Saturday Blues Fest

June 07, 1997


Staff Writer

The day was chilly and the wind gusty Saturday for the second annual Western Maryland Blues Fest in Hagerstown's Public Square, but the music was hot, attracting blues lovers from all over the country.

Among the crowd, estimated at 7,000, were visitors from Pensacola, Fla., Annandale, Va., Staten Island, N.Y., and when asked by emcee Larry B. of WKMZ in Martinsburg, W.Va., how many were from out of town, half the crowd roared their presence.

Gaia Shider and Jeff Merk from Wilmington, Del., were so excited about the blues fest that they bought their tickets two months ago.


"We go to a lot of blues fests," Merk said. "Tell them to keep having this one."

Many Hagerstown residents also attended, whether they were blues fans or not. John Krausse of Washington Street, said the blues fest was like a big block party.

"I think it is great for Hagerstown and the people that want to come here," Krausse said. "It's great to be here, man. There's not much to do here, so I just walk right here from down the street."

Downtown Coordinator Karen Giffin handled the logistics of the festival and was busy mingling with sponsors and those who attended.

"We're expecting 16,000 people over the whole weekend," Griffin said. "At this point last year, we did not have this many people."

Giffin said the chilly weather did not affect the attendance.

"Last year it was 80 degree weather," Giffin said. "But it is OK because people are still coming to hear the music."

Giffin and Carl Disque, one of the coordinators, said the event probably made about $4,000 from Saturday alone, but Giffin said they would probably break even with the event or have a little left over for next year's blues fest.

"The support has been amazing," Giffin said. "Private sponsors donated $38,000, and that does not include in-kind contributions."

Frank Erck, an official with one of the sponsors, Home Federal Savings Bank, said he came for the music and company.

"I love the blues," Erck said. "Music really brings people together regardless of their beliefs and philosophies."

Helping to make the blues fest a success was Todd Bolton, event staff coordinator. Bolton, along with the rest of his family, worked alongside 45 volunteers from the community.

"Last year we did not have an organized volunteer system," Bolton said. "As the festival grows, it needs more support to make it work properly."

Bolton said the weather would stay clear for the last day of the fest today at Hagerstown's City Park.

"We've got our fingers crossed," he said.

Candice Wagaman, a Hagerstown resident, said she was really glad the weather held out for the fest. Wagaman attended the festival with her husband and three sons.

"I'm glad to see there is something like this here," Wagaman said. "We would usually have to go to Wolf Trap to enjoy something like this."

Larry B., a blues disc jockey who also emceed last year, said the Western Maryland Blues Fest was going to make Hagerstown famous. He said that because of the workshops and the music, the fest is very family oriented.

"Hagerstown is on the verge of becoming a big blue dot on the map," he said to the crowd. "Hagerstown is going to be the East Coast's Blues Capital."

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