Dubbed "One of America's Best Little Blues Festivals," the 20th annual River City Blues Festival is this weekend in Marietta with bands from as far as New Orleans and California scheduled to hit the stage.
The event is organized and hosted by the Blues, Jazz and Folk Music Society of Marietta, and headed up by "Cobbler" John Bolen, who has been a member of the society since the late 1980s and scheduled all of this year's entertainment.
"I'm just a spark in the flame, there are plenty of volunteers who do all the work," Bolen said. "But a lot of work has gone into this and I expect a great show."
Up to 1,000 people are expected to stop by the Lafayette Hotel at some point over the weekend to check out the various acts.
The Saturday night session is always a sell-out and Bolen suggested buying tickets in advance. Ticket prices range from $20 to $70, depending on membership status in the blues society and the shows offered.
"This is a chance for the Mid-Ohio valley to see some acts they would never normally get to see," Bolen said. "I've got some great acts from California, Oklahoma, Wisconsin, Atlanta, Cincinnati and Baltimore ... they're coming from all these places to play for us here at Marietta. Without this festival these artists would never come here."
Annual River City Blues Festival
When: 8 p.m. Friday, 12:30 to 5:30 p.m. Saturday (matinee), 8 to 11:30 p.m. Saturday
Where: Lafayette Hotel, 101 Front St., Marietta
Tickets: Weekend passes for all events are $50 for society members and $70 for non-members. Tickets to the Friday night and Saturday matinee shows are $15 for members and $25 for non-members each. Tickets for the Saturday night show are $20 for members and $30 for non-members.
On the Net:
Ticket info and band information: www.bjfm.org
The local blues club spends more than $20,000 putting on the event and only hopes to break even, Bolen said.
"My satisfaction comes when I see people having a good time at our party," he said.
Karen Briley, manager at Schafer Leather Store, 140 Front St., said Marietta has become a "blues destination" for many fans.
"From a retailer's perspective, these are great weekends for us," she said. "These competitions and festivals draw fans from all over who come back year after year and we've become good friends with many of them. These events often encourage guests to stay the weekend, shop and eat locally, which really helps the whole community."
Briley also chairs the annual Red, White and Blues Festival, which is set to kickoff July 1 in Marietta this year.