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Early rain doesn't keep fans away from Blues Fest

June 01, 2008|By DAN DEARTH and ERIN JULIUS

HAGERSTOWN -- Gray skies yielded to the blues Saturday after the 13th annual Western Maryland Blues Fest experienced a slight delay that was caused by rain and thunderstorms.

Bob Klinger, a Hagerstown resident and self-professed blues addict, said it would have taken a tornado to keep him away from the annual event.

"I've been (to all 13) Blues Fests," he said. "If you live in Hagerstown, and you don't come here, there's something wrong with you. It doesn't get any better than this ... With blues and beer, the weather's always nice."

By 8:30 p.m., any hint of bad weather was forgotten as the closing act, Buckwheat Zydeco, was introduced. The crowd was given a warning: "What you are about to experience can inspire spontaneous dancing."

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The band warmed up the crowd before introducing Stanley Joseph Dural Jr., aka Buckwheat Zydeco, on the accordion. Another musician played a washboard strapped to his chest.

Buckwheat Zydeco's music makes people take off their shoes and start dancing, said a man in the crowd who called himself Tall Richard.

"That's a dancing band," he said.

And the crowd did dance, some pumping their arms in the air, a few women shaking their hips and other people just shuffling their feet along with the music.

Carl W. Disque, chairman of the Blues Fest Committee, said organizers of the event were financially prepared for the storm that put a slight damper on Saturday's show.

Earlier this year, city officials purchased rain insurance to protect their investment. The city paid $9,660 for $60,000 of coverage on Saturday, and will collect if more than one-quarter inch of rain fell between 11 a.m. and 6 p.m.

Almost 1 inch of rain had fallen as of Saturday at 9:30 p.m., according to i4weather.net, a Web site maintained by Hagerstown weather observer Greg Keefer.

Karen Giffin, community affairs director for the City of Hagerstown, said city officials have to meet with the insurance provider and should know whether the city will get a settlement within a week or two.

Even though the show continued after the storm, Disque said the city still is eligible to collect on the policy. If a settlement is made, a portion of the money could be used to help pay for next year's event, he said.

About 1:45 p.m., festival workers began sheltering the audience in parking garages after the storm began, Disque said. About 25 minutes later, the show went on.

When all was said and done, the storm pushed the Blues Fest about 15 minutes behind schedule.

"We weren't even close to calling it," Disque said.

Before a Blues Fest is canceled, event organizers have to determine whether the weather will pose a threat to public safety, Disque said. High winds and lightning play a factor.

Disque said he was confident that Saturday's show could continue because Blues Fest Committee members tracked the storm on radar.

"We got the word that there's blue skies all the way to Ohio," he said.

After the weather lifted, people slowly began to return to the festival. Many were reluctant to sit down in chairs where puddles had formed.

Matt Collins of Philadelphia said this year's festival was his first. Although the weather on Saturday was a little disappointing, Collins said he was glad he came.

"It's great," he said. "Last night was unbelievable. They really rocked the joint. I hope to come back. They put on a great lineup."

David Williams and Valerie King

David Williams of Chambersburg, Pa., likes the blues and heard that good food was served at the 13th annual Western Maryland Blues Fest, he said Saturday afternoon as the self-described seafood lover finished a crab-cake sandwich.

Saturday was Williams' first Blues Fest, and he and his friend, Valerie King, intended to return today for the Family Blues Picnic at City Park, he said.

King, 48, also of Chambersburg wanted to get out and do something different this weekend, and the Blues Fest sounded fun, she said.

Williams, 55, wasn't familiar with any of the bands playing this weekend, but he enjoyed them anyway.

"There's always time to get familiar," Williams said.

The Hagerstown Police Department said one arrest was made Saturday, and one citation for underage drinking was given.




Chris Dorsey

Chris Dorsey loves music, and volunteers at the Western Maryland Blues Fest every year. On Saturday afternoon, she sat down at a picnic table offering to share a heaping plate of butterfly fries.

Blues music always has spoken to her, and she loves live music, so she's been volunteering at the festival for about five years, Dorsey said.

She went to the Lotta Blues Show Friday and enjoyed Savoy Brown, she said.

"It was a really good show last night," Dorsey said Saturday afternoon.

She arrived at the Downtown House Party Saturday about 9 a.m., and stayed despite a heavy rainstorm early in the day.

"It's a great time to look forward to every year," she said.




Rich McQuarrie

Years ago, two friends made a deal to meet up at the Western Maryland Blues Fest every year.

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