Blues Fest kicks off with hot weather, music

June 01, 2007|By DAN DEARTH

Harold Jones said his love affair with the blues and cold beer made it easier to deal with the scorching heat on Friday as the opening riffs were played to kick off the 12th annual Western Maryland Blues Fest.

The Funkstown resident and his friend, Fred Muray, seemed to be in heaven, even though the 90-degree temperature felt a little more sinister.

"I work outside anyway," Jones said. "As long as I have a cold beer ... I'm all right."

Muray said the heat didn't bother him either.

One of the first things Muray said he did after arriving at the Blues Fest was eat a hot sausage.

"It helps the sweat out," he said. "This is the best festival (Hagerstown) has all year."

Both said they would be back to hear more blues today, when eight acts, including the James Cotton Band and Joe Bonamassa, are scheduled to perform from noon to 9:30 p.m.


The Blues Fest runs through Sunday.

After opening the festival, Ronnie Ray of Ronnie Ray & the Coolers left the stage soaked with sweat.

"This (festival) is definitely one of the best in the country," he said. "Lots of blues fans pick two (blues festivals to attend) a year. Many pick this one."

Ray said he last played the Blues Fest about four years ago. He and the Coolers normally perform in small bars throughout the Tri-State area, he said.

"That's usually the meat and potatoes," Ray said.

As Ray posed for pictures and signed autographs for some of his fans, Blues Fest founder and Chairman Carl W. Disque said the event wouldn't be a success without acts such as Ronnie Ray & the Coolers.

Disque also thanked the city, which provided parking and safety services, and residents, who raised roughly $100,000 for the festival.

"It's safe ... It's fun ... It's family oriented," he said. "It's not for profit. It's for the community."

Disque said the Blues Fest helps put Hagerstown on the map.

Although he wasn't sure how many people typically attend the event, Disque said it has grown steadily every year.

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