By Sarah Rucker
Photos by Michelle Mejia
As I stood in the wings at Miller Outdoor Theatre hearing the name of the 2012 Big Squeeze champion being called, I found myself looking back over the highlights of the last three months.
|Rudy Salinas preparing for audition|
Then in early March it was down to the Rio Grande Valley which has always been a hotbed of great Texas accordion music. Since Michelle and I were tied up with our Board Retreat that weekend we had a good friend organize the audition, 2007 Champion Juan Longoria, Jr. Hosted by Harlingen Performing Arts Center, this audition made the record for most contestants at a single location. Our friend Mayra Cruz helped wrangle all of the nervous contestants, Juan introduced each one, and his brother Federico Longoria assisted when contestants needed bajo sexto accompaniment. Then their band Conteño performed. This audition had another special moment and a first for the history of the Big Squeeze contest. Juan’s son, Juan Longoria III, became the first child of a winner to audition for the contest.
|Los Texmaniacs with Robert Casillas |
on a hot Dallas afternoon
|Rodolfo Lopez announcing |
contestants at Gallista Gallery
In addition to the auditions, we had many mail-in entries from players from all over the state. In early April, came the nerve-wracking part: a panel of judges had to meet to narrow the dozens of contestants down to eight semi-finalists. The news was released the Monday after Easter. Previous finalists Isaiah Tellez from Houston and Omar Garza from Mission made it. Candie Cerda from San Benito was chosen as the only female semi-finalist for 2012. Peter Anzaldua, a semi-finalist in 2010, advanced. In the 12 and under category, Zeth Lara and Juan Longoria III were chosen. And Michael Ramos and Luis Gonzalez from the Dallas area made it to the next round.
|Joel Guzman autographing |
Candie Cerda's accordion
Flashing forward to my moment in the wings on June 2 in Houston…
After watching the four finalists, Peter Anzaldua, Omar Garza, Michael Ramos and Luis Gonzalez steal the hearts of nearly 6,000 audience members, the results were being announced by Texas Folklife director, Cristina Balli. Brownsville native Peter Anzaldua took the title, becoming the second of six winners from Brownsville, Texas. Previous champions Juan Longoria Jr., Johnny Ramirez and Keyun Dickson were there to congratulate him along with Texas Folklife staff and board members and the other finalists and their families.
|Board members Armando Sanchez and Gus Voelzel presenting|
Peter Anzaldua with his Grand Prize certificate and accordion
Photo by David Dodd