Deemed by organizers to be one of Austin’s longest-running art and music festivals, Armadillo Christmas Bazaar returns this year for its 40th anniversary.
The 10-day event is one day longer than last year and includes more than 160-plus artist exhibits and 32 scheduled live music performances.
The bazaar was started by Bruce Willenzik in 1976 as a way to overcome slow end-of-year sales at The Armadillo World Headquarters, an iconic Austin music shop and venue that closed in 1980. Willenzik became the show’s executive director in 1981, bouncing the event around venues until landing at the Palmer Events Center in 2010.
Willenzik told Community Impact Newspaper in 2014 the bazaar overcame an initially slow start during its early years to eventually establish a national reputation because of its commitment to helping participating artists improve in their respective crafts.
“We care about your success even after we get your money,” said Willenzik, who has served on the Austin Arts Commission since 1989.
Willenzik, a self-described “cultural environmentalist,” said the show stresses prosperity for all artists. That mentality has helped create a family among participants, who consequently seek to improve upon their work, he said.
“We’ve been followed and mocked by people who thought they would do a similar event, but nobody has been able to pull it off because of our commitment to the artists and the cultural community we serve,” Willenzik said.
The event now is run by Anne Johnson, who was handed the reigns after a short transition. Johnson’s father previously worked on the show, according to Willenzik.
“[Johnson] is the closest thing to my own daughter,” Willenzik said.
Armadillo Christmas Bazaar runs from 10 a.m. until 10 p.m. Dec. 15-24 at Palmer Events Center in Central Austin.