An earlier version of this story incorrectly identified the saxophone player of the band Chicago in a photograph. The musician pictured is Ray Herrmann, not Walter Parazaider.
Two weeks after Woodstock, music fans streamed into Lewisville — near where the Dallas International Motor Speedway was, and where Academy Sports and Outdoors is today — to take in three days of history-making music. Texas fans got to see legendary acts like Led Zeppelin, Janis Joplin and Grand Funk Railroad.
Before the big event that spanned Aug. 30 to Sept. 1 in 1969, local authorities were concerned that Lewisville might see a repeat of scandalous behaviors widely documented at Woodstock.
Matt Martucci, a spokesman for the city of Lewisville and one of the organizers of this weekend’s anniversary festival, said concerned citizens formalized their worries.
“There was a petition circulated that was basically saying ‘we don’t want the hippie types and the smoking and the drugs and the nudity,’ Martucci said. “But it ended up being pretty uneventful that way. I think there was maybe one arrest. That’s what talent noticed from the stage, was how calm everyone was.”
The Lewisville event was part of a wave of “hippie” festivals like Woodstock and the Atlanta International Pop Festival.
This weekend, Lewisville presents the 50th Anniversary Texas International Pop Festival. Martucci said it’s a tribute to the iconic event and a family festival. Chicago and Grand Funk Railroad, which played the original event, are returning to Lewisville to relive the historic day. Edgar Winter, a musician and brother of the late Johnny Winter, will play the event in tribute to his brother’s appearance in 1969.
But because organizers wanted to appeal to a younger audience, they also booked younger acts like Sarah Jaffe and Jonathan Tyler & the Northern Lights. The festival will also span genres, with lots of rock, pop and blues.
Martucci said nabbing ZZ Top as a headliner is something city officials have been trying to do for years. The city typically brings in big names to perform during Western Days in late September.
“We realized that this was an opportunity to get them here, finally,” Martucci said. “We could never get on their schedule. The key to getting them here was time. We started working on getting them here early and got them done. ZZ Top is just a huge Texas band. They’re going to be a draw for this.”
Denton resident David Martin remembers his single day at the pop fest. He was living in Mesquite in 1969. At age 20, he was about to move to Denton to transfer to what was then North Texas State University as a sophomore. He hopped into his 1967 candy apple red Mustang and drove from Mesquite to Lewisville on Interstate 35E, a roadway that was just 10 years old.
“I don’t remember what time I got there,” he said. “I believe B.B. King opened every day. The main thing I wanted to see was Led Zeppelin. I had all their albums, but hadn’t seen them live. It was very exciting. I kind of worshiped them, and to see them in person was really great. I know I came away loving it.”
Martin said North Texans really needn’t have worried about being overrun by throngs of hippies.
“I never saw any problems,” Martin said of the day he attended. “No mean people, no stoned people or naked people. Everyone sat there and listened to the music. I’ve seen some mention of hippies in the stuff I’ve read about the festival. The exhibit at UNT on the Square mentions hippies again. I didn’t really see too many hippies.
“I think back then, in Texas, if you had long sideburns you were a hippie. I didn’t see any hippies. I looked around, and we were all wearing jeans and plaid shirts. I remember it was really hot.”
When Martin sat down in the open field where the festival was stages, he said he was about 100 yards from the stage. Someone passed him a joint, he recalls.
“I’d heard of marijuana, but I’d never had any. I looked at it and passed it on down,” Martin said. “When it came back to me I just passed it back the other way.”
Martucci said organizers and the city prepared for the anniversary event by inviting locals who attended to share their memories. The city made a documentary about the event, filming patrons sharing their memories. The documentary includes interviews with Angus Wynne III, the producer and financial backer of the 1969 event.
Lewisville will screen the documentary in a sneak peek — now sold out — at 7 p.m. Friday at the Medical City Lewisville Grand Theatre. A reprise screening will take place during Western Days next month.
Festival memorabilia, photographs, video footage and more are on display at UNT on the Square, 109 N. Elm St. in Denton, and at the MCL Grand, 100 N. Charles St.
“We just want to give people a chance to have some fun,” Martucci said of this weekend’s lineup. “We think we have some pretty good entertainment. It’s not too overwhelming. There’s one stage only. As far as our level of success, that would be for people to leave on Sunday and be like, ‘That was a good time.’”