How did Armadillo get started?
The Armadillo Christmas Bazaar’s rich history goes back more than 40 seasons, originating in the very roots of Austin’s legendary music scene. The first venue, The Armadillo World Headquarters, was the premiere concert venue for live music in the 70s. Many local musicians, songwriters, and performers, some of whom are now considered legends, honed their craft there. National touring artists included Willie Nelson, Jerry Garcia, Van Morrison, Bruce Springsteen, and Frank Zappa. The Armadillo World Headquarters quickly became a counter-cultural institution known for out-of-the-box thinking. The scene around the Armadillo became a powerful magnet pulling in creative people and energy from all over the country, giving Austin the roots of its current attractive cultural identity. This is where the Armadillo Christmas Bazaar was born.
In 1975, Lucinda Williams inspired a fabulous solution to The Armadillo World Headquarters mid-winter money woes with a simple comment: “Too bad the artists down on the drag don’t have a warm, dry place like this to sell their art for Christmas”. Her comment sparked an idea to expand The Armadillo World Headquarters cultural and economic reach.
How is Armadillo different from other art festivals in Austin?
The Armadillo is a mix of fine art and gift shopping where customers can buy from the artist who created the work. We have two full bars and a live music stage with big acts and quality sound. Dancing in the aisles is welcomed! It’s an experience like no other and the perfect place to enjoy the holiday season with family and friends. Our local and regional artists can compete with the top artists in the nation. We are a destination for shoppers and art lovers all over the world.
How do you choose the artists and musicians that will participate?
Bruce Willenzik (Producer), Annie Harding (Associate Producer) and I take great care in selecting artists, nurturing their careers and curating the show to ensure an attractive merchandise mix. For musicians, it is a careful selection of long loved and up and coming performers. We work hard so the customers have a special place to meet talented artists, add to their art collection and dance while they shop to the best of Austin’s musicians.
What gives Armadillo its “authentic Austin feel?”
This philosophy of community, enhancing a sphere of prosperity and a commitment to art and music, are what makes the Armadillo the best of Austin’s ‘weird’ and wonderful.
Are attendees mainly local or from all over the country?
All over! Every year we work to get free passes to everyone staying at a hotel downtown. A lot of folks like to visit in Austin in the colder months and we are one of many great events that time of year. We attract art show attendees and dedicated art buyers from all over the world.
What is one of your fondest memories of Armadillo?
I’ve spent every Christmas Eve of my life at the Armadillo so there are so many memories… I would have to say my favorite memory is having 4 generations of my family at the show with my 89 year old grandmother who could barley walk dancing with the lead singer of the Christmas Eve band in 2009.
It wouldn’t seem like Christmas to me without it and that’s not unusual. What’s great about Armadillo is that you have many families attending for decades now, yet it’s a perfect holiday shopping event for visitors and tourists as well. It is one of the few ‘old Austin’ traditions that has survived the influx of festivals and the cities’ rapid growth – and remained strong. As Austin has grown, so has our vibrant fine arts and live music community, and we are proud to be a part of that. Plus, everyone loves a good party.
How do you see Armadillo evolving in the future?
We are continuously evolving based on changes in the art world. We plan to be around for a very long time and to pass the show down to future generations for the benefit of Austinites. Armadillo will continue to be the place for an authentic Austin live music and art buying experience, where creativity, originality, and fun are celebrated in the true spirit of the holidays.
Open December 14 through Christmas Eve, 11am-10pm at the Palmer Events Center in Austin, TX. Tickets are $8 for a single-day pass; available at the door, or in advance this fall. For best value, purchase a season pass, which allows for entry throughout the duration of the show. Free admission for children 12 and under. More information at www.ArmadilloBazaar.com.