It promises to be a big time this weekend in Waco, TX, at McLane Stadium's Touchdown Alley as the 20th Annual Bowen MusicFest will take place on Sunday (June 3) afternoon. It will be a change venue for the event, which has taken place on the streets downtown Waco in the past. Headlining the show will be rock legends REO Speedwagon, Grammy-nominated country trio Midland, and Texas music favorites Ray Wylie Hubbard and Jason Eady. Wrapping up the day will be an all-star jam featuring the event's namesake, Wade Bowen, along with Randy Rogers, Kevin Fowler, Cody Canada, Suzy Bogguss, Joe Nichols, Josh Abbott, and Aaron Watson.
It's a lot great music for a great cause. Or, better yet, many great causes. The singer's Bowen Family Foundation hosts the festival, and has raised over $2.5 million for local charities that support the children and families in the community. The money raised this year will benefit a local cystic fibrosis chapter and a new initiative called 'Inspiracion' that will help one the failing elementary schools in Waco. For years, the event only benefited one cause, but with the beginning the Foundation about six years ago, that allowed the singer to spread things around a bit, something he appreciates being able to do.
"We have the options now to choose as many charities as we want," he tells Billboard. "We found there's a lot people doing a lot great work out there in the world, especially in the community Waco, Texas, where we do this event. And you know, they need the help. They just need the resources, and they just need the money to go out and be miracle workers. And that's really what we're doing with our Foundation, is trying to empower and enable those that are trying to do great work out there. We're just trying to give them the resources to do so."
Having his name attached to such a cause is something he takes seriously, but he insists it's a family affair. "Instead calling it the Wade Bowen Foundation, I chose to call it the Bowen Family Foundation, because it is my sister that heads it up, and it's also my mom and dad who are working their butts f. I've got two other sisters that are there working as well – as well as all my brothers-in-laws and cousins and nephews, and whoever else we can grab to do some work," he says with a chuckle.
"That was really important to me when we started this foundation, was to have everybody understand that this is a family atmosphere. It's a family foundation. I make sure to make a note every time when I bring an artist into the festival and have them be a part our jam that we do at the end the night, that we tell them 'Thank you for being part our family.' That's really the way I feel when we get any musician from, you know, a newcomer to a band like REO Speedwagon. We want them to understand that when they play our event, that that makes them a part our family. It's been really nice in the last few years to really expand our family like we have."
For Wade's sister, Jill Goss, who runs the Bowen Family Foundation, what makes this event so special is that it is for the community. "No one is taking a dime f this event," she stressed. "That's really what kind called me to do it. When you go and solicit for a sponsor or ask people for money, it's really easy to do that when you know that once we put on this wonderful concert, that we're able to donate all this money back to charity and that we're all just doing this because we love music and we believe that music heals. When we say that, we say that because we believe that we can help children and families better themselves through music by putting on this concert and bringing all these people together and we can raise money for a good cause."
As noted, the proceeds this year will benefit a local cystic fibrosis chapter, as well as "Inspiracion," a cause that Goss feels very passionate about.
"It is a new nonprit that was opened that was focusing on empowering 40 at-risk Latino families that are here in Waco. We have five underperforming schools in our Waco WIC. So, this organization is going to be in one the schools. It's focused on these children and the families. It fit right in to what our mission is and we wanted to be able to help them get started."
If you noticed the musical diversity in this year's lineup, you're not alone. Bowen feels that's one the draws to the event. "I think it really adds to our crowd. I think the diversity the music really adds to our show, and creates some dynamics that people don't normally get to see. Hopefully that creates some hype and awareness about our event and makes people want to come out even more."