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Mexico’s Western Fest 2015 (Includes interview)

The United States has Nashville, Tennessee, Australia has Tamworth, New South Wales and Mexico has Chihuahua, Chihuahua. I am of course referring to country music capitals of the world and over the weekend, Mexico’s country fans were out in force in the latter city for Western Fest, three days of dancing, rodeos, beauty pageants and live gigs.

The indoor Western Fest and its outdoor predecessor Festival Country Chihuahua have over the years attracted some of the most famous names in American country, including Kenny Rogers, Johnny Lee, Mark Chesnutt, Tracy Byrd and Mark Wills.

This year, it’s a more homegrown affair with two top Mexican bands, 8 Segundos and the Hillbilly Rose Band, doing what they do best on Saturday and Sunday night respectively.

The sole representative from the US is Texan country rockers the Joe Barron Band, who appeared on Saturday, while two groups from Argentina, No Bull Band and Tennessee Country, took centre stage on Sunday.

I arrived on Saturday afternoon an hour before the rodeo began and was pleased to hear hits from some of my favourite artists, like George Strait and Alan Jackson, blaring out of the speakers.

There were a number of stalls selling food, drink and cowboy-related clothing and groups of highly enthusiastic, well-rehearsed line dancers entertaining the crowds.

Some of the stalls.

Some of the stalls.

In fact it seems that that infectious style of dance is currently all the rage in the ‘Cowboy Capital of Mexico‘ as not only are there a number of schools that teach it, there is also a popular country-themed nightclub, El Nido del Jabali, owned by one of the event’s main organisers Armando Velazquez.

Although the No Bull Band had merchandise on sale, one thing I would have liked to have seen more of was stalls selling CDs and memorabilia from a variety of country acts, old and new, American and otherwise…

In general rodeos aren’t really my thing, but I have to say I very much admired the way this indoor venue was turned into a rodeo arena, thanks to some pens, two rather large stands, some animals and quite a lot of earth.

A dog looks on during Saturday s rodeo.

A dog looks on during Saturday’s rodeo.
Maria Idalia Escobedo Perez

Of the events, I think my favourite was the barrel racing, an impressive display of horsemanship that featured a number of surprisingly young female contestants.

After able support from the aforementioned Joe Barron Band, Saturday night’s festivities came to a close with an explosive performance from 8 Segundos, who gave a masterclass in working what was almost their home crowd (though they’re from the state of Chihuahua, the group hails from the bordertown of Ciudad Juarez).

The hardworking foursome comprising of three brothers and a family friend were especially gracious afterwards, as ever, patiently signing autographs and happily posing for photographs.

On Sunday, I witnessed more carefully choreographed line dancing and chatted to Armando Velazquez about country music and its relationship to Mexico, before leaving early to catch my bus – meaning that I missed out on Sunday’s live acts.

Still, from what I saw, heard and from the interesting and friendly people I met and spoke to, I thoroughly enjoyed this very Mexican celebration of country music and its culture. Roll on next year!

For more information on this year’s Western Fest, visit the event’s official Facebook page.

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