And they’re off: Austin holiday shoppers and music lovers descended upon Palmer Events Center Tuesday as the 40th annual Armadillo Christmas Bazaar began its 40th year. American-Statesman intern Mary Huber wrote at length about the Bazaar’s history for Thursday’s print edition of the American-Statesman; her story is online now at

We visited on Tuesday afternoon to check out the music of Michael Fracasso, shortly after Clay McClinton played this year’s first set at 11 a.m. (and was briefly joined by his famous father Delbert in a surprise cameo). Later, honky-tonker Dale Watson and his band brought out a big crowd for their 7 p.m. set.

Dale Watson and Don Pawlak perform at the Armadillo Christmas Bazaar on Tuesday, Dec. 15, at Palmer Events Center. Photo by Suzanne Cordeiro for American-Statesman

We also spoke with Hank Alrich, who oversees music production for the Bazaar and was involved in the very first event in 1976 at the legendary Armadillo World Headquarters. Back then, the Bazaar offered a way to help get people to the venue during a time of year that tended to be slow for concert events.

“During the Christmas season, at least at that time, it didn’t matter what artist you had, or how much the ticket price was — people’s minds, their hearts and their pocketbooks were elsewhere,” Alrich said. “It was hopeless trying to do concerts there. But Christmas shopping during the Christmas season? It’s a no-brainer, and I’m really good at no-brainers.”

Performances are at 11 a.m., 3 p.m. and 7 p.m. each day through Dec. 24. Artists play two hourlong sets, with a break of about a half-hour inbetween. Wednesday evening’s performer is a rare non-local act, acclaimed Oklahoma singer-songwriter John Fullbright. Other highlights in the next few days include Shinyribs at 7 p.m. Thursday, the Mastersons at 3 p.m. Friday, Ray Wylie Hubbard at 7 p.m. Saturday and Carolyn Wonderland at 11 a.m. Sunday. Check out the full schedule here.

Dale Watson and band at the Armadillo Christmas Bazaar on Tuesday, Dec, 15, at Palmer Events Center. Photo by Suzanne Cordeiro for American-Statesman