This Sunday in Weslaco could be the start of a new conjunto tradition in the Valley.
Earlier this year, Lonnie Gonzales went to the Manny and Rick Tamez — the new owners of The Horseman's Bar & Grill — to share an idea he had.
"There is a big conjunto fanbase here in the Valley but they don't have a conjunto festival here (in this area)," said Lonnie Gonzales, vocalist and bajo-sexto player of Los Badd Boyz Del Valle. "So these people get to hear about the (Tejano) Conjunto Festival in San Antonio. They see the fliers on Facebook and they don't get to go cause it's expensive and it's far."
Lonnie thought it would be neat to create a local version of that festival down here in the Valley. Both Manny and Rick agreed with Lonnie, and decided to move forward with the project. RGV Conjuntofest 2013 was born.
"It started off small but now it's looking to be really, really good man," Lonnie explained.
The acts that are currently scheduled to be performing at this new festival include the Tejano Boys (Brownsville), Conjunto Prestigio (Dallas), Crystal N' Crew (Houston), Mando y La Venganza (Corpus Christi), Ruben Vela Jr. (Santa Rosa), Los Badd Boyz Del Valle (Edcouch-Elsa), and Boni Mauricio (Corpus Christi). The last four acts listed are also part of this weekend's Tejano Conjunto Festival in San Antonio. The way Galax Z Fair brought a piece of SXSW to McAllen, Lonnie has succeeded in bringing in a bit of the TCF to Weslaco.
To those unfamiliar with the headliner, Boni Mauricio was an inductee into the "Tejano Roots" Hall of Fame in 2011. He's one of the most popular and respected musicians on the conjunto circuit. Los Badd Boyz Del Valle have also earned their reputation as being one of the finest conjuntos around. In 2012, they were awarded the "Conjunto of the Year" prize from the South Texas Conjunto Association.
"(I'm going) to support all conjuntos and keep the music alive," said Maria Ortiz Almaraz, a conjunto fan who's planning on attending RGV Conjuntofest. "The memories I have of my aunts and uncles, listening and dancing to this wonderful music and introducing it to me. (Now I'm) making those same happy memories with my family."
Conjunto music has been kept alive by people like Maria. It's a part of their tradition, something that they will be pass on from generation to generation.
"Some of (these conjunto) bands don't have enough airplay," Lonnie said. "Our music is not mainstream, (but) it's our culture. We play for the people at quinceañeras, weddings and festivals. That's how we keep it alive."
There is something to be said about the resiliency of conjunto music. While other styles have suffered through lack of radio support, conjunto has remained strong after 80 plus years. Like Cajun music in Louisiana, conjunto has become a significant part of our cultural identity in South Texas. So if you want to experience what conjunto music feels like first hand, this festival on Sunday is your opportunity to do so.
RGV Conjuntofest will take place on Sunday, from 3:00 PM to 10:00 PM. The bands will perform in indoor and outdoor stages. The cover charge will be $10.00 at the door, but kids under ten years of age get in free. For more information, please call 956-463-7223 or visit https://www.facebook.com/TheNewHorsemansGrillSaloon.