City is red hot with blues

Seventh festival called 'amazing'

Seventh festival called 'amazing'

June 02, 2002|by ANDREA ROWLAND

Former Jefferson Airplane band members Jorma Kaukonen and Jack Casady sent Jeff Wagaman down memory lane Saturday when they hit the stage as the Original Acoustic Hot Tuna at the Western Maryland Blues Fest.

"It takes me back. It's just amazing," said Wagaman of Hagerstown. "They're legends of rock 'n' roll doing the blues."

Hot Tuna was the mellow meat sandwiched between the Toni Lynn Washington and Lloyd Jones bands in a jammin' blues lineup that included such genre legends as Hubert Sumlin and Walter Trout.

John Vanderheyden of Vienna, Va., was among thousands of people who crowded downtown Hagerstown's Public Square area on Saturday for the non-stop live music, food and fun that the seventh-annual Blues Fest offered.


"They've got a great lineup. Walter Trout alone is worth the $15 admission price," Vanderheyden said.

The crowd's attention shifted between alternating acts on the Potomac and Washington street stages. The music has drawn Bill Murdaugh of Mercersburg, Pa., to the event since it started seven years ago, he said.

"It's absolutely the best music in the world. All the other music comes from blues," Murdaugh said.

"We just love it. It's the best thing around," LuAnn Hammond of Hagerstown said.

She and her friends arrived at the event's main gate on North Potomac Street at 8:30 a.m., three hours before the festival started, to make sure they nabbed a table on the square, Hammond said.

Robert Ellsworth and his entourage from York, Pa., also arrived early for the fourth year in a row to claim a relatively shady table, he said.

"We sat on the asphalt last year and we were as fried as those butterfly potatoes over there by 3 p.m.," Ellsworth said.

Temperatures in Hagerstown had soared to 88 degrees by 4:30 p.m., according to local weather observer Greg Keefer's Web site.

Sandra Jones of Martinsburg, W.Va., took extra precautions to protect herself from the blazing sun, she said. In addition to wearing a wide-brimmed straw hat, she re-applied sunscreen every few hours, she said.

The sunny weather also kept beverage vendors at the event busy. Allen and Dottie Taylor of the Pasadena, Md.-based London Court Beverage Company expected to sell about 1,000 fruit smoothies, they said. Members of the Sunrise Rotary Club of Hagerstown were prepared to squeeze and shake about 600 lemons for fresh lemonade, club president Kay Hoffman said.

"We're the movers and shakers here," she said.

And Budweiser beer provider Steve Borland of Wantz Distributors looked forward to breaking last year's Blues Fest beer sales record of 103 kegs, he said.

Since "beer and ice cream don't mix," Jeff Huff of Antietam Dairy said he didn't anticipate record sales of the cold stuff Saturday despite the hot temperatures. Ice cream sales generally are better at today's free blues festival in Hagerstown's City Park, Huff said.

Members of the South Hagerstown High School band boosters club handled a steady stream of customers at their booth, where they had prepared 1,000 pounds of potatoes for French fries, club vice president Ronnie Bond said.

Fries, butterfly potato chips, kettle-cooked popcorn, roast beef sandwiches, smoked turkey legs and hot dogs appeared to be among the most popular edibles at Saturday's festival.

All the food and beverages were free in the event's VIP area near the main stage, where volunteers and sponsoring groups ate, drank, mingled and enjoyed the music.

"We've got the blues, baby," said Ricky Gooden of Shepherdstown, W.Va., as he listened to Eddie Shaw and the Wolf Gang from a front row table with friends from Icon Graphics.

Debra Potter of Martinsburg, W.Va., preferred a spot closer to the ground. She camped under a tree near the food area with two of her friends.

"We get to see everybody and hear the music and even dance if we want to," Potter said.

Ten officers from the Hagerstown Police Department were on hand throughout the eight-hour festival. They inspected bags at entrance gates and monitored the crowd for trouble.

"For the amount of people we have here and the amount of beer they drink, we never have a problem," said Sgt. David Long of HPD. "It's a real orderly crowd."

The Western Maryland Blues Fest continues today with the "Blues Family Picnic" at Hagerstown's City Park. Events at the bandshell begin at noon.

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