The upcoming fourth annual Freddie Gomez Memorial Conjunto Concert is right around the corner. The yearly extravaganza that celebrates the memory of Alfredo “Freddie” Gomez, and all the Tejano and conjunto stars that have passed away in the past year, will take place on Labor Day weekend — Aug. 30 — in Brownsville.
The idea for this event came from Timo Ruedas and Juan Antonio Tapia. The two first met 16 years ago.
In 1998, Ruedas was involved in an event that was being held at the Port of Entry in Brownsville. Needing musicians, Ruedas called the Narciso Martinez Cultural Arts Center for some assistance.
The two musicians that were sent to Ruedas’ corner in the Valley were the accordion-playing Tapia and fiddle player Jose Moreno.
That’s when Tapia informed Ruedas about a new organization that was forming — the South Texas Conjunto Association. This “puro conjunto” group was officially launched in March 1998.
“In order to support the STCA, we got involved with Charro Days (Fiesta) and Sombrero Festival,” Ruedas, 66, said. “We were presenting the students (of the area) to different (music) programs like that. We’ve been at it since ’98.”
From 1998 to 2008, Ruedas, Tapia, and fellow Brownsville associates were known as the STCA Brownsville Events Committee. They then decided to form their own chapter, becoming recognized as the STCA’s Freddie Gomez Brownsville Chapter.
Ruedas says that he started to push for a conjunto concert after he heard a campaign that was promoting entertainment and art events in the downtown Brownsville district. One important move that helped push this forward was when Ruedas got the support of Jorge Ramirez, the president of the Brownsville Society for The Performing Arts.
When asked why Gomez was picked to represent this event and chapter, Ruedas says the legendary conjunto guitarist felt like the right choice for this area in the Valley.
“El Ciclón Del Valle,” as Gomez was known, impressed Ruedas early on.
“He used to play, like all the musicians of the time, for family gatherings and celebrations,” Ruedas said. “I remember being invited to one of those parties at a house, it was in the backyard, and just admiring the guitar. I played a little guitar, I was in a band in the mid-’60s. We were trying to learn all the finger-picking instrumentals that he used to play. We were just in awe of how he played the electric guitar.”
His singing also stood out to Ruedas.
“His voice was very unique, high pitched,” Ruedas said. “He even had some English language songs. He toured and filled up the ballrooms. He was a nice humble guy.”
Gomez died Sept. 3, 2005, and that’s why Ruedas and the City of Brownsville decided that Labor Day Weekend would be a good time to have this festival.
The first event was held on Sept. 5, 2011, and had appearances from Los Tejano Boys, Conteño, Frutty Villarreal, and Gilberto Perez.
This years line-up features Pepe Maldonado y su conjunto, Arturo Niño y Sus Kromaticos, and Grupo La Farra de Los Hermanos Lozano. A special 25-minute dance marathon will also take place. Participating couples will be challenged by dancing the following forms found in conjunto music — vals, bolero, redova, schottische (chotiz), cumbia, polka and huapango.
“There will be judges, and based on who danced the best in all of the different styles, we will be giving out a cash prize,” Ruedas said.
Attendance has grown with each passing year. It’s gone from 600 in 2011, to 1,000 in 2012, and then to 1,200 in 2013.
“We’re expecting about 1,500 this year,” Ruedas said. “Next year, hopefully we’ll make it, and it’ll be our fifth. We really want to make it a little bigger.”
IF YOU GO:
The fourth annual Freddie Gomez Memorial Conjunto Concert
WHEN 6 p.m. to midnight, Saturday, Aug. 30
WHERE E. Levee & 11th St. in downtown Brownsville
CALL Timo Ruedas (956) 545-8446