Park hosts Blues Fest finale


The Western Maryland Blues Fest wound up Sunday with a free concert at Hagerstown's City Park, bringing an end to an event that attracted record-breaking crowds in its fifth year.

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"Everything's wonderful. We're pleased with the weather and all the artists gave fabulous shows," said Carl Disque, founder and organizer of the event.

An estimated 26,000 people attended the three-day festival, an increase from 20,000 in 1999 and 14,000 in 1998, he said.

Organizers had one minor glitch on Saturday when performer Shemekia Copeland arrived late, but she made up for it by playing longer, Disque said.

Disque thanked the city for its help in making the Blues Fest a success.

The seasonable weather on Sunday, with temperatures in the low 70s, made for a perfect climax to the festival, he said.


"I'm very grateful. We're being smiled upon," he said.

The festival got off to an informal start on Thursday with the "Blues Prelude" at the Miller House where Disque and Koko Blue performed.

On Friday, the official kickoff featured music at The Maryland Theatre Courtyard at noon, with Mr. Downchild and Rudy & The Bluefish taking the stage.

Friday evening the "Queen of Blues," Koko Taylor and Her Blues Machine, gave a nearly sold-out performance at the Maryland Theater.

Around 15,000 people came downtown Saturday for the Street Fest, where eight blues groups performed on stages in the Public Square.

On Sunday, musicians played at the City Park band shell before a crowd of 2,500.

Hundreds of families brought blankets and chairs to watch the show and picnic at the park.

Others danced or simply stood, taking pictures and grooving along with the artists.

The day's events included activities for children and workshops for music-lovers.

A Kids Jam, Too, area was devoted to providing games and musical instruments for children to try out.

Parents waited in a line that remained about 30 deep all day to receive a balloon light saber or necklace for their children.

An exhibit at the Mansion House Art Center on the Hill displayed the work of several local artists.

This was the third Blues Fest that Jay and Judy Nigh of Hagerstown have attended.

The couple said they came late to the festival on Saturday but enjoyed watching Shemekia Copeland sing the blues.

"It was great," said Judy Nigh.

"The Blues Fest really helps bring recognition to Hagerstown," said Jay Nigh.

Best friends Angela Pappariella, 14, and Ashwini Bonde, 13, both of Hagerstown, said they make the Blues Fest an annual outing.

The girls said they enjoy all types of music and like relaxing on a blanket with their friends and family at the park.

"It's fun," said Pappariella as she munched on a country ham sandwich from one of the many food vendors.

Hagerstown City Police Sgt. Rick Reynolds said he requests to work the Blues Fest every year. Although he said he isn't a big blues fan, he enjoys being at the park with a friendly crowd.

"Today there's been no problems and the weather cooperated," said Reynolds as he sipped an orange smoothie Sunday.

Crowds were peaceful all weekend and only one arrest was made on Saturday, police said.

Police charged the drummer for the Clarence Spady Band with marijuana possession after they found a bag of suspected marijuana.

Anthony William Wilson, 38, of Wilkes-Barre, Pa., was taken into custody after performing and later released on personal recognizance.

Frank Fritz of Hagerstown spent his Sunday afternoon not only listening to his favorite blues artists but capturing their likenesses on paper.

Using a large pad, the artist sketched each of the performers with a graphite pencil.

Fritz, who was attending the Blues Fest for the first time, said he hopes to frame the works and sell them.

First-time Blues Fest attendees Dominique Meekeras and Anastasia Gage traveled from Falls Church, Va., after hearing about the Hagerstown blues event.

The couple put up a tent for their children, where their daughter could nap and play and their son could escape the music and read.

"We're having a really good time," Gage said.

Bill and Charlotte Krepp of Hagerstown sat on a swing at City Park where they could watch children playing and listen to the blues from a comfortable distance.

"It's wonderful. There's a lot of different things for different people," said Bill Krepp.

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