While our physical offices are closed until further notice in accordance with Austin's COVID-19 "stay home-work safe" order, the Handbook of Texas will remain available at no-cost for you, your fellow history enthusiasts, and all Texas students currently mandated to study from home. If you have the capacity to help us maintain our online Texas history resources during these uncertain times, please consider making a 100% tax-deductible contribution today. Thank you for your support of TSHA and Texas history. Donate Today »


Erinn Park

TEXAS NATURAL AND WESTERN SWING FESTIVAL. An annual festival celebrating Texas western swing music and culture, the Texas Natural and Western Swing Festival is held in San Marcos every third weekend in May. Western swing bandleader and founder of the Texas Western Swing Hall of Fame, Al Dressen, started the festival in Austin in 1988 as a way to celebrate the unique Texas-based musical genre known as western swing. At the beginning the festival was a month-long event called the Western Swing Hall of Fame Show, with performances held at the Paramount Theatre, the Austin Opry House, and other locations around the Capital City.

By the early 1990s the city of Austin no longer was helping fund the festival, so Dressen began negotiating with Kelly Franks at the city of San Marcos about relocating the event there. The Texas Western Swing Hall of Fame, the Main Street Program (a program designed to revitalize downtown San Marcos), and the city of San Marcos, agreed to move the festival to San Marcos in order to help increase local tourism and bring greater public attention to Texas history and culture.

Upon moving to San Marcos, the festival was shortened to a two-day event, taking place the third weekend of May each year. Festival-goers participate in a wide variety of activities that include live music, arts, crafts, food, a farmers’ market, children’s activities, and themed exhibitions. All vendors are allowed to use and sell only Texas-made products.

For some years the festival began on Friday nights at Texas State University’s Freeman Ranch outside of San Marcos with “The Gathering,” at which Hall of Fame members and inductees, along with their families and friends, gathered to socialize and play music. Saturday’s activities start around 9:30 A.M. at the courthouse square and continue into the night. On Saturday evening, the Texas Western Swing Hall of Fame hosts a concert, followed by a street dance. Several downtown venues near the courthouse square also host western swing acts. Sunday festivities include a cowboy gospel brunch and “Gathering” of music legends.

The Texas Western Swing Hall of Fame has inducted dozens of western swing musicians, including Bob Wills, Laura Lee McBride, Milton Brown, the Light Crust Doughboys, Floyd Tillman, Eldon Shamblin, Cindy Walker, Hank Thompson, Adolph Hofner, Al Stricklin, Leon Rausch, Smoky Dacus, Tommy Duncan, Herb Remington, Louise Rowe, Moon Mullican, Cotton Collins, Johnny Cuviello, Bob Dunn, Asleep at the Wheel, Hot Club of Cowtown, Tommy Allsup, Tiny Moore, Ted Daffan, Chris O’Connell, Johnny Gimble, Bob Boatright, Jimmie Grabowski, Floyd Domino, Paul Glasse, Maryann Price, Bert Rivera, Cindy Cashdollar, Rick McRae, Danny Levin, Tony Sepolio, Billy Bowman, and many more. A number of these artists also have performed at the festival.


Al Dressen, Interview by Erinn Park, April 30, 2008. San Marcos Mercury, May 3, 2015 (http://smmercury.com/2015/05/03/festival-to-bring-sounds-of-western-swing-to-downtown-san-marcos/), accessed August 27, 2015. Kelly Franks, Interview by Erinn Park, February 12, 2008. Swing on the Square (http://www.smtxswingfest.com/), accessed August 27, 2015. 

Image Use Disclaimer

All copyrighted materials included within the Handbook of Texas Online are in accordance with Title 17 U.S.C. Section 107 related to Copyright and “Fair Use” for Non-Profit educational institutions, which permits the Texas State Historical Association (TSHA), to utilize copyrighted materials to further scholarship, education, and inform the public. The TSHA makes every effort to conform to the principles of fair use and to comply with copyright law.

For more information go to: http://www.law.cornell.edu/uscode/17/107.shtml

If you wish to use copyrighted material from this site for purposes of your own that go beyond fair use, you must obtain permission from the copyright owner.


The following, adapted from the Chicago Manual of Style, 15th edition, is the preferred citation for this article.

Handbook of Texas Online, Erinn Park, "TEXAS NATURAL AND WESTERN SWING FESTIVAL," accessed July 03, 2020, http://www.tshaonline.org/handbook/online/articles/xft05.

Uploaded on March 18, 2015. Modified on August 27, 2015. Published by the Texas State Historical Association.
visit the mytsha forums to participate

View these posts and more when you register your free MyTSHA account.

Call for Papers: Texas Center for Working-Class Studies Events, Symposia, and Workshops
Hi all! You may be interested in this call for papers I received from the Texas Center for Working-Class Studies at Collin College...

Katy Jennings' Ride Scholarly Research Request
I'm doing research on Catherine Jennings Lockwood, specifically the incident known as "Katy Jennings' Ride." Her father was Gordon C. Jennings, the oldest man to die at the Alamo...

Texas Constitution of 1836 Co-Author- Elisha Pease? Ask a Historian
The TSHA profile of Elisha Marshall Pease states that he wrote part of the Texas Constitution although he was only a 24 year-old assistant secretary (not elected). I cannot find any other mention of this authorship work by Pease in other credible research about the credited Constution authors...