It wasn't a vision quest, per se, but when Josh Harris and Zac Miller headed out to Lewisville to find the site of a long forgotten 1960s music festival there, they had an epiphany.
Harris and Miller were both relatively new to Dallas, but for years they'd talked about creating an event -- something more than a mere music or arts festival -- that epitomized the city's evolving identity. Since they'd been in town, everyone they met kept mentioning how different -- changed, in a good way -- the city was becoming. There were cranes up, signaling development, and a sense of transition, a wave of cultural progression. There also seemed to be a burgeoning sense of Dallas pride that had been missing in year's prior.
Miller's wife, jewelry designer Kristin Miller, noticed it after having lived away from her native city a few years. Out at bars and around town, they heard the same story, again and again, from people who were seeing a newer, better Dallas and who were craving new, progressive experiences. Invigorated, Harris and Miller wanted to propel that forward. They began to formulate the plans for an independent, boutique festival that would include indie rock music, artists, food and drink vendors, unusual attractions and a phenomenal urban location.
One slight hiccup: They had absolutely no experience planning a massive, multi-day music-and-more event.
Harris works in the tech industry, and Miller worked for 8 years as a master planner for resorts, site-planning the nooks and crannies of poolside entertainment. But, having created ambitious projections in their own rights, both were wise enough to know that jumping blindly into one like their amorphous festival idea could prove disastrous. The idea marinated for years before beginning to take shape. That's how they found themselves in Lewisville, driving around and looking for the site of the Texas International Pop Festival, a cultural aberration that took place for one year only in the summer of 1969.
Organized by Angus G. Wynne III, son of the businessman who developed Six Flags Over Texas, the two-day concert took place just weeks after Woodstock in an open field near the long-gone Dallas International Motor Speedway. It is estimated that more than 100,000 attendees -- some of whom reportedly scandalized locals by bathing naked in the lake -- made the trek to North Texas. Acts included Janis Joplin, B.B. King, Led Zeppelin and Santana, just to name a few. There was at least one birth and one death on site. As they drove around, Harris and Miller happened upon a street name -- they can't recall exactly what it was -- that just spoke to them.
"We wanted something that sounded like Texas and felt like Dallas," Miller says. "And, we thought: That name should already be a festival."
"That word 'festival' cuts both ways -- it tells people what it is, but it also brings up images of being hot and sweaty and, oh, my feet hurt waiting in lines," Harris says. "We thought that needed a redo."
That rethinking meant coming up with a full experience that goes beyond normal music fest expectations. Harris gestures to his smart phone and says, "If we're going to borrow two days of your time, we better put on something I can't find right here."
That means a configuration of "bizarre, experimental, spontaneous [and] eccentric" attractions on top of a killer music lineup featuring 12 international indie acts -- think big names like Yeasayer, Aluna George and Washed Out -- as well as 7 hand-picked local ones on a second stage. Among those attractions: hot air balloon rides lifting off from the park's baseball fields, a "pugasus" petting zoo -- more on that later -- yoga sessions, nail art, barbers on-site, live graffiti, interactive art and ... well, in this case "so much more..." isn't just a turn of phrase. Notable local artists will also be peddling pieces, Flea Style (you might remember it as "Dallas Flea) will pop up a market with vintage and handcrafted goods from local sellers, and TBA food and drink vendors will haul in cocktails, craft beer and food.
OK, that's a lot. And, a lot of very impressive-sounding things.
Dallas doesn't have a Coachella or Bonnaroo, but Harris and Miller wouldn't mind the comparison ... at least not in a couple of years. They want Bulladora to be the city's boutique festival, and they want to grow it into a definitive annual event.
"We want it to bleed Dallas," Miller says.
That means everything from the logo to the location. The former is a "pugasus" -- that's "pug," like the dog breed -- a playful take on the Mobil Oil Pegasus often used as the city's unofficial mascot. The latter was a bit more challenging.
They looked at Klyde Warren Park and other obvious open spaces, but the search ended at Reverchon, a showstopping green space right at the convergence of Uptown, Oak Lawn and the Harwood district.
Logistically, it offered ample shade, an obvious necessity for a summertime outdoor festival in Texas, and its bucolic trees created the perfect canopy for a restful attraction, a hammock village designed to provide festival-goers with a needed respite.
Finally, its entrance off the Katy Trail offered flexibility in a neighborhood known for iffy parking. They envision residents of the neighboring areas walking down and staying awhile.
But, why the heck do two outsiders think they can pull that off?
They have a little help from their friends, namely Lear Johnson who is managing partner of Event Southwest. Sound familiar? That's because its behind the Dallas Marathon, the Great Texas Food Truck Rally and the Most Good Music Festival -- just to name a few of the company's high-profile clients. In other words, Johnson knows large-scale event planning and he knows Dallas.
The conversation began years ago, casually mentioned while picking guitars, and with Johnson's guidance, it started to take shape. Harris says Johnson sat them down back in 2014 and explained that they needed to be focused on an inaugural date at least two years in the future.
"We heeded good advice to put all of our resources toward 2016 and kind of thought of it in line as a musician trying to develop a debut album," Harris says.
"Let's do it right and make something Dallas could be proud of," Miller adds.
"Without sounding full of ourselves -- we're not saying we've perfected the idea of a music festival -- but we want this to be a big, top 5 event for the city," Harris says further. "That's the goal, and we think we've got the right band and the right people for it."
Among those "people" are partnerships they formed simply by going out and getting to know Dallas creatives -- connections and "fortunate happenstance" that "spring-boarded" Bulladora forward, Harris says. They're working with food bloggers and independent companies, all of whom are passionate in their niches. It works, they say, because they're passionate people also. Both Harris and Miller maintain full-time jobs and have put together the pieces for Bulladora on evenings and weekends.
"That's the best part: We love talking about it. We're not selling vacuum cleaners," Miller jokes.
Similarly impressive? Bulladora -- at least in its inaugural year -- is largely self-funded. While they're open to sponsorship in the future, having the control to independently hand-curate the event was paramount. That means, for example, they were able to bring in a local artist to create an original stage design rather than kit it out with logos.
"It's been very natural, grassroots and authentic," Miller says. "A labor of love and not a big company coming in and laying it down just for profit."
Harris adds, "A gauge for our success was, if you're creating something cool and interesting then cool people will find you, and that's been the case at every turn."
They see Bulladora as a conduit for progressive, forward-thinking locals from a variety of industries and backgrounds. Everything good it presents, they say, will come from giving those people a place and a platform.
That explains, too, the tickets' relative affordability. Single-day general admission is $49 and 2-day is $99. Harris says Bulladora should be accessible and not exclusive. Generally speaking, based on the vibe of the musical acts, they see it as catering to a younger crowd that isn't always the focus at similar events in D-FW.
"This is Dallas people putting on a festival for Dallas people," Harris says. "We're two guys who live here and go to the same bars as the people who will be at Bulladora."
Those able to spend a bit more can opt for a VIP weekend pass for $189, which includes a premium viewing deck for "optimal viewing of the main stage," VIP-only bathrooms and a climate-controlled lounge, among other perks.