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The Extended BluesFamily

August 25, 2008 - Phyllis Sigal
It's a little more than two weeks since BluesFest 2008 started and ended ... all the anticipation, the nerves, the excitement, the waterline break.

We've had time to settle back and relax, reminisce, talk about what we can do better next time, what worked well this year, what didn't, etc.

The blog that I wrote just the day before it all started talked about BluesFamily – my friends and family who have been there year after year to make it a great weekend.

My outlook is mostly limited to the main tent during BluesFest weekend. I sell tickets; I answer questions; I solve the ticket problems when there are no tickets at will call for someone who says they should be; I exchange wristbands for those who've broken or lost theirs; I visit with some people who've come from a long way just to experience blues on the waterfront. But, I don't get out much. So I don't see the interaction between the others out there.

But I've come to learn that there is a whole other BluesFamily out there - besides just mine. I now realize how large that BluesFamily is, how many people really make this one weekend on the banks of the Ohio River in Wheeling, W.Va., what it is.

I'm amazed at the stories.

There are the Zipps. Brothers Charley and Robert come from Texas to meet up with their dad, Albert, and his wife, Raschell, from Clarksburg. This is their family reunion each year.

A woman from the Carolinas meets up with her brother from Michigan at Heritage Port every August.

Judy Minder, from Wheeling, is joined by two friends, formerly of Wheeling, who now return for their reunion at BluesFest.

There was the woman from Maryland who drove five hours when another blues festival was happening just a couple of miles from her house – because this one is "worth the drive," she said.

"Blues Bobby," president of the South Florida Blues Society, came this year for the first time and brought more than 20 Floridians with him!

Steve and Shirley Adams said they might not be able to make the drive from Atlanta this year because Steve had surgery the week before, but they convinced the doctor to let them travel because "we told the doctor that the Blues is about healing."

There's a whole BluesFest thread from Bill at Blindman's Blues Forum, where people talked for days prior to BluesFest this year about how much they were looking forward to coming to Wheeling. Then the chatter went on for days and days after ... and it 's still going on ... with lots of comments and really great photos. My favorite comment, however, is from "Deepest Blue," who is already talking about next year: "My rooms already booked. You only need to go one year to figure out what you're going to do the next year. This was my 7th year and I'm still kickin' myself ... for missin' their first year."

Then there is the Barking Dog Blues Web site with three days' worth of photos from the festival as well as scenic shots from Wheeling.

And another great link is where you can see beautiful photos from Dusty and Val Scott who do a great job every year capturing the festival.

And the Pittsburgh Post-Gazette blues blogger wrote volumes about the festival.

Also this year, the unspeakable happened! Tal Hutchins and James Tiu rendered Bruce speechless during Saturday of BluesFest. Tal presented Bruce with a resolution from the W.Va. House of Delegates recognizing him as an “Outstanding West Virginian” for his work in keeping the blues alive. Tiu presented a proclamation on behalf of Wheeling City Council, declaring Aug. 9 as “Heritage Music BluesFest Day” in Wheeling.

Kevin Tasey from Weirton, who has come to every BluesFest, sums it up well: "I hope you are ready from here on out, because the flood gates are going to open and all the people that I told you that I met for the first time, they are coming next year and they are all bringing their friends!"

The word is out, my friends. This is a festival not to miss. And it's nice to know that I'm not the only one who thinks so!


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