Hagerstown riding blues wave with fest

June 03, 1998|By LAURA ERNDE

The third Western Maryland Blues Fest is just around the corner, and organizers say other areas of the state have begun to follow the musical lead.

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Frederick, Md., hosted its first blues festival in October and the Chesapeake Bay Blues Festival debuted last month at Sandy Point State Park.

"We were definitely at the crest of the wave in Maryland and even the East Coast," said Western Maryland Blues Fest founder and chairman Carl Disque.

Disque and other organizers gathered in Hagerstown's Public Square Tuesday to celebrate the third Western Maryland Blues Fest, to be held this weekend.


"It's a chance to put the community on the map as a tourist destination," he said.

Holding plastic blow-up saxophones and guitars and wearing black Blues Fest T-shirts, a dozen organizers touted this year's festival as the biggest and the best.

With headliners like Rod Piazza and the Mighty Flyers, Cephas and Wiggins and Saffire Uppity Blues Women, people should get ready to party, they said.

The festival kicks off at lunchtime Friday, with free concerts downtown by Dem Guise and Beulah Mae and the Belvederes. At 8 p.m., Hot Tuna's Jorma Kaukonen Trio comes to the Maryland Theatre for a ticketed event.

On Saturday, a street festival downtown begins at 11:30 a.m. A second stage was added this year to showcase local blues bands like The Blue Comets and Duffy Kane & Black Manhattan. Many areas are free.

Sunday features a free blues concert in City Park.

The committee has raised about $60,000 so far for this year's festival, said Karen Giffin, public information manager for the city of Hagerstown. Last year, the event drew $41,187 in sponsorship compared with $23,630 its first year.

In addition, many businesses donate time and materials, organizers said.

Local nonprofit groups such as the Washington County Arts Council, Washington County Historical Society and Community Action Council benefit from the proceeds.

Mayor Robert E. Bruchey II said the blues festival is a good way to showcase the improvements to Public Square that were finished this spring.

"We're going to have a great time," he said.

Every year the festival gets a little larger and community enthusiasm grows, with about 150 volunteers helping to pull it off, Disque said.

"I don't think that there's any way you can stop this now. It's a juggernaut," he said.

For more information, call 301-739-8577 ext. 116 or visit the festival's Web Site at

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