By MEL RHODES
MINGUS – Mingus, Texas, is a somewhat storied place, not so much a wide spot in the road as “the Watering Hole Capitol” of the state. Of course this is all unofficial and really just a way to say the town, historically, has been flush with bars. It has been said and seldom disputed that Mingus knows how to party.
There will be plenty of party spirit down that way Saturday as the Fourth Annual Mingus Music Festival and Chili Cook-off swings into action, bringing music, fun and good chili to a Labor Day weekend crowd. But there is “method” to this particular “madness,” as proceeds go to help maintain Tri-City EMS operations in the southern reaches of the area.
“As far as the chili cook-off, everything goes to Tri-City EMS,” said event organizer Melvin Curry. “I pay for the music festival out-of-pocket, but all the cook-off stuff – and I buy guitars to auction off for them – all that money goes straight to them. And if I ever make any money, they’ll get that too. We just haven’t made money yet.”
Once a two-day affair, this year the festival is limited to one day.
“We usually have bands on Friday and Saturday,” Curry said, “but this year we’re just having bands play on Saturday. Next year, if we get more sponsorship help, we might go back to two days. We’ll kind of play that by ear.”
Curry said 500-800 people have turned out for the homegrown festival, to date. Keep in mind Mingus’ population is about 258 souls.
“The first year or two we had like 150. The next year we had 200. Last year it looked like it was going to be real good – we still had a couple hundred people; but a bunch of them went [home] because we couldn’t have the cook-off – it poured for three days.”
Due to various considerations, the festival has been moved around on the calendar.
“When it first started it was like on the 15th of October,” he explained. “Ranch Bash came along and we were competing against it, and we didn’t want to do that. So we moved it to the end of September; that’s when it rained on us. This year we decided to move it to Labor Day.
Johnny Carino used to have one in Stephenville, but he sold his property and that doesn’t happen anymore. So we took the spot, and it works good for the chili cookers too.”
Curry hopes folks will turn out out for the festivities and to help Tri-City EMS, which serves an important role in the communities of southern Palo Pinto County.
“You know, the last few years, every time they turn around they keep taking more money out of that little ambulance service we have there,” Curry said concerning shrinking budgets. “If we had to wait on an ambulance service coming out of Mineral Wells, you might as well just chalk it up or take your chances and drive. That’s what started all of this. That’s the big deal here: we’re trying to raise money for that ambulance service we need.
“And we may start having more benefits, too,” he added. “I built a stage this year, and every year I accumulate more and more stuff so we can put it on cheaper.”
One Texas troubadour contacted by the Index Tuesday seemed stoked about performing at the Mingus venue.
“This will be my third year there,” William Clark Green said. “It’s definitely an experience one will not soon forget! Not likely.”
Green, five years into his music career, is from Flint, Texas, an unincorporated community south of Tyler.
“But I’ve been living in Eastland the past two years,” he said. “So I’m familiar with the area. I’m acquainted with Mingus.”
According to a press release on Green, “...he has a warm, weary voice and amicable songs that bridge the gap between twangy barroom and dusty Americana.”
Green self-described his music as “folk-rock,” naming Willis Allan Ramsey as his “all-time, absolute favorite” singer-songwriter.
“And of course there’s Lyle Lovett and Guy Clark, and the guys I play with... these are my favorites and influences.”
Green brings some industry juice to the table with three albums under his belt.
Again, citing the press release: “Earlier this month William’s single, ‘She Likes The Beatles,’ scored the #1 position on both Texas Music Chart and Texas Regional Radio Report – this marked WCG’s first #1 single! ‘Rose Queen’ [the third album] has been extremely well-received by critics and fans alike as it landed itself at #6 on Billboard’s Heatseekers Chart and #34 on the Billboard Country Chart in its first week.”
Other music acts joining Green at Saturday’s festival are Texas Exposure, Stagecoach, Cow Tippers, Shane Mallory, Charla Corn and the Kyle Bennett Band.
The festival and cook-off take place off State Highway 108 in Mingus and are open to the public. Gates open at noon on Friday. Events get underway at 9 a.m. Saturday. Tickets are $25 and include parking and camping. They may be purchased at the gate or online at www.mingusmusicfestival.com. Directions and complete event and scheduling information are also online.