Let’s get this out of the way: RedFest, the three-day music, comedy and outdoors celebration taking place at the Circuit of the Americas and Austin360 Amphitheater over Memorial Day weekend, is not just for rednecks.
"No matter what I do in my life, forever I’m the ‘redneck’ guy," says RedFest organizer Jeff Foxworthy, who has been penning those popular, page-a-day You Might Be a Redneck calendars since 1990. "Every year, I’m like, there cannot be 365 more of these."
But his signature jokes definitely inspired the name of the festival, along with the red, white and blue connotations of Memorial Day weekend.
Incorporating so many forms of entertainment into a first-time event is ambitious. The idea came about when Foxworthy was talking about festivals with friends.
"I guess it’s like everything else that I do — the only way it interests me is if you kind of do something that other people aren’t doing. I’ve done a million festivals," the comic says, describing many of them as "drunkfests."
"When people are at a festival, they’re either watching a performance or they’re loitering; they’re just standing around waiting on the next thing."
Foxworthy wanted to fill up those empty spaces.
"I thought, what if we did something where we could give them something to do all day long, like a fair meets a flea market meets a festival? I wanted to have that element where people could have an experience," he explains. "When you look back at the best days of your life, I’ll bet very few of them involve watching television and checking e-mails. That was kind of how RedFest was born."
The event includes a lot of activities for fans of the great outdoors:
The Busch Hunting & Fishing Village features fly fishing, fly casting and archery events as well as tomahawk and knife-throwing.
The Ram Outdoor Village — base camp for the Robertson family of television’s "Duck Dynasty" — hosts arm-wrestling competitions.
The Sports Zone includes basketball, volleyball and laser tag, while the Texas Lottery Luck Zone offers family friendly games such as washers and ping pong.
A Coca-Cola Country Village challengers fest-goers to ride a mechanical bull and join in roping and quick draw competitions.
Main Street USA is RedFest’s entryway, offering interactive exhibits and souvenir stands in addition to food and beverages (including some from Austin’s popular food trucks).
A carnival takes over the large parking lot near CoTA’s Main Grandstand (Lot A), offering carnival rides, a seven-story Ferris wheel and a full-prize midway with games. (Additional fees for certain rides and games may apply.)
The outdoor aspect of the festival won’t surprise anyone who knows Foxworthy, who owns a company called Foxworthy Outdoors.
"When I’m not working, I’m on my farm; I’ve always just been an outdoor guy," he says. "I’m either on a tractor or I’m bowhunting or fishing. When I’m not being Jeff Foxworthy, that’s what I’m doing."
But he’ll be being Jeff Foxworthy when the comedy portion of RedFest kicks in. His fellow headlining performers will be familiar to Foxworthy fans: Rodney Carrington provides the laughs on Friday with Lynyrd Skynyrd; Larry the Cable Guy performs on Saturday with Tim McGraw; and Foxworthy himself closes out the festival on Sunday with Florida Georgia Line on the Austin360 Amphitheater stage.
Lesser-known stand-ups including Dustin Ybarra, Ian Karmel, Julian McCullough, Jamie Kaler, Leanne Morgan, Nick Rutherford and Owen Benjamin will perform during daytime hours on the RedFest Showcase Stage.
"We’ll give people a lot of opportunities to be exposed to a lot of different stuff," Foxworthy says.
The timing of RedFest is no accident.
"Memorial Day is kind of one of those holidays that everybody goes to the lake for the weekend and doesn’t really think ‘what’s it about,’ you know?" says Foxworthy, whose occupation has taken him all over the globe.
"And as you go all over the world and you have a chance to go to third world countries — and, I mean, you hear it your whole life but it just doesn’t register and it doesn’t sink in — this is the greatest place on the planet to live. Even with all the problems we have."
RedFest, which includes a Military Village featuring obstacle courses, games, activities and exhibits, is meant to show appreciation for military members and their loved ones. To that end, active-duty service members, veterans and their families can enjoy special discounts on food and beverages in the Commissary Bar as well as discounted admission to the festival itself.
While acknowledging that creating RedFest has been a lot of work that entailed a huge learning curve, Foxworthy hopes it becomes an annual event and believes that the CotA site (which he describes as a reconfigurable "huge LEGO thing") can handle expansion and growth.
"That’s our hope. I mean, good granny, the facilities they’ve got out there, it’s amazing. It’s state of the art," he says.
"I want (RedFest) to be something that Austin’s proud of. So next year, they’re like, ‘Yeah, this is our thing.’ If we do it right, Austin will be proud of it."