It’s the first weekend of the Armadillo Christmas Bazaar 2018. Y’all oughta go — ‘cuz I can’t and boy, do I miss it. It’s like a reunion of old friends rather than just family, with plenty of arts & crafts, food & drink, and some of the best live music imaginable, open 11am-10pm daily from now until Christmas Eve.
When we still lived in Austin, the holiday season officially kicked off for me with opening day and the opportunity to see folks like my old Nothing Strikes Back and Texas Renaissance Festival boss, Coop Cooper, and Cheryl Elms, maker of my sheepskin cap, as well as many other vendor and staff friends made through the years.
Growing out of the legendary Armadillo World Headquarters’ struggles in the winter months, the first Armadillo Christmas Bazaar offered artists and craftspeople an inside market to compliment the People’s Renaissance Market, the open-air market down on the Drag by UT. Though the bazaar struggled a bit in those first years, it would end up surviving the demise of the Armadillo in 1980.
That’s when I started chronicling the event with an annual ACTV program shot, edited and cablecast within the first week each year. Assisted by my old friend, Ann Wood, I touted it as the slowest moving series on TV with only 1 episode a year.
from the 1st post-AWHQ Christmas Bazaar — and my 1st ACTV video program
These were never the best quality video or audio — but since I did not disrupt things with extra lights or microphones or cables, I was welcomed and allowed free access. Warm, low lighting was the norm, making for some horribly-lit video images, and crowd noise obscured some of the great music we captured there. As Bruce Willenzik, official Bazaar Czar for years, once commented later, “Some of the production quality was really for shit, but the historical document value…”
Those old videos now live on YouTube, both in short clips — especially musical guests such as Bobby Bridger, Steve Fromholz, Butch Hancock, and so many others — and entire programs, split into parts to fit YouTube’s requirements at the time.
The Dillo Bazaar outlasted my video series as well as its several transitory homes in the 90’s and early aughts until it landed a permanent spot on the Palmer Event Center calendar. I did go there and shoot some videos from 2008-2010, even posting a new clip daily in 2009. About that time, Bruce officially handed over the reins to another generation — literally. Some of the folks running the show grew up in the Dillo Bazaar aisles as kids of vendors and staff.
So, like I already said, y’all oughta go down there. In addition to all the marvelous arts and crafts available, the music really cannot be beat. They host great music 3 times a day, with a comfortable seating area and plenty of dancing space behind it, piped over the speakers so you can even listen while shopping. Through the years, they’ve done a great job of adding new artists annually while still retaining some of the old Austin favorites.
Here’s a few clips from prior performances by some of those old Austin favorites who will be playing the bazaar again this year.
Ray Wylie Hubbard (from 2010) — Tuesday the 18th
Gary P. Nunn (from 1989, with Bobby Bridger) — Wednesday the 19th
Marcia Ball’s Pianorama (from 2009) — Saturday the 22nd
Albert & Gage (from 2010) — Christmas Eve
Here’s hoping you get to head home with the Armadillo this year for a Merry Texas Xmas!