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Blues Fest crowd, reputation grow

June 05, 2000|By RICHARD F. BELISLE

Six-and-a-half-year-old Sadi Summers said she'd heard enough of the music that she said was "nice, but kind of loud."

"I found the good stuff over here," she said Saturday, pointing to a section of the 2000 Western Maryland Blues Fest that was set aside for kids.

Sadi was waiting patiently for her parents, Bob and Sharon Evans, to take her to the children's area for harmonica and percussion workshops, magic show, games, a sing-a-long and a chance to see real Maryland wildlife like hawks, owls and a turkey vulture compliments of the state Department of Natural Resources.

Meanwhile, her parents and thousands of other fans seemed more than happy to take in the music being belted out from the festival's two stages by local, regional and national blues musicians in downtown Hagerstown.

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Charlie McMichael from Wilmington, Del., calls himself a blues aficionado.

"I go to the Chicago Blues Fest and the Poconos Blues Fest, but this is my first time here," he said. "It's a great spot for a blues festival. I'm really impressed. I'll be back."

Kim Potts, 34, of Westminster, Md., was wearing a 1993 Kansas City Blues Fest T-shirt.

"I go to a handful of festivals every year, but this is my first time here," she said. "It stacks up with the rest I've been to. It seems to be very well structured. You have alternating, continuous music from two stages.

"At a lot of festivals you have to miss somebody to hear somebody else."

The festival continues today at City Park.

Saturday, fans shifted from the Washington Street stage to another one set up on South Potomac and back all afternoon as the bands alternated stages.

Potts said she favors the blues because it's poetic and is true American music.

Barbara Parry, 63, brought a group of friends from Carroll County, Md., to Hagerstown. They were whooping it up around a table in what on a normal day would be the middle of Public Square. They were enjoying the sound of blues pianist Deanna Bogart, a Howard County, Md., native and one they considered their own.

"This is the way everybody should be in real life, laid back where everybody loves each other and is polite to each other," Parry said. "It's like bringing back the '60s."

A few tables away sat members of the blues club from kclinger's Tavern in Hanover, Pa.

"It's the blues capital of Central Pennsylvania," said Bob Mooney.

"This is the third time we've come to Hagerstown," said Jane Knott. "We went to the Chesapeake Bay Blues Festival two weeks ago and this is better."

"It's more intimate," Mooney said." "The headliners are almost the same and the prices are cheaper."

It cost $10 to get into the festival Saturday.

Over in the "cheap seats" behind the fence where it didn't cost anything to watch the festival stood Jim and Macky Strongin. They moved to Hagerstown from Long Island a year-and-a-half ago. This was their first festival.

"It's a perfect day," he said. "When it gets too loud for us we just move back until we can hear it."

Mike Lamberger was sitting alone in an aisle chair in front of the Potomac Street stage. His T-shirt was rolled up to his shoulders to reveal large tattoos of naked women that trailed down both arms. "I used to be a roadie for a biker band called the 69 Band. It played old-time blues," he said.

Pat Dalton came down from Fayetteville, Pa., for the festival.

"I can't say I'm a big blues fan, but I enjoy the music," Dalton said. "I came here last year and liked it so I came back."

Dalton had positioned himself on the square so he could hear both stages without moving.

There was only one reported negative episode in what Carl Disque, a local saxophonist and founder of the festival, described as "an almost incident-free event."

Hagerstown Police charged a drummer with one of the bands with possession of marijuana in a car before his band went on stage.

"If someone makes a mistake it shouldn't reflect on what was otherwise a wonderful festival," Disque said. "The police acted appropriately."

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