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Everything's Cooler in Marfa

The coolest small town in Texas lures big names for a love festival

M. Ward
M. Ward headlines the four-day Trans-Pecos Festival of Music & Love in Marfa. Courtesy photo
El Cosmico in Marfa
Camp on Liz Lambert's El Cosmico property during the Trans-Pecos Festival. Photo by Andrew Collins
El Cosmico in Marfa
Stop by the El Cosmetico teepee for spa treatments. Photo courtesy of El Cosmico
Guerilla knitting at Trans Pecos Festival in Marfa
Magda Sayeg is teaching a free guerrilla knitting workshop on September 13 during the Trans-Pecos Festival. El Cosmico/Facebook
M. Ward
El Cosmico in Marfa
El Cosmico in Marfa
Guerilla knitting at Trans Pecos Festival in Marfa

Marfa could have been like any of the hundreds of tiny Texas towns that no one has ever heard of, relegated to dying a slow death while young people fled in droves. Lucky for us, it was destined for a different fate. 

In 1956, the epic film Giant starring James Dean was filmed in Marfa, sparking movie fans to come to the West Texas town to see the sites and catch a glimpse of the mysterious Marfa Lights. Its famous art scene was born two decades later, when minimalist artist Donald Judd moved to Marfa from New York in the 1970s.

Since then, artists, musicians, hoteliers and other creatives have been flocking to Marfa — either to visit, live or work. This convergence of art and ranching cultures has infused a magical and somewhat psychedelic quality to the town.

 Expect an eclectic array of folk, country, indie and Americana performances from artists such as M. Ward, Junior Brown and Charlie Mars.

Now you can experience that magic for yourself September 12 to 15 at the eighth annual Trans-Pecos Festival of Music & Love, which celebrates music, art and community under Marfa's expansive canopy of stars. The festival takes place on the groovy grounds at El Cosmico, a Liz Lambert (Hotel San Jose, Hotel Saint Cecilia) property that is part vintage trailer court, part tepee campground situated in a community space that fosters artistic and intellectual exchange.

During the four-day fun fest, expect an eclectic array of folk, country, indie, Americana and singer-songwriter performances from artists such as M. Ward, Junior Brown and Charlie Mars. But the Trans-Pecos experience offers a lot more than just music.

Attend arts and crafts workshops from Oil & Cotton, Snake Oil, Flatstock and Knitta Please; check out art, photography and video installations; or attend an epic game of sandlot baseball between rival teams Austin's Texas Playboys and Marfa's Los Yonke Gallos. Camping spots are also available for those who want to stay onsite at El Cosmico.

Happily, the food is far from typical festival fare. Food vendors dish out vittles Thursday and Friday nights; on Saturday night, attendees can partake in a $15 dinner by Frank, offered as a barbecue plate or a vegan taco plate. Attendees have breakfast options each day, including Sunday's charity breakfast benefiting 93.5 Marfa Public Radio. Those who prefer to bring their own foodstuffs can take advantage of the communal grills.

For some retail therapy, shop the marketplace for art, crafts, wearables and other survival necessities from the likes of Filth Mart, Poppy & Someday, Cambria and Alchemy. Or check out trunk shows by One Trip Pass and JM Dry Goods. To unwind, book a spa treatment in the El Cosmetico teepee.

Trans-Pecos event prices start at $30 per day for just the music. Additional packages — including camping — range from $80 to $140 per day.

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