Western Days festival brings on the country charm

Oct. 16, 2013 at 5:16 a.m.

Grab your six shooters.

Yorktown is traveling back to an era in which gunslingers ruled the streets and prospectors who panned for treasure had the nation sweating with gold fever.

The 55th annual street festival Western Days kicks off Thursday with the opening of the cantina and carnival and runs through Sunday. Entertainment ranges from mutton sheep rides for children under 50 pounds to a wide range of Texan performers showing off their country pipes.

Executive Director Tammy Bitterly said that music highlights the festival and that many are excited about old-time favorites returning to the festival.

San Antonio-based Cactus Country played the festival for more than 20 years before falling off the event's returning lineup.

"It's really grown, and we're looking forward to being back," said guitarist Tony Franckowiak.

Cactus Country got its start as a husband-and-wife team who played music for their Catholic church and quickly found themselves touring and performing with the likes of Rick Trevino, Grammy-award winner David Lee Garza and the Dixie Chicks before they became famous.

While country music finds itself being defined by niches - classic, old Nashville, new Nashville and, of course, Texan - Franckowiak said his band picks up references from all genres and keeps things fresh, especially at outdoor festivals such as Western Days.

"People are there to drink beer, relax and enjoy the music," he said. "We keep everything upbeat and moving."

Music for the festival begins Friday evening with a performance by Los Mismos, a Tejano band from DeWitt County, and Victoria native Jarrod Birmingham will close out the evening.

Birmingham, whose played the festival in the past, said he loves Western Days and cannot wait to play there this weekend.

"It's our three nights of the year to dance in the street," he said.

Birmingham said he plans to play an assortment of tunes at the event - highlighting the favorites people come to hear - but also road testing a few new numbers from his upcoming album that tells the journey of the last two years of life getting sober.

"It will be one of the more personal albums I've done," he said. "It tells the story of my sobriety, falling from grace and then getting back up."

The Scott Taylor Band, Cactus Country and Jack Ingram will perform Saturday, and Austin-based Rick Trevino will help shut down the festival Sunday night.



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