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Fandangle Unites Albany Community

The last sliver of sunlight was receding Wednesday evening when spotlights clicked on then aimed at an acre-sized prairie theater surrounded by a hillside of Mesquite trees.

“Go! Go! Go!” Betsy Parsons said into her microphone. Following her cue, dozens of cowboys raced on horses across the prairie rehearsing the opening scene of the Fort Griffin Fandangle.

Parsons serves as artistic director for the Fandangle in Albany, which is in its 77th year, making it the oldest outdoor musical in Texas. During the show women serenade in prairie dresses, cowboys herd longhorn cattle and children scurry across the stage portraying prairie dogs or flowers.

The one-of-a-kind scene draws Audience members from across the country and around the globe.

“It’s just genuine Texas,” Parsons said. “Our horses our wagons, our branding, our long-horn that come onto the stage, that’s what separates us from any other stage production.”

Albany is home to about 2,000 people, most of which take part in Fandangle. With the show in its 77th year it is not uncommon for three generations of one family to be on stage at the same time.

Melinda Lucas, her daughter Jessica Stapp and Jessica’s daughter, Maddie, are all performing together. Lucas said performing in the Fandangle is a part of life in Albany and the summer would seem empty without the experience. She also believes that participating in the show provides great benefits for children.

“I think that it really makes a difference in the way that kids react when they get in front of people,” Lucas said. “I think that kids growing up in the Fandangle are used to performing, even if they don’t do solos, even if they don’t have a major part, they’re used to being in front of an audience and I think they’re less scared about that when they get older because they’ve grown up doing that.”

On Wednesday her six-year-old granddaughter, Maddie, was eating snacks with friends before rehearsal. She chatted with her friends about their favorite parts of the show. Her mother, Jessica Stapp, moved away from Albany in her twenties but then returned to raise her three children. Stapp said one reason the Albany community is so close is because of their participation in the Fandangle.

“I think for some people it’s lost on them the specialness that the show brings to this part of Texas or just Texas in general,” Stapp said.  “I think it’s a very neat thing when a community can gather and do something that’s been done for 77 years, it is amazing to me.”