Alongside old friends, in front of thousands of fans and surrounded by family and Family, Willie Nelson closed out the 40th anniversary Fourth of July Picnic last year with "I Saw The Light." It was about 11:15 p.m. and workers were already dismantling the north stage.
A big round number, a rousing end to a long day (during which some longtime Picnic performers seemed aged and others seemed ageless) and a fine performance from our 80-year-old host. One would think it was a fitting farewell to a Texas tradition.
But it wasn't farewell.
Willie and Billy Bob's Texas announced today that the Picnic will return for its 41st year. The daylong outdoor concert will be held at the Fort Worth Stockyards for the fourth consecutive year and the seventh time in the Picnic's history.
The artist lineup has not been released yet, but Concho Minick, president of Billy Bob's Texas, said in a release "the artist lineup and festival environment will be the best in Picnic history."
To have the best lineup in Picnic history would be an awful lot to live up to, but it's clear that Minick and Billy Bob's are intent on pumping some life back into an event that had slipped from iconic Texas event to just another large concert by 2011-12.
Last year's Picnic drew close to 10,000 fans and included longtime Picnic regulars such as Billy Joe Shaver, Leon Russell and Ray Wylie Hubbard, as well as newer voices such as Ryan Bingham, Gary Allan and Justin Moore.
The event will again use the north-south stage approach in the North Forty field behind Billy Bob's Texas. Tickets range from early bird tickets (available on Friday, before the lineup is announced) for $20, to $250 for the Sky Box seating in the middle of the field, which quickly sold out last year.
Billy Bob's Texas said it will announce performing artists on Feb. 24 and again on April 14. More information is available at williespicnic.com