year.
The festival features camping and food vendors as well as nonprofits and local artisans at the festival selling their products and demonstrating the arts and crafts of this region. There is also a special area designated as Camp Houston dedicated to youth music, workshops and jam sessions, among other activities focusing on continuing the musical tradition of the region.