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Hidden Gems: Meet Anne Johnson of Armadillo Christmas Bazaar

Today we’d like to introduce you to Anne Johnson.

Hi Anne, we’d love for you to start by introducing yourself.
Hi! I’m an art and music festival producer born and raised in Austin, TX. I can’t think of anything better to put my heart and soul into. I was unintentionally working toward my dream job my whole life. My first official job for the Armadillo Christmas Bazaar was when I was five years old. I delivered flyers for the event with my mom in a red radio flyer wagon to local Austin businesses in the late 80’s. As a tween, I got another unofficial job as decorator and was officially put on payroll at 15 to take tickets at the event.

Executive Producer Bruce Willenzik and my dad were buddies in the 70’s. They’re still good friends. Bruce gave my family and I the opportunity to be a part of this iconic piece of Austin’s history (and future). In 2010 after graduating with a BA in Communications, Bruce asked me to be a part of a team to carry on the legacy of the Armadillo art and music festival that was over three decades old at that point. I moved up in the ranks and I am now General Manager and Producer of the event, working alongside Bruce and Annie Harding. The tradition has continued in my family with my mom, dad and three nieces on the payroll.

I am also on the board for Art Alliance Austin. I worked my way up from a volunteer position to helping with the Art City Austin art and music festival.

The last 12 years of learning event production from knowledgeable and kind-hearted people have been a priceless experience. I feel empowered to do so many amazing things with what I have learned. I’ve also made so many friends (whom I call family) in the artist community in Austin and across the country. I am forever grateful!

Can you talk to us a bit about the challenges and lessons you’ve learned along the way. Looking back would you say it’s been easy or smooth in retrospect?
There have been struggles and challenges. The most devastating has been the disruption caused by the pandemic. Looking back at what was a smooth road for so many years is now all “jacked up”. Since spring of 2020, we have been living with daily uncertainty like so many other industries. We canceled the event pretty early on in 2020 and sat back to see what would happen. We were glad we did when the city shut everything down from August to December. In 2021,we planned to move forward once things started opening up again only to grow more uneasy as the event got closer. In October of 2021, two months before the event we were forced to reformat and move it outside- something we had never done before. I felt like my career advanced five years in a two months period. I got a crash course in outdoor event planning. We worked hard, pulled it off and had a wildly successful festival despite all the challenges.

Thanks – so what else should our readers know about Armadillo Christmas Bazaar?
The Armadillo Christmas Bazaar is an art and music festival produced solely in Austin, TX. It has been running since 1976 with its roots at the Armadillo World Headquarters- where Austin’s music identity began.

Traditionally it is an indoor 10-12 day festival that ends on Christmas Eve. Over 100 artists and local businesses sell everything from fine art to handmade gifts with live music from Austin’s best musicians. We looked a little different in 2021 and foresee even more changes in order to thrive with everything going on around us.

We specialize in a truly authentic Austin experience. The artists and makers really make the event unique. We travel around the country and search our beloved city looking for the best artists to sell their art at Armadillo. Our event is thoughtfully curated and everyone who joins us is part of our family. The spirit of Austin is strong with live music everyday from local rockstars. It’s such joyful place to be around Christmas time.

We love surprises, fun facts and unexpected stories. Is there something you can share that might surprise us?
I hate public speaking! It’s the worst!

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Image Credits
Jennifer M Ramos

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