Birth of the Blues (Fest)

15th edition of musical event happens this weekend

Dwayne Dopsie & the Zydeco Hellraisers perform. (Courtesy photo)

MARQUETTE — Walt Lindala knows about the birth of the Blues … Fest.

“It was born around my kitchen table. My wife, April, and I, along with a mutual friend, Terry Klavitter, had gone to Lower Harbor to see the 4th of July fireworks in 2003,” Lindala said. “Afterwards, we came back to our house, and Terry and I sat around the table, talking over drinks about the pros and cons of doing a blues festival. We decided to look into forming a non-profit blues society first, to get more hands on deck. We proceeded to go round and round, back and forth, until April, frustrated with a couple of half-in-the bag guys prattling on in the kitchen, piped up from the living room, saying ‘Just put a damn ad in the paper and see who shows up.’

“We did (and) had our first meeting soon after, some folks showed up, and we went from there, holding the first Marquette Area Blues Fest at Marquette Mountain on Labor Day weekend of 2004. It moved to Mattson Lower Harbor Park the following year.”

And that’s indeed the site of what will now be the 15th annual edition of Marquette Area Blues Fest, three days of some of the greatest music in America. Lindala is the festival’s director and while he’s excited about all the acts that re going to hit the stage, he does have one in particular he’s anxious to witness.

“I’m really looking forward to seeing Dwayne Dopsie and the Zydeco Hellraisers from New Orleans on Saturday night,” Lindala said. “They are the first zydeco band we’ve ever brought to the fest, and they will blow it out. Also Sue Foley is great. I saw her a few months back playing with Billy Gibbons of ZZ Top and Jimmie Vaughan at a club in Austin, TX and she rocked the roof off of the place. She’s a great talent.”

Sue Foley is scheduled to perform Sunday at the Marquette Area Blues Fest. (Courtesy photo)

It’s shaping up to be another outstanding event. Does Lindala have any special memories of past Blues Fests?

“Boy, I have SO many. It really hard to pick one,” he said. “I have to admit that what I cherish the most have been the instances of young blues bands from around the area getting to interact with the seasoned pro players that come to play the festival. The pros always really seem to like to pass on tips and stories, and I feel that helps keep the music going.”

For someone who hasn’t attended before, what’s the Blues Fest vibe?

“It’s so much more than music,” Lindala said. “There’s great food and drink, a variety of vendors selling some arts and crafts and music memorabilia, workshops for those want to learn more about the blues, and a big dance floor to get your groove on. It’s a great group of people who come together to celebrate their love of the blues.”

And for those who aren’t already blues aficionados?

“I encourage anyone who thinks the blues isn’t for them to come down to the festival and check it out. I guarantee it will change their minds and make them a blues fan,” Lindala said. “I also want to remind people that there is a special ticket rate of $10 a day available at the gate only for teens and young adults ages 15-23. That’s a great deal.”

The Marquette Area Blues Fest includes a free night on Friday and ticketed concerts Saturday and Sunday featuring on outstanding array of musicians.

For more information, visit the society’s website at www.marquetteareabluessociety.comd.

Renee Prusi can be contacted at 906-228-2500, ext. 240.