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Three-day fest keeps Jerry's music alive

June 30, 2007|By MATTHEW UMSTEAD

FALLING WATERS, W.VA.-Derek Whitten and his girlfriend Blondy's reason for traveling about eight hours from their home in Toledo, Ohio, to the American Roots Music Festival this weekend was simple.

"It's the music, man. It's the music," Whitten said as the psychedelic country rock sound of New Riders of the Purple Sage and friends reverberated along the Potomac River off U.S. 11 near Marlowe.

"It's a classic love fest," said Kemp Blair, who along with his brothers, Bob and Chris, organized and staged the event and began booking more than 20 bands for the event in January.

"We just want to get together and love each other and dance," Kemp Blair said.

The outdoor festival is scheduled to continue today through Sunday night, culminated by a "surprise visual show."

Bob Blair said he hopes that the festival will be an annual event, featuring artists who either played with the late Jerry Garcia or were inspired by the Grateful Dead frontman.

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Cathy Mancino and Garry Engle of Image Makers Art Inc. had more than 60 prints of Garcia artwork and men's ties available for festival-goers to purchase.

"We have some actual originals, never published, one of a kinds," Engle said.

Dozens of other vendors offered espresso, pulled pork barbecue, burritos, slushes, grilled items, tie-dye clothing and jewelry.

Kemp Blair, who said he did all of the site preparation on his brother Chris' property, didn't have any idea how many people would come out for the festival, which is substantially larger than a one-band show on the property in 2006.

"Last year was a tiny, tiny thing with this local band," said Kemp Blair, who said he traveled with the Grateful Dead tour for 15 years.

"It was a blast," he said.

Making her way to the hillside lawn area in the front of the stage, Debbie Whitmore said Chris Blair, whose property on Temple Drive neighbors her, stopped by and invited them to the festival.

"We came just to check it out," Whitmore said.

Omsteaders substitute band member Joe Dicey said the festival helps keep the music that Garcia inspired alive.

"They don't ever want this to stop," Dicey said. "They only want to experience the positives of what he was all about."

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