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Blues heat up hotel

March 11, 2005|by BRIAN SHAPPELL

shappell@herald-mail.com

HAGERSTOWN - It may not have been outside in downtown Hagerstown and there may not have been thousands of fans or two giant stages, but the Four Points Sheraton was packed for Thursday's Blues Fest Birthday Bash.

Organizers for the 10th Annual Western Maryland Blues Fest held the event, complete with food, beer and blues bands, as a way to celebrate how much the festival "grew and grew and grew..." over the years, said Julie Donat, co-chairwoman of the executive committee.

"We've made it 10 years with Blues Fest. It's a nice accomplishment," Donat said.

Although there were only two bands - Duffy Kane and The Bonedaddy Band - as opposed to the more than 20 booked for this year's festival, more than 500 people packed into the Sheraton's ballroom area for the bash.

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As Jason Morton of Hagerstown put it: "What else are you going to do on a Thursday night in Hagerstown in March?"

"Something like this is just a reminder of what's to come in June," Morton said.

This year's Blues Fest will be held June 3 through 5 in downtown Hagerstown. Featured artists include Marcia Ball, Larry Carlton and the Sapphire Blue Band and the Dirty Dozen Brass Band.

Several at the event said their interest in June's festival was increased as a result of Thursday's birthday bash.

"I haven't been able to go for the past two years," said Chris Collinson, of Hagerstown. "I'm definitely very excited for it this year."

Denise Jones, a former Frederick, Md., resident now living in Waynesboro, Pa., said Thursday's bash was her first ever taste of Blues Fest, and now she is ready for more in June.

"Now I really want to be involved in Blues Fest. I'm all about it," Jones said. "It's a school night, and we're still out late. Bonedaddy will bring you out every time."

To celebrate the 10th anniversary, Blues Fest founder Carl Disque said the committee is trying to organize a pre-festival jam session at the University System of Maryland's park area. He said the committee also opted to bring in a national headliner to spice up the Lotta Blues Festival Kickoff on June 3.

"We got Sonny Landreth, the world's best slide guitarist, for Friday," Disque said.

Though it's the first time in several years the committee has organized a pre-festival event in the winter, it may become a tradition much like the main festival, Disque said.

"It looks like we'll have to do it again next year because people love it," he said.

More information on this year's festival is available at www.blues-fest.org.

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