TEXARKANA — Despite a life of hardships, Universal Vibe music festival founder Colton Foltz looks outside himself, living a life of service.
Centered around holistic outlets and healing, Universal Vibe is the culmination of Foltz’s process of turning obstacles into blessings multiplied for the community to enjoy.
“We created the Vibe because we saw the importance of bringing the community together, especially during the times we faced in 2020. We also wanted to build up the holistic/spiritual/artistic community here in Texarkana, especially since most of our beliefs or practices are considered ‘taboo,'” he said.
Foltz was born and raised in Hooks, Texas, where he was cared for by his mother, who suffered from addiction and poverty after losing her job. Although Foltz also became addicted to drugs at the age of 13, he graduated from high school in 2011.
A lung condition requiring surgery delayed his plans to join the Navy, and while he waited, he became a father. A year later, he watched his daughter take her first steps at the airport as he was leaving to board the plane for boot camp. Foltz completed basic training at the top of his class, and after successfully serving received an honorable discharge. He was also diagnosed with post-traumatic stress disorder.
After coming back to civilian life, he worked at Journeys shoe store in Central Mall and found comfort there for a time. The job allowed him to acclimate back into the world of daily tasks, not training drills and military jargon.
“I went from part time to manager of the year in two years. I really enjoyed working at Journeys post-Navy because it gave me an opportunity to explore and express my new (post-military) self,” he said.
When the COVID-19 pandemic hit, Foltz learned the mall would be closing temporarily. Then on March 7, 2020, “one of my customers followed me home after work and robbed me at gunpoint. I only knew he was a customer because I sold him the shoes on his feet literally three days beforehand,” he said.
Enough was enough. Foltz gave his two weeks’ notice and was informed he had won manager of the year. He still quit.
“Instead of staying in a promising career, taking the awards, promotions and whatnot, I decided to turn it all down and take a chance figuring it out,” he said. “I decided I would never work for someone else again. … The pandemic blessed me with the funds and time to explore what I wanted to do moving forward.”
He took this period to focus on holistic therapies for himself, his family and friends. Through alternative medicines, Foltz found peace and sobriety and was able to focus and fulfill his mission to help others, he said.
The pandemic of course had negative effects, as well.
“No one was gathering. Everything was still very divided. This is when Universal Vibe came around,” Foltz said.
Foltz’s mission for Universal Vibe is to create a safe environment where the community can come together to heal, evolve, and thrive through music, art and holistic health. The festival is free thanks to sponsorships and numerous vendors, volunteers and artists who work at the event. Although the turnout for Universal Vibe has increased each year, the event has yet to turn a profit.
Foltz, his wife, Cassie Crabbe, and his brother Andrew Foltz have put in the work to make the event a success.
“I literally walked door-to-door to like-minded businesses and said, ‘Hey, this is my idea for our community. I want to keep it free. Can you donate or sponsor us?’ And literally no one said no,” he said.
Universal Vibe went from 20 vendors the first year to 75 the second year and grew from 10 artists to 20 artists. Universal Vibe has also hosted two concerts at Hopkins Ice House in downtown Texarkana, Arkansas. The first show was Building Up Chef Keys, which raised $250 to assist with buying a new food truck for a friend, and the second was The Joe Show.
“We raised over $1,000 for our buddy who has been wrongfully incarcerated for the last two years and was getting released from prison. It was a huge success,” he said.
Universal Vibe also helped organize another Building Up Chef Keys concert March 27 at The Dapper at Park Place. There were about 12 vendors and three performing artists, and over $1,100 was raised for Chef Keys.
Universal Vibe has added an option on their website where people can submit requests for assistance.
“We want to use our platform and following to help build the community up by other people in the community. If someone has an issue, then we will use all of our resources to help,” he said.
Recently, Foltz expanded his ventures to create Taboo Texarkana, an umbrella organization for all the events he intends to host in the Texarkana area.
“I have plans to host tattoo conventions and other festivals or events with Taboo. UV has its brand and targeted audience, so in a way it’s limited. Taboo isn’t constrained. It can be for everyone,” he said.
Foltz said the hardest part so far has been finding work-life balance — avoiding becoming obsessive with Universal Vibe to the point that it overcomes his personal life.
“I’m learning everyday to slow down, close my laptop, and be here where I’m needed most, with my family,” he said.
Both Universal Vibe and Taboo Texarkana are allowing Foltz to follow his dream of being a family man and helping those in the community with similar interests. The positive effect the festival has on those who attend has been the most rewarding aspect for Foltz so far.
“I hear stories of how UV inspired someone to start a business or create more music and art,” he said. “I hear stories about people connecting or reconnecting with loved ones. The stories of bridging different people’s worlds together is what fuels me to keep going. I know people are attending UV and finding the help or community they need.”
Colton Foltz performs to a crowd of guests during Universal Vibe 2021. (Submitted photo)