The South Texas Conjunto Association will hold its 8th annual Freddie Gomez Memorial Conjunto Concert at 4 p.m. Saturday in downtown Brownsville. The free event will be held at 11th Street and Levee Street.
The festivities will start with an hour-long tribute music mix by DJ Tony Hernandez that pays homage to conjunto artists who have passed away during the preceding year.
The welcome ceremony, national anthem, lifetime honors, youth accordion performances and a 20-minute dance marathon with cash prizes will begin at 5 p.m. Performances by Ruben Garza, Juan Tovar y Los Pobres and Rodney Rodriguez are scheduled to being at 7:30 p.m.
Timo Ruedes, co-director of the Brownsville STCA Chapter, said the dance contest will involve seven music rhythms that start with a waltz and end with a huapango. The audience, which usually numbers about 800 through the evening, will select winners by cheering, he said.
“We thank the community for their support,” Ruedas said, adding that the concert was founded when the city began its downtown revitalization efforts in 2010. “That’s why we started it, and that’s why we’re still doing it.”
The event will also include food and shaded seating, though South Texas Conjunto Association President Lupe Saenz said attendees are welcome to bring their own lawn chairs.
“We make an effort to bring the best music we can find,” he said of the headliners. “They represent all the Valley.”
The organization selected Garza, a Harlingen native, as the recipient of its Conjunto Ambassador Award in recognition of his nearly 55-year music career that includes 71 albums and numerous awards. He is known for the groups Ruben Vela y Su Conjunto and Los Dos Gilbertos.
“Our purpose is educating the community about this indigenous music that was created here near Brownsville. This is a genre in the 80s and 90s that began to disappear,” a time when the radio waves were dominated by norteño and Tejano music, Sanez said. “Conjunto is to the Valley what jazz would be to New Orleans or Chicago. Conjunto is Texas.”
Juan Antonio Tapia, who directs the Brownsville STCA Chapter alongside Ruedes, said the concert began as a Sombrero Festival event and grew from there.
“We do it for free to preserve our music,” he said. “It is part of our culture. Sometimes we run a little tight, but we get it done every year.”
Tapia said the City of Brownsville has put its support behind the event. The Brownsville Society of the Performing Arts is also a co-sponsor.
He said attendees come from around Texas and out of state to hear the bands play.
“We’re very proud of it because it’s people that recognize and grew up with this type of music,” Tapia said.
For more information, visit www.conjunto.org.