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Bayfront Blues Festival to celebrate 10th anniversary, August 14 - 16, 1998!

What started out as a small one day regional blues festival in 1989 has grown into one of the major blues festivals in the country. The Bayfront Blues Festival attracts blues fans from all over the world and has grown in attendance from about 1,000 the first year to nearly 60,000 over a three day period in 1997. This year marks the 10th anniversary of the festival and will feature some of the top blues acts in the country.

During the past decade the festival has hosted nearly 200 blues performers of national and regional acclaim. This year a few of the headline acts include Jimmie Vauhan, Robben Ford, Eddy ĎThe Chief" Clearwater, Lavelle White, Anson Funderburgh, Lonnie Brooks, Susan Tedeschi, Lamont Crantson, Big Walter Smith, Tommy Castro and Charlie Musselwhite. The layout of the festival grounds is also very user friendly with two large stages at opposite ends of Bayfront Festival Park, located right on picturesque lake Superior. Last year the park was expanded opening up more space for the vendors and fans. The event is set up so the music alternates between the two stages with about 10 minutes between each set. This allows the fans time to get to the next show and not miss any of the great blues performances. There are also numerous food and merchandise tents set up around the perimeter if you get hungry or want to take home some souvenirs.

The Bayfront Blues Festival has always been about family and friends coming together for a great weekend of blues music and fun. One attendee recalled driving into Duluth in August of 1989 and seeing what looked like a big picnic down by the harbor. It turned out to be the original festival and he has been a faithful attendee ever since. Many families even hold their annual family reunions during this weekend.

The blues fans who come to Duluth for this annual event are some of the nicest people around -- a great, receptive audience of loyal blues fans who make each artist feel right at home in northern Minnesota. Many of the fans have also made an art-form out of attending the festival. Some set up their lawn chairs half way between the two stages and just get up and turn their chairs around after each set, content to listen to the great music as it floats overhead while the large ships float by in the harbor. Some fans just pick up their chairs and make the short walk between stages every hour and a half. Other fans bring two sets of chairs and set them up at each stage staking out their territory before hand. With the sea of chairs to get lost in, many fans have devised some creative ways of locating their spots. Long sticks, fishing poles and tree branches are attached to the backs of many of the chairs with an interesting assortment of flags and markers on top. Some of the best markers noted last year were a skull from some animal, an old hockey stick, gumby, the Canadian flag, a plunger, a windsock, various toys and dolls (some kids must have been missing some toys) and "taconite" man. It was fun watching new markers sprout up each day and Iím sure the "unofficial" competition for "best" chair marker will be intense this year!

In addition to the Festival itself, official after hour events include the Blues Boogie Train, which features a scenic two hour railroad ride up the North Shore with live acoustic blues. The Moonlight Blues Cruise features a one and a half-hour boat ride with live music out on Lake Superior after the festival events. And for those who like to party well into the night most of the clubs in the Twin Ports feature live blues music, including the Bayfront Blues Saloon in Superior, which has a live blues block party under a tent until 2 AM Thursday through Sunday. In fact, the entire Twin Ports community gets behind this annual event making it one of the most enjoyable blues festival experiences in the country.

Although many of the Bayfront blues fans have had 100% attendance during the first 9 years only one blues band, Big Walter Smith and the Groove Merchants, has performed at every festival. Big Walter has been so popular in the northland that last year the Mayor of Duluth set aside a Big Walter Smith day during the 9th annual festival and proclaimed Smith, "ambassador to the blues." Big Walter Smith will be back this year to help celebrate the 10th anniversary on August 14, 15 and 16, 1998 at the Bayfront Festival Park on Lake Superior.

For more information on the festival:
Phone: 715-394-6831 or fax 715-392-2107
Web Page:
Address: Bayfront Blues Festival, 1019 1/2 Tower Ave., Superior WI 54880

For a review of last yearís festival with pictures visit the Blues On Stage web site at (go to the live reviews page):

© 1998 by Ray M. Stiles, all rights reserved.

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Copyright © 1997, 1998 Ray M. Stiles
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