TYLER, Texas — Central Texas is the home of BBQ — even here in East Texas.
For the second straight year, some of the best in Texas BBQ will gather with some of the best in red dirt country music in Tyler’s town square, bringing together three things organizers of the Red Dirt BBQ & Music Festival say belong together… BBQ, beer and country music on Saturday, May 2.
“We sold out the festival last year and sadly had to turn people away at the gate. We expanded the number of tickets for this year and still sold out the event. VIP tickets for this year were gone in just two days. It’s going to be huge,” said Chase Colston, a native of Tyler who now lives downtown and works for Townsquare Media, which owns nearly a dozen East Texas radio stations.
It was Colston’s vision that helped create what has quickly become the largest single event in Tyler. With just a few square blocks of space available, organizers packed in 15 BBQ tasting tents, plus smokers and a few classic cars to boot at last year’s event. Just a few steps away from the BBQ tents was a full-scale concert stage, where hometown favorites Whiskey Myers hit the stage just before Texas country music sensation Randy Rogers Band closed out the show in front of more than three thousand people, most of whom came early and stayed late.
“Things like Tyler Rose Festival have been around a long time. But looking at that many people in one place for one event, we have to call it biggest event Tyler’s ever seen,” said Colston. “It’s really cool. It’s also humbling.”
This year’s Red Dirt Fest features 18 Texas BBQ joints, hand-picked by the festival’s organizers. Eight of those are from Central Texas — by far the most from any region of the state represented at this weekend’s event.
Lockhart staples Black’s and Kreuz Market will be there, as will Taylor’s hometown favorite Louie Mueller Barbecue. Austin’s Freedmen’s Bar, helmed by pitmasters Evan LeRoy and Chris McGhee, will join food truck-turned restaurant Stiles Switch BBQ and Brew, which recently made Texas Monthly’s prestigious Top 50 list.
Bee Cave’s Schmidt Family Barbecue, Hays County Bar-B-Que from San Marcos and Opie’s BBQ from Spicewood will also make the trip to Tyler this weekend.
Colston said that the massive success of last year’s inaugural event allowed organizers to plan for a larger crowd this year, expanding ticket sales and facilities to meet the needs of a larger crowd. The public answered, buying up all the tickets for this year’s event in a matter of weeks after they went on sale in March, including 1,000 concert-only tickets to the evening entertainment which opens with South Austin favorites Uncle Lucius and Texas rock-n-rollers The Bigsbys.
A native of Leander, Texas, Kyle Park is fast-becoming a big name on the Texas country music scene. This weekend, Park will take the stage ahead of Texas native and Oklahoma-based red dirt country artist Stoney LaRue and the Lubbock-based headliner, Josh Abbott Band.