A student’s perspective on Larry Joe Taylor
By: Nicholas Ratcliff
The Larry Joe Taylor Music Festival (LJT) came back to Stephenville for its 32-year, after taking a small break due to the COVID-19 pandemic. Many Tarleton State University students were excited about the idea of experiencing their first LJT, while others were worried that it might look different now due to the pandemic.
Having been to LJT as a freshman, I decided to attend this year’s festival to answer these questions directly. Has covid ruined yet another Tarleton Tradition or will it bounce back and look like the years before?
Despite the pandemics’ best efforts, LJT came back in full force giving the students of Tarleton a true festival experience. This year’s festival looked much like it did in past and was even held at Melody Mountain Ranch.
Pulling up to the gates of the ranch immediately gave me vivid flashbacks of being a freshman at Tarleton, and reminded me of the first time I attended the event. Cars were lined up to the main road, as parking and ticket attendants sorted through the people trying to get them to the right place.
Once you have been dropped off or parked your car, you would wander to the entrance of the festival where there would be a line of police and security guards searching through coolers. If you had a cooler, you would wait your turn while they verified your age and searched for any glass that you may have brought.
Once inside, there was a short quarter-mile hike to the staging ground that was set up in the middle of the festival. From here you could see the various attractions that were scattered throughout the grounds.
Food vendors and trucks were set up in the back, along with a few company vendors who were offering samples of their products along with cozies, pop sockets and other small items. At the front of the festival, there was a massive stage that had performers playing sporadically throughout the day.
Guests of the festival were welcome to show up whenever they liked to enjoy the various performers and could even rent out a campsite on the property if they wished to stay all week. Being a senior, I only bought a three-day pass that allowed me to go Thursday through Saturday, but a lot of my friends bought passes for the entire week.
Throughout the days, the crowds would grow larger as musicians played their songs.
As the day went on and turned to night, the stage would light up, enticing the crowd to watch as some of their favorite musicians played. Once the artists began, the energy of the crowd would ignite, providing a unique atmosphere that is nearly impossible to explain.
For a college senior such as myself, this gave me an opportunity to enjoy a real college experience, despite the pandemics’s efforts to shut everything down. For over 30 years, LJT had been a staple for the students of Tarleton, yet for the past two, many of us were robbed of this experience.
Being able to attend the festival one last time as a senior, reminded me that college is more than just learning about a particular career field you would like to enter. College is also about enjoying yourself and discovering who you are, and while classes certainly do a lot to push you, it’s the social interactions you have that help you define who you are.
While looking around at the crowd, all I could notice was the pure joy on most people’s faces. Even though this was many students’ first time, they were engaging with the environment the same way students had before, by showing their excitement through a series of yells and crazy behavior.
Even though the crowd was a mix of college students, graduates, professors and families, as soon as the musicians began it was clear that everybody was there to have a great time. Just like it had in the past, LJT was back to provide an amazing experience for all lovers of Texas country music.
While the spirit of LJT remained intact, there was one small change made for the safety of the guests. Hand sanitizer stations were scattered throughout the festival grounds to provide the guest with a way to wash their hands.
The organizers of the events also followed all of the COVID-19 guidelines provided by the state of Texas, to ensure they were not putting their guests in danger. Yet even with the guidelines in place, LJT provided an amazing experience for all to enjoy and is worth looking into.