Blues Fest draws many over the weekend

Music performances slated to continue today

Attendees of the 15th annual Marquette Area Blues Fest gather under blue skies to watch bands play at Ellwood A. Mattson Lower Harbor Park in Marquette Friday. The free Friday night kickoff to the event drew many to the festival, which started with the band Devil’s Elbow, below. The festival is slated to run through this evening. (Journal photos by Cecilia Brown)

MARQUETTE — The sounds of the blues have filled Marquette’s Ellwood A. Mattson Lower Harbor Park throughout the weekend, as the 15th annual Marquette Area Blues Fest began Friday evening.

The festival, which continues today, has drawn musicians and attendees from far and wide to enjoy music, workshops and vendors.

A large crowd gathered to watch the music when the festival kicked off with Devil’s Elbow playing at 6 p.m. Friday.

The Marquette Area Blues Society, which holds the annual event, strives to put “fun, high-energy bands” like Devil’s Elbow on their Friday night line-ups each year, said Mark Hamari, Marquette Area Blues Society Board member and former festival director.

“We feel once they listen to the great music we have, they’ll be back,” he said.

The free-of-charge entrance to the festival on Friday evening aims to introduce the community to the blues and showcase the genre’s diversity while thanking the public for their continued support of the festival, Hamari said, noting “blues can be such a wide-ranging genre, we try and get them hooked.”

Hamari, who has been involved with the festival for over a decade in many capacities, said his favorite parts are the “moments during the weekend where you look out and you see the moon is rising, and the band is playing, and everyone is dancing. You look at the ore dock and you see this wonderful venue and you just go, ‘Wow, (I’m) proud to be a part of this.'”

The fact that the festival is able to attract acclaimed musicians from around the nation and world, Hamari said, is a point of pride.

“When they play here, they all want to come back and they all say how much they love the area,” he said. “They love the venue, they love the way they’re treated. The hospitality they receive from the society and the community, they just love it, so we’ve gotten quite a reputation on the circuit for having a really cool little festival.”

Hamari said the blues society is grateful for the community’s support, adding that he thanks the Ore Dock Brewing Co. and Honor Credit Union for helping make Friday’s free night at the festival possible.

“The community support has been fantastic,” he said. “We’ve got partnerships with a lot of community businesses.”

Blues Fest is the main annual fundraiser for the nonprofit Marquette Area Blues Society, which aims to “promote the preservation and education of the blues,” Hamari said.

The festival came about for just this purpose — it arose from a discussion among a group of friends about their desire to start a blues festival after the Fourth of July festivities one year, Hamari said, noting that Walt Lindala, who is this year’s Blues Fest director, was convinced by his wife to “just put an ad in the paper and see who shows up.”

“So they did, and a few people showed up and they did the first fest out at the ski hill,” Hamari said. “And then the second year they moved down here and it’s been here ever since.”

The second year involved not only a change in venue, but an expansion from one to two days — then, in its tenth year, the festival grew to the three-day long event it is today.

The Marquette Area Blues Society “spends a lot of time together planning this festival” each year, Hamari said, noting members have “a lot of fun and enjoy each other’s company” while doing so.

He encourages people of all ages who are passionate about the blues to join the society, noting “the more people we can get involved, the easier it is for us to preserve the blues.” The society meets the third Wednesday of each month, Hamari said.

A full day of music is slated to continue today, with Bahluze at 1 p.m., Sons of Legend at 2:30 p.m., Altered Five Blues Band at 4 p.m., Brandon Santini at 6 p.m. and Sue Foley at 8 p.m.

Daily tickets at the gate are $35 for adults and $10 for young adults, ages 15-23. Children 14 and under are free with a paid adult.

Tonight, an after-party will be held “right after we finish,” Hamari said, at the Elk’s Lodge, which is located at 127 N. Front St. in Marquette.

For more information on Blues Fest or the society, visit marquetteareabluessociety.org or its Facebook page at facebook.com/groups/332200478875.

Cecilia Brown can be reached at 906-228-2500, ext. 248. Her email address is cbrown@miningjournal.net.