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Outlook bright as Blues Fest grows

May 31, 2000|By LAURA ERNDE

Organizers of the fifth annual Western Maryland Blues Fest in Hagerstown are counting on the weather to cooperate with their plans for this weekend's outdoor music festival.

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Although it has rained two out of the last three weekends, the National Weather Service is calling for clear skies and temperatures in the low 80s on Saturday.

Thanks to the bright outlook, Blues Fest will hold on to its tradition of not purchasing rain insurance.

Organizers hope to surpass last year's record 20,000 attendance.

Each year, the event grows a little bigger and gains more respect regionally and nationally, said founder and chairman Carl Disque.

"We're not the biggest, but we think we're one of the best," Disque said.

This year, Blues Fest has the honor of being sponsored by Blues Revue, a magazine that is to blues music what Rolling Stone is to rock.

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Several of the festival's featured artists received the genre's most prestigious awards last week. KoKo Taylor, who is playing at the Maryland Theatre on Friday night, got the W.C. Handy Award for Traditional Blues Female Artist of the Year.

On Saturday, two stages set up in Hagerstown's Public Square will feature an eclectic mix of local, regional and national performers.

The festival area will be slightly larger than last year and the food court is being moved to the North Potomac Street Parking Lot.

The streets will close earlier this year - at midnight Friday - to allow for more setup time. Traffic will be detoured around the square until about 9 p.m. Saturday.

The sound system will be bigger, as well, but that doesn't necessarily mean it will be louder.

Speakers will be spaced throughout the crowd and be timed so the people closest to the stage will hear the same thing as those farthest away, said Michael Scarfe, owner of MHA Audio Inc. of Hagerstown.

"The downtown does offer challenges," said Scarfe, who has experience with events nationwide.

There's nothing sound engineers can do to stop the music from bouncing off nearby buildings, he said.

It will take about a dozen people to set up the sound system, he said.

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