ALBANY, Texas – Every June in the county seat of Shackelford County, the old west returns to town. Hundreds turn out for the parade that kicks off two weekends dedicated to a Texas tradition as celebrating the Lone Star State gets turned up for the summer. This is the start of the Fort Griffin Fandangle, and as the sun sets a tradition that’s been a part of these parts since 1937 comes to life.
John Ayers is one of the 300 locals that participate in this rite of passage in Albany that tells the story of the storied fort 16 miles from town.
“I’ve been the Indian chief for many years now,” John said. “My heart and passion lies with that. I’ve had a lot of fun through the Indian raids and through various parts of the show.”
Donnie Lucas is one of the narrators of Fandangle.
“It’s hard to define what Fandangle is,” Donnie said. “It’s a lot of things.”
Connie Wood is also a narrator, a title she’s had since 1977.Connie has a different definition of Fandangle from Donnie.
“Each year it’s basically the history of Shackelford County, but it’s told through different eyes,” Connie said. “The only way I can tell it’s 40 years is my children and grandchildren are all grown up and moving on.”
Cliff Teinert has also played a major role in this long tenured production as the lead male singer in the Fandangle since 1964.
“It’s just a great thing for our community here, and we strive to keep this thing going,” Cliff said.
This powerful play was first produced by Albany native Robert Nail. He directed the Fandangle until his death in 1968. He instilled three ground rules when it came to this story of Texas. One, it could only be advertised through word of mouth, two no profanity, and three, “You have to be kin,” according to Connie.
Revealing the roots of how Shackelford County came to be includes early battles with natives, cattle drives, the harsh way of life in the pioneer days and the discovery of oil of the plains.
“All of the things that we do here, goes back to keep all of our heritage alive, and that’s what the Fandangle does for our community,” Cliff said.
This experience doesn’t just enrich the knowledge and lives of those who come to see it; being a part of something that’s been such a big piece of the town’s identity has its benefits.
“It feels great to have them become invested in the community and have their own history,” Donnie said.
Texas pride, Texas history, and Texas culture. The Fort Griffin Fandangle exudes these characteristics that makes a trip to Albany, well worth a stop on The Texas Bucket List.
“It’s one thing you need to do; to say that you saw the oldest musical in the state of Texas,” Cliff said. “It’s the oldest musical west of the Mississippi River. There you are.”