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Saturday busiest day of the Western Maryland Blues Festival

June 01, 2013|By HOLLY SHOK | holly.shok@herald-mail.com
  • Umbrellas were popular Saturday at Blues Fest Saturday in Hagerstown City Center.
By Kevin G. Gilbert/Staff Photographer

Even though the Western Maryland Blues Festival is celebrating its 18th anniversary this weekend, longtime loyals who have stuck with the music fete since the start were not hard to come by Saturday.

William Shanton of Martinsburg, W.Va., was at the Downtown House Party in the City Center parking lot on Saturday, enjoying Blues Fest just as he has for the past 18 years.

“This is my vacation,” said Shanton, 75. “Every year is great and every year is a little different. That’s a good thing. It gets better every year.”

Karen Giffin, Hagerstown’s community affairs manager, said thousands of people were in attendance at Saturday’s Downtown House Party — the paid-admission-only event where two stages served to accommodate eight bands throughout the day that ran from noon to 9:45 p.m.

The city-hosted four-day festival, with Saturday being the busiest day of the event, offered 17 performances in all, Giffin said.

The event continues Sunday from noon to 5 p.m. at City Park.

Eats from kettle corn to crab cakes were up for grabs and the beer was flowing with ease Saturday as, under a blue sky brightened by sun that produced temperatures breaking the 90-degree mark, acts such as Sonny Landreth and Clarence “The Blues Man” Turner took the stage. 

Shanton, however, was most looking forward to seeing Saturday night’s headliner, funk legend Maceo Parker.

Blues music, Shanton said, is about the life, the struggles and the happiness of its Southern roots.

“It’s what I listen to ... some people listen to, say, symphony music,” Shanton said. “I listen to blues every day. I’m a blues fan.”

Doug Smith, in his 12th year as a Blues Fest regular, agreed.

“I would rather listen to the blues than any other time of music,” said Smith, 58, of Keyser, W.Va. “I do like some rock, but to me, the blues is the ultimate music in the world. It’s the greatest thing there is.”

While not a Blues Fest veteran, Baltimore resident Brian Sweeney, a Baltimore Blues Society member, saw his second year of Blues Fest, and this time, had a newcomer in tow.

“It just feels real. It’s not processed music,” said Sweeney, 53. “It’s made for people who love music, not for people who love the radio.”

Sweeney’s guest, Laurie Turkawski of Falls Church, Va., was following his lead.

“He’s the blues fan and I’m tagging along,” said Turkawski, 46. “I’ve been exposed to some new things because of him.”

Sue and Jeff Gerberich made the approximately 85-mile drive from their Millersville, Md., home to attend Blues Fest for the fifth or sixth time.

“Where can you see so many bands for one price?” said Sue Gerberich, 56. “They have some bands that are just up and coming, but they have some we’ve heard of, too.” 

Her husband nodded in agreement.

“The prices are really cheap. There’s no place else like this,” said Jeff Gerberich, 64, his hands occupied by an ice cream cone.

For the past decade, Hagerstown resident Corinne Bagley has been volunteering at Blues Fest, this year serving as a VIP section bouncer.

“I love volunteering. I think it’s fun,” said Bagley, 22. “I just really love the atmosphere.”

Bagley’s mother, Mary Jo Vincent of Hagerstown, also was volunteering Saturday.

The mother-daughter duo, while separated by 20 years, are united in their taste of tunes

“It’s soulful,” Bagley said of blues music.

“And the stories behind the music, the emotion,” added Vincent, 41.

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