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Lewisville Celebrates 50th Anniversary of a Lesser Known Rock Festival During the Summer of ’69

When you think about it, the first modern music festival most likely occurred during the Summer of 1969, just 43 miles outside of Woodstock, New York. Though not the first of its kind, the festival has obtained near mythic status in the now time-honored tradition of watching music in the mud and no doubt played some role in inspiring the Coachellas and Bonnaroos and Gatherings of the Juggalos that have sprouted since. But as it turns out, Lewisville got its first taste of the festival life sooner than the small-town vibes the city gives off would lead one to believe.

The Texas International Pop Festival was held two weeks after Woodstock at the former Dallas International Motor Speedway, and it featured the likes of Janis Joplin, Led Zeppelin and B.B. King over the course of three days. Now in commemoration of its 50th anniversary, the festival will make its long-awaited return to Lewisville for two nights, on Aug. 31 and Sept. 1, at Lewisville Lake Park. More than one of the artists will be making their second appearance at the festival, and one of the headliners, ZZ Top, is in the midst of celebrating its own 50th anniversary.

“We’re pretty excited. We’ve actually tried to get ZZ Top for our Western Days events and stuff like that, and scheduling, logistics, one reason or another it hadn’t worked out,” says Matt Martucci, public information coordinator for the City of Lewisville’s department of Community Relations and Tourism. “It’s one of those things where you know the stars align just right, and we got ZZ Top.”

Also high on their list of gets for Texas Pop Turns 50, the official name of the anniversary concert, was the legendary rock band Chicago, who performed at the first Texas International Pop Festival back when they were still known as The Chicago Transit Authority. The band will be joined by Edgar Winter, whose brother, blues guitarist Johnny Winter, also played on the original 1969 bill. Martucci says that putting on the event has been challenging for the small City of Lewisville staff, but they’re expecting the hard work will be well worth it in the end.

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Their optimism is a far cry from how the City of Lewisville felt about the festival in 1969. Then-Mayor of Lewisville Sam Houston was quoted by a Dallas Morning News music critic in 1989 saying that he'd wished the event had never occurred, and that "It certainly caused me nothing but misery and everybody in Lewisville nothing but misery.” Oh, what a difference half a century makes. Martucci says the impending anniversary date was ultimately the deciding factor in holding the commemorative concert.

“Several years back, there was a historic marker dedicated out at the site where the original concert stage was," Martucci says. "But as far as doing any kind of musical acts or re-creation, this is the first time we’re doing this scale of an event. Fifty years is a big milestone for something.”

As they say, time heals all wounds. In 2011, a historical marker was added to the Hebron stop of ZZ Top’s debut performance. The upcoming show is adding the likes of Sarah Jaffe and Grand Funk Railroad, and it looks like this might be the most exciting event taking place that weekend — or ever — in Lewisville. 

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