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Vignettes from the 2013 Blues Fest

June 01, 2013
  • William Shanton, 75, of Martinsburg, W.Va.
By Kevin G. Gilbert/Staff Photographer

William Shanton, 75

Martinsburg, W.Va.

Ever since the first Western Maryland Blues Fest rolled around 18 years ago, William Shanton has been in attendance.

Saturday was no exception.

“This is my vacation,” Shanton said Saturday during the Downtown House Party in the City Center parking lot. “Every year is great and every year is a little different. That's a good thing. It gets better every year.”

Shanton, like other longtime Blues Fest loyals, said the event’s most notable change is its increasing fans.

But the growing crowds don’t bother him.

“I get to meet new people every year,” Shanton said. 

Shanton, who describes blues music as being about the life, struggles and happiness where it originated in the South, said he hopes to attend the 19th annual event in 2014. 

“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.”


Sandy McGowan, 63

Greencastle, Pa.

Sandy McGowan has been coming to the Western Maryland Blues Fest for the past six or seven years, she said Saturday during the Downtown House Party in the City Center parking lot.

“I enjoy coming, I like watching all of the people,” she said.

McGowan’s reasons for attending the event Saturday were multiplied when she served as a front-gate volunteer in the late afternoon.

Over the years, McGowan has seen Blues Fest’s evolution.

A steady increase in crowds remains the most notable change, she said.

And the price, too.

“I came when it was in the square,” McGowan said. “It only cost $10 in the square.”


Doug Smith, 58

Keyser, W.Va.

This weekend marked the 12th time that Doug Smith has attended the Western Maryland Blues Fest.

“I look forward to this every year,” said Smith, sporting a Blues Fest T-shirt. “I always take my vacation this time of year because this is one of the best blues festivals on the East Coast.”

“The entertainment is international and national, and it’s just a great time all around,” Smith said Saturday during the Downtown House Party in the City Center parking lot. “The hospitality is so good with the local merchants and vendors and everybody. It’s just a great time, just a great time.”

But the real draw of the event, for Smith at least, remains the music.

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


Ken Lamb, 52 and Sharon Vanko, 53

both of Finksburg, Md.

After attending the Western Maryland Blues Fest for the first time last year, Ken Lamb and Sharon Vanko found themselves at the annual event again Saturday.

“We came here today to have a good time, listen to all the good blues music, enjoy the weather, lots of good food fun, just have an all-around good time,” Lamb said during the Downtown House Party in the City Center parking lot.

Lamb said he has been a longtime fan of blues and jazz-style music.

When asked if he and Vanko had plans to attend next year’s Blues Fest, Lamb’s answer was instant: Absolutely.


Ellen Wagner, 54

New Market, Md.

For the fourth year, Ellen Wagner, of New Market, Md., attended the Western Maryland Blues Fest with her sister on Saturday.

“She gets tickets, and it’s just a good time,” Wagner said during the Downtown House Party in the City Center parking lot. “It’s a lot of fun, good music.”

While she admitted she is not an expert on blues music, Wagner said she enjoys hearing the annual stylings of each year’s acts. 

“I love coming ... we hang out in the sunshine and we have a drink and it’s just nice,” Wagner said.

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Sunday’s schedule

Family Blues Picnic
City Park, off Virginia Avenue, Hagerstown. Free admission. Lawn chairs and blankets encouraged.

Peter Buys Band Shell
Noon to 12:45 p.m. — Scott Ainslie
1 to 1:45 p.m. — Fast Eddie Galvin and the Fast Lane Blues Band
2 to 3:15 p.m. — Skyla Burrell
3:30 to 5 p.m. — The Nighthawks

Washington County Museum of Fine Arts
1 to 1:45 p.m. — Washington County Public Schools All County Jazz Ensemble
2 to 2:45 p.m. — Workshop by Scott Ainslie
3 to 3:45 p.m. — Washington County Public Schools All County Jazz Ensemble

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