After 16 years at the Salt Lick Pavilion in Driftwood just southwest of Austin, the Old Settler’s Music Festival will move to a new home in the Lockhart area southeast of town in 2018, festival director Jean Spivey confirmed Thursday.
The festival purchased a 145-acre property in Dale, just northeast of Lockhart, in June. The plan was to move Old Settler’s there in 2019, but festival executives were surprised to receive a letter on Tuesday from Salt Lick Pavilion owner Scott Roberts “informing the board that the property would not host the festival in 2018,” according to a press release the festival issued Thursday afternoon.
“This kind of came as a shock,” Spivey said. “We were hoping to have a full year to build it out and develop it before we moved. We had every reason to believe we would be at Salt Lick in 2018.”
According to the press release, the Salt Lick had verbally confirmed the April 19-22, 2018, dates two months ago. The statement noted that Roberts’ letter of Aug. 8 cited “the changing use of the surrounding property and concern about alienating his new neighbors” as the reason for his decision.
Though the accelerated timeline presents some major challenges for Old Settler’s in getting its new property ready by next spring, the upside is a much larger location. Spivey says the fest had about 65 acres available for the festival, parking and camping at the Salt Lick Pavilion and the nearby Camp Ben McCulloch grounds. The new spot, on land that includes rolling hills and wooded areas, more than doubles that space.
“It’s plenty of room to spread out,” she said, though she added that she doesn’t expect Old Settler’s to scale up overall, at least not next year. “I imagine we will be very similar to what we were, just with a little more breathing room.”
Immediate advantages will include on-site parking, which will eliminate logistical issues with satellite parking in Driftwood, and more room for food vendors. Festival stage-flow also may benefit from a unified space. Previously, Thursday and Sunday programming was limited to a smaller stage at Camp Ben McCullough, just down the road and across the street from the main Pavilion grounds.
Like the indie-rock Sound on Sound Festival, which made its debut in McDade northeast of Austin last year, Old Settler’s is pushing more toward the edges of the Austin area with this move. Dale is about 15 miles farther from downtown Austin than Driftwood, though the Highway 130 toll road cuts down on travel time. Spivey said the festival may consider shuttle transportation options from Austin.
The festival, which began in 1987 at Old Settlers Park in Round Rock, moved to Driftwood in 2002. Though the location proved to be a good fit for more than a decade, minor problems arose last year when the Pavilion disallowed use of a field alongside Onion Creek that had previously housed the festival’s Bluebonnet Stage. Another area was cleared for an adjacent stage, but it was smaller and less picturesque.
Discussing the festival’s future prior to the 2017 festival, Spivey noted of the Pavilion grounds that “there’s a lot of upside to being there. And then on the other side, we’re kind of busting at the seams. We need to think about the long-term viability so that we can continue to go on for another 30 years.”
Initial announcements about lineups and ticket sales usually take place in November. Spivey said Old Settler’s aims to stick to that schedule for the upcoming event. She added that the festival may slightly increase its talent budget for the 2018 lineup.