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Rain stays away from Blues Fest's final day

June 02, 2003|by PEPPER BALLARD

pepperb@herald-mail.com

While an encouraging blue broke intermittently through the clouds Sunday, between 3,000 and 4,000 music fans seemed happy that the "R" word didn't ruin the last day of the eighth annual Western Maryland Blues Fest.

After lightning, rain and high winds canceled the final four acts of Saturday's portion of the three-day festival, including headliner and blues legend John Mayall, some fans said Sunday's free concert at Hagerstown City Park, which touted Ray Bonneville, The Blue Comets, Alvin Youngblood Hart and Deanna Bogart, was just enough to lift their spirits.

Cheryl Bell, 38, of Sykesville, Md., said although she was disappointed rain canceled shows by four bands Saturday night, she got to see four bands for free on Sunday.

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The rain kept Marilyn Richter, 55, of Frostburg, Md., from coming to the festival Saturday.

An avid blues fan and festivalgoer, Richter said she's come to the Western Maryland Blues Fest for the past three years.

Richter, who was lounging in a canvas lawn chair sipping on a chilled coffee drink, said she prefers the City Park venue to the city square location.

"This is my idea of a blues festival: Kids, dogs, families," she said. "A lot of us don't like that roped-in thing."

Sunday's Blues Fest events at Hagerstown City Park were proceeding without a hitch at mid-afternoon, said Sgt. Mark Renner of Hagerstown City Police. He said traffic was flowing well.

The events ended at 5 p.m. and, according to Hagerstown Police Department Sgt. Paul Kifer, there were no arrests, no traffic problems or any other incidents during the day.

Bob Hillman, 64, of Baltimore, who was sitting on the grass with a group of friends, calls himself a Blues Fest regular.

He endured the rain Saturday under an umbrella at Roccoco, a downtown restaurant, but said if it rained Sunday, he was heading home.

Hillman said as far as Blues Fest venues go, the architecture of downtown Hagerstown and the plush green scenery of Hagerstown City Park are good backdrops for some of his favorite music.

Jennifer Thompson, 25, of Hedgesville, W.Va., said she prefers the park events because they're free.

Thompson, who camped out under the shade of a large tree, said she was at Saturday's show for about 20 minutes before it rained, but didn't lose out on the $25 admission fee because she stood outside the stage perimeter.

"You can just lay back, relax and enjoy the music here," she said.

Kelsea Hill, 11, of Gettysburg, Pa., was doing just that.

Lying on a tie-dyed blanket with her family, Kelsea said after coming to the festival for the past few years, she appreciates the music more.

Her mother, Lisa Hill, 40, said the family comes to Hagerstown specifically for the Hagerstown City Park event because it's geared toward families.

Aaron Andrews, 10, of Sharpsburg, was taking advantage of what the festival had to offer children. Waving an orange balloon sword at his father outside Kids Jam Too, a mix of magic, harmonicas and face paint, Aaron said he really liked the music on the main stage.

Blues music comes second to his favorite kind, rock 'n' roll, but he said he doesn't favor any band over another.

"I just listen to it," he said.

Patricia Westgate, 46, of Putney, Vt., said she came to the Western Maryland Blues Fest for the first time this year after hearing about it for years.

"It's been wild. It's incredible," she said. "The people here have a great time and are very welcoming. Great state. Great city, I should say."

Hagerstown public information manager Karen Giffin said she estimated the crowd Sunday at 3,000 to 4,000 people. She echoed the police sentiment that the day was nearly perfect, as few problems cropped up.

"It rained a little Sunday morning but that was over quickly," Giffin said. "And we had a lost child, but the parent was found quickly."

Staff writer Marlo Barnhart contributed to this story.

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