Culture / Entertainment

Big As Texas Leaves a Rocking First Impression — What Worked For This New Music Festival Near The Woodlands

Big Acts, Rising Stars and Plenty of Family Fun

BY // 05.24.24

With country legends Billy Strings, Thomas Rhett and Dierks Bentley as headliners, the three day Big As Texas music festival drew more than 20,000 people to the Montgomery County Fairgrounds for its inaugural event.

Despite threatening weather on the Saturday of the festival, Big As Texas attracted music fans from all over the world — including people from Australia and England.  There was something for everyone — from pig racing and shopping to axe throwing and even a giant square bounce house. But the music was the main attraction. Two stages at opposite ends of the fairgrounds brought music fans to their feet.

Montgomery County Fairgrounds measures in at 15 acres, making it the third largest convention, expo and fairgrounds complex in the entire greater Houston region. This proved to be quite the expansive playground for music lovers.

Big As Texas Music Festival, Day 3, featured performances by Angela Shires, Los Lobos and Billy Strings
The Big As Texas Music Festival drew more than 20,000 devoted fans. (Photo by F. Carter Smith)

A Fateful Big As Texas Debut

One of the festival’s sponsors was Dosey Doe’s Stephen Said, who held a competition at Dosey Doe for talent to be included on the festival bill. This year’s winner was Caleb Young, who grew up in West Texas, north of Abilene. Originally focused on a baseball career, a torn shoulder found Young taking an oil field job instead. Young credits his start in music to a close friend whose songwriting, guitar playing and production knowledge opened a new world to him.

“It was one of those just natural things where one buddy is really good at playing guitar — and another buddy that’s brand new to it, myself,” Young tells PaperCity The Woodlands. “I think cutting my teeth out in West Texas was a huge thing.

“I didn’t realize it at the time, but I just learned how to perform and how to engage. How to get people to have a good time.”

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Big As Texas Music Festival, Day 3, featured performances by Angela Shires, Los Lobos and Billy Strings
Big As Texas Music Festival had fans beaming at the first year of this new music tradition in The Woodlands area. (Photo by F. Carter Smith)

Big Local Moments

Julia Cole, a Klein High School graduate, also cracked the Big As Texas lineup, completing something of a long journey of her own. When she was a 5 year-old, Cole’s mom insisted she take piano lessons.

“My mom was like, ‘You’re gonna take piano lessons’ and it was classical,” Cole says. “So it wasn’t pop music or country music or anything like that. It was music theory based and it was very strict. And I was begging her to let me quit. She finally let me quit right before high school.”

Cole played volleyball in high school, and sang the National Anthem at high school volleyball and basketball games.

“And that spread to everything in Houston — Texans, Astros, The Rodeo,” Cole says. “I actually just did Opening Day for the Astros this year.”

After her senior year in high school, Cole picked up guitar. 

“I took like five lessons in the summer between senior year and going to Vandy (Vanderbilt) and Nashville,” Cole says. “I majored in entrepreneurship. And I graduated early — I was done in three years. And by the time I graduated, I had an agent and a manager, and decided music was the thing I was gonna do.”

Cole made her Grand Ole Opry debut last year. Yes, this once reluctant musician is on the rise.

Julia Cole isn’t the only local musician to make a mark at this first Big As Texas music festival. Magnolia’s Trent Cowie played on stage too. That’s a long way from his start at a bar in Navasota.

“There’s a place out there called Dizzy llama,” Cowie notes. “And that was where I played my first acoustic set by myself. And it was just a dive bar.”

Big As Texas Music Festival, Day 3, featured performances by Angela Shires, Los Lobos and Billy Strings
Big As Texas Music Festival brought some elaborate staging and big time acts to The Woodlands area. (Photo by F. Carter Smith)

Cowie came to music while a student at Magnolia West High School.

“I just kind of sat in my room and tried to figure out how to play guitar and didn’t realize I could sing until about high school,” Cowie says. “And after high school, I went to work in the oil field out in West Texas. I got let go in about 2017 or 2018, and I realized that if there’s an opportunity to chase music it’s now. And we’re still going.”

Cowie was excited to perform for family and friends in a big event so close to home.

“I think that it’s very cool to see that people really care about music and they care about a bigger cause,” Cowie says. “Because the whole point of festival is to raise awareness for mental health and suicide prevention. And I think that’s really special.”

You can catch Trent Cowie later this summer in Tomball for a single release party at District 249 on August 30.

Big As Texas Music Festival, Day 3, featured performances by Angela Shires, Los Lobos and Billy Strings
Big As Texas Music Festival brought photo fun too. (Photo by F. Carter Smith)

A Big As Texas Impact

While the gate figures for this first Big As Texas music festival are still being tallied, more than 35 local nonprofits, which had booths at the festival, will share 10 percent of the final net proceeds. Festival organizer Trey Diller tells PaperCity that the final funds for the nonprofits won’t be determined for another few weeks once figures from a silent auction that included items signed by festival musicians are finalized and tabulated.

Plans are already in the works for a bigger, better Big As Texas music festival next year. The second edition will take place in June of 2025.

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