As Richardson celebrates its 150th anniversary in 2023, it is important to look back at where the city came from. From its founding in 1873 as a small railroad town to its current-day status as a city that is home to businesses and institutions that help develop the technology that changes the world, a lot has happened over the past 150 years. This year, Richardson Today will be telling some of these stories and exploring the people and events that helped shape Richardson into the place it is today, including a look this month at the history of the Wildflower! Arts & Music Festival.

For more than three decades, the Wildflower! Arts & Music Festival has been a staple on the Richardson community events calendar. Wildflower! has brought numerous music legends to Richardson, including this year’s event, which is being headlined by 2015 Rock & Roll Hall of Fame inductee Joan Jett and The Blackhearts.

Armadillo races at the first Wildflower! festival in 1993

However, music was not always the focus of Wildflower! The inaugural festival in 1993 had a lineup of events that would be scarcely recognizable to people who only know Wildflower! in its current incarnation.

The following was how the April 1993 edition of Richardson Today described the new festival:

“More than 23 acres of wildflowers have been planted in Breckinridge Park to provide a magnificent setting for this Wild West flower fest. Solid fields of red, white, pink and yellow set the scene for a full day of fun, featuring hayrides, a Wild West midway, kite exhibitions, a flower market, an arts and crafts show, a model boat demonstration, food and of course, lots of wildflowers.”

The schedule for the first year also featured a 5K run, magic show, armadillo races, an O.K. Corral-inspired high noon shootout and educational seminars about wildflowers and native plants. What was noticeably absent from the Richardson Today description was any mention of music, although there were several musical acts on the bill including the Emerald City Band, which still performs regularly around DFW to this day.

Joan Jett in 2014

By its second year in 1994, the event had been renamed the Wildflower and Music Festival and two major acts had been booked, Michael McDonald (formerly of the Doobie Brothers) and Lee Greenwood, who headlined Saturday and Sunday nights respectively. The fifth annual Taste of Richardson served as the Friday night gala and kickoff event and was headlined by an up-and-coming Dallas-based bluegrass/country band, the Dixie Chicks.

Wildflower! continued to grow over the coming years, adding additional stages and attracting tens of thousands of people annually. It was held at Breckinridge Park for its first two years before moving to Greenway Office Park at the intersection of US 75 and Campbell Road in 1995. That year featured The Temptations as the Saturday night headliners, and a charity softball game where celebrities played against the Dallas Cowboys Cheerleaders.

The festival would remain at Greenway Office Park until 2002 when it moved to its current home in Galatyn Park, which had been built out in anticipation of the opening of the Eisemann Center later that year.

While Wildflower! is now a three-day music festival, that has not always been the case. The inaugural year saw Wildflower! take place over two days, while from 1998-2001 the festival was spread over two weekends, with Wildflower! Nights featuring main stage acts over a Friday and Saturday night, with the main three-day multi-stage festival taking place the following weekend.

Kevin Bacon in 2000

In 2002, the festival’s first year at Galatyn Park, a single-day festival, dubbed “The Sights and Sounds of Galatyn Park,” was held in late June and coincided with the opening of the first three DART Light Rail Stations in Richardson.

Wildflower! has attracted top-tier musical talent almost since year one. Starting with The Temptations at the third festival in 1995, Wildflower! has hosted numerous members of the Rock & Roll Hall of Fame:

  • The Jacksons (1997)
  • Beach Boys (1999)
  • Electric Light Orchestra (2000)
  • Isaac Hayes (2000)
  • The Go-Go’s (2001)
  • Cheap Trick (2005 and 2014)
  • Leon Russell (2005 and 2015)
  • Joan Jett (2006, 2014 and 2023)
  • Pat Benatar & Neil Giraldo (2008 and 2015)
  • Jerry Lee Lewis (2011)
  • Nile Rodgers (2012, performing with Chic)
  • Lynyrd Skynyrd (2017)

Additionally, Michael McDonald (1994) was inducted as a member of the Doobie Brothers, and Joe Walsh (2012) is in the Hall of Fame as a member of The Eagles.

Miranda Lambert in 2005

Creedence Clearwater Revisited, which was made up of members of Hall of Fame inductee Creedence Clearwater Revival, performed at Wildflower! in 1998, while The Original Family Stone, including members from Hall of Fame inductee Sly and The Family Stone, performed in 2007. Finally, The Spinners, who performed at Wildflower! in 2006, are nominated for inclusion in the Hall of Fame’s 2023 class.

Like years before when the Dixie Chicks performed at Wildflower! in 1994, attendees in 2005 got a look at a performer who would go onto become one of country music’s best-selling artists. In 2005, Miranda Lambert played a Friday night show at Wildflower!, at which time Richardson Today described the Lindale, Texas native as an “up-and-comer” in the country music world. Lambert would go on to be named the Academy of Country Music’s Top New Female Vocalist in 2007, and has since won the Female Vocalist of the Year award nine times from the Academy of Country Music and seven times from the Country Music Association. She has also won three Grammy Awards and been nominated 24 additional times.

Wildflower! has come a long way from the days of armadillo races and hayrides at Breckinridge Park. Next month, we will be talking to several long-time residents about their memories of growing up in Richardson and how the city has changed over the years.