ABILENE - When folks mention music festivals in central Texas, Outlaws & Legends Music Fest held in Abilene, is one that comes to mind. 

Back Porch Productions is presenting the 8th Annual Outlaws & Legends Music Fest on March 23-24 at The Back Porch of Texas venue in Abilene.

Musician Mark Powell, has grown the festival, intended for everyone from country music purists to lovers of Texas country and rock and roll, from its roots eight years ago into what many call one of the best festivals of its kind in the country. 

This year, the festival, which benefits Ben Richey Boys Ranch, will feature 22 artists in two days.

Outlaws & Legends has been a labor of love for Powell, who was born in Ballinger, raised in Abilene, moved to Nashville and returns to his hometown to give back every year.

The lineup for the two-day festival includes Saturday headliner Dwight Yoakum, Powell and his band, Augie Myers and Flaco Jimenez (Texas Tornadoes), Jason Boland and the Stragglers and Gary P. Nunn plus many more. On Friday night, get ready for Reckless Kelly, Ray Wylie Hubbard, Koe Wetzel, Flatland Cavalry and Josh Ward, just to name a few.

“The Outlaws & Legends Music Fest sets the bar for all other festivals. The sound, the crew, the hospitality, the audience, the staff - are all stellar first class cool,” said Ray Wylie Hubbard. “It is now my favorite."

Over the past eight years, everyone from Merle Haggard to Jerry Jeff Walker to Leigh Ann Womack have graced the stage. Last year about 8,300 music lovers attended the two-day event and this year, with tickets flying out the door, Powell expects to have a capacity crowd of 10,000.

“We have people from all over the country,” Powell said. “We have been ranked as one of the top five festivals in Texas four years in a row. This year we have 16 states represented on our ticket roster.”

The Back Porch, located at 3350 N.Clack, is a venue that includes a main stage, and balconies, a three-story merch facility, RV spaces and skyboxes. There is also space for tailgating.

For those who have attended each year - there are a few changes at the venue this year - added space at the merch and the opportunity to buy port-o-johns just for your crew. That’s right, Powell saw it at another festival and decided to try it in Abilene. So folks can actually pay extra to have a private john, just for their party.

In addition, the fire pit area has been expanded.

“It is where there is storytelling and songs,” Powell explained. "People will stay there until 3 a.m. or so in the morning. We listen to people and have expanded on their ideas - they really like the fire pit.”

Proceeds from the fest always benefit a non-profit organization. This will be the fourth year Powell has donated proceeds from ticket sales to the Ben Richey Boys Ranch. The total donated for the past eight years has reached $1 million.

“I’ve really gotten attached to the Ben Richey Boys Ranch. As a musician you’re always asked to do this or that - and they are the most genuine people,” Powell said.”They do things how I do things - it is 100 percent grass roots.”

Powell said tickets are going fast - currently he said there are about 20 RV spots left, and plenty of general admission tickets, which are $45 each for the two day festival.

Powell said the festival attracts generations of country music lovers and that’s what sets it apart from other fests.

Gates open at noon Friday and at 10 a.m. Saturday.

“Come on out and join the party,” Powell said.