Agave Festival sees return to pre-COVID crowds

Tim Johnson and Primo Carrasco perform at an Agave Festival concert at El Cosmico last Friday benefitting the Marfa Nutrition Center. Photo by Cody Bjornson.

MARFA — The sixth annual Agave Festival, a four-day event marrying community-building revelry with intellectual nourishment, saw a massive turnout at its joyous Friday night musical event, setting the tone for the festival.

Festival founder Tim Johnson said he believed the enthusiastic turnout indicated a return to pre-COVID numbers — not just at El Cosmico, but at events hosted at the Crowley Theater throughout the weekend.

“That crowd at El Cosmico was huge, I thought, and the theater was packed, it was full at every single event,” said Johnson. Given that the space is the hub of activity for the weekend of panels, he took that as a sign of success — that the festival was using the resources available within Marfa to its fullest potential.

“For me, it’s back to what it was right before the pandemic, and I feel like for Marfa, it’s the right scale, and I hope that the impact is significant for the individuals who come,” he said. 

Friday night’s El Cosmico event featured live music from open-membership community band The Marfa Municipal Alliance of Dead Country and Folk Singers, which treated revelers to drinking songs in both English and Spanish, and Grupo Ambición, a Norteño band led by Hector Sanchez. Johnson himself leapt on stage to sing alongside Primo Carrasco.

Musical offerings aside, festival attendees enjoyed a varied palette of spirit tastings, film screenings, exhibitions and panels June 1–4. The event was bookended by screenings of Dr. Patricia Colunga and Dr. Daniel Zizumbo’s film Mesoamerican Diet: Origins, and was kicked-off with an accompanying conversation with the filmmakers about traditional foodways, a theme Johnson saw as central to the festival.

“Especially in the United States, we haven’t really addressed what native cultures have produced for us,” said Johnson. “These forms of technology can address a lot of things including climate change, for instance, and the communal quality of agriculture that develops around these technologies have a lot of social and political and economic power as well.”

The event included regionally-specific events such as “Decolonizing the Fence at Cementerio del Barrio de los Lipanes,” a panel discussion on the Lipan Apache Cemetery just an hour south of Marfa in Presidio. That discussion was accompanied by an architect’s walk through the site.

Johnson said he was heartened by both the weekend’s turnout and the reception by the array of attendees, who were able to make connections fostered by the festival.

“Individual participants who have never met each other were already talking about working together on future projects,” he said. “And that’s pretty extraordinary to me.”