The Old Settler’s Music Festival will move to a new site starting with the April 19-22, 2018 festival. The 30-year-old organization was surprised and disappointed to receive a letter on Aug. 8 from Scott Roberts, owner of the Salt Lick Barbecue Pavilion in Driftwood, informing the board that the property would not host the festival in 2018. The festival has been held on that site and the accompanying Camp Ben McCulloch since 2002.
Organizers had planned to stage one last, celebratory festival at the Salt Lick Pavilion site in 2018, honoring Mr. Roberts, the Salt Lick and everyone involved and giving fans a chance to bid farewell to the popular spot while the festival’s new home in Lockhart was prepared for a 2019 unveiling. Roberts said in his letter that his decision was based on changing use of the surrounding property and concern about alienating his new neighbors.
“We have enjoyed our 15-year association with the Salt Lick, throughout the years introducing over 220,000 people throughout Texas and the world to the Salt Lick’s delicious barbecue. They have been very generous over the years, as have the officials and people of Hays county,” said festival executive director Jean Spivey.
In June, the iconic festival took an important step to ensure its future by finalizing the purchase of 145 acres in Dale, Texas, a small community nestled in Caldwell County just 20 minutes east of Lockhart and less than an hour from downtown Austin. This will be its third site; Old Settler’s began as a small bluegrass event at Old Settler’s Park in Round Rock, from which it took its name. It has since grown to a nationally renowned four-day, family-friendly event attracting 16,000 roots-music lovers annually, which celebrated its 30th birthday this spring with a stellar lineup including Sarah Jarosz, Los Lobos, Old 97’s, Shakey Graves, Sam Bush, Leftover Salmon and many others.
“While we really wanted another year to prepare the property, we are excited to have found a permanent home for the festival,” Spivey said. “Festivalgoers should continue to expect great lineups, an intimate, but more breathable atmosphere, and all the hallmarks of a well-run event.”
The new site doubles the festival’s space and allows for numerous improvements, while maintaining the previous site’s boutique feel. An expanded Kids’ Village, more room for eclectic food offerings, elimination of the need for satellite parking and shuttles, more camping space and other amenities will be available at the new location. The festival plans a careful, slow process of growing into the property, building a one-of-a-kind enclave that captures the cherished soul of Old Settler’s.
“Based on feedback — especially from the last two years — the board members had come to the conclusion that Old Settler’s had outgrown the space available at Salt Lick and Camp Ben. Given the Salt Lick’s decision, we’re really glad we purchased this property when we did,” said Old Settler’s board president Johnny Harvey. “The purchase will allow Old Settler’s to design and develop a festival site and camping-oriented facility that will soon be known as one of the premier event locations in Texas.”
As No Depression magazine observed, “Old Settler’s is what a festival should be: simple, properly sized, stocked with excellent bands, and held in an environment where it is nearly impossible not to enjoy yourself.”
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