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Turnout at Western Maryland Blues Fest hailed

June 09, 1998|By KERRY LYNN FRALEY

Word is out that Hagerstown has the blues and the weekend turnout at the third Western Maryland Blues Fest proves it, the city's public information manager said Monday.

The three-day Blues Fest drew an estimated 15,000 to 16,000 blues lovers to the city, said Karen Giffin.

Last year's weekend crowd was estimated at between 13,000 and 14,000 people, Giffin said.

"We're getting to be a large festival, and we're getting well-known in the blues community," said Giffin.

The event has gained a reputation for having top-notch acts and being "user-friendly," she said.

Despite a little rain, an estimated 7,000 people attended the free Blues Picnic, which featured five back-to-back musical acts, children's workshops, and arts and crafts at Hagerstown City Park on Sunday, she said.

The Blues Fest itself grew this year, with two stages holding twice the number of acts as one did last year at the downtown Street Fest on Public Square, Giffin said.

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Thanks to a sponsorship from Citicorp Credit Services and volunteer efforts, the children's section was larger this year, with about double the number of workshops and ongoing arts and crafts activities, she said.

Between the many free activities and the low cost of those for which there was a charge, the Blues Fest makes for an inexpensive family weekend, Giffin said.

She said that visitors attending the festival are gaining a positive perception of Hagerstown and she hopes they will return and spread the word, she said.

"We had a lot of comments on how beautiful Hagerstown is and how clean the festival area was," said Giffin, who credits the Hagerstown police and public works crews for keeping on top of things.

The Hagerstown/Washington County Convention and Visitors Bureau office experienced a major increase in traffic Friday and Saturday, said executive vice president Ben Hart.

About 160 stopped by the office on Saturday, compared with roughly 30 to 40 people on an average summer Saturday, Hart said.

The Blues Fest is definitely a selling tool for the city, he said.

"It shows the diversity of the community," Hart said.

The more angles of a community you can market to potential visitors, the better exposure you get, he said.

Organizers will start planning next year's Blues Fest in about a month, Giffin said.

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