The crowd just kept growing in the Lafayette Hotel's parking lot Friday night as the 17th Annual Red, White and Blues Fest kicked off the Fourth of July weekend in downtown Marietta.
"I'd rather play the blues here in Marietta than in my own hometown," said Chris Sutton, an acoustic blues player from the Huntington/Barboursville area of West Virginia.
Sutton, who debuted his new CD, "Sun Studio Recordings," at Friday's event, was the first of three blues acts to take the stage between 7 p.m. and midnight.
red white blues fest
Also performing was 2011 River City Blues Competition winner Ray Fuller and the Bluesrockers from Columbus, and Cleveland's Elm Street Blues Band.
"Cobbler John" Bolen, of the local Blues, Jazz & Folk Music Society, brings the Red, White and Blues acts to town.
"I've helped put the talent together for the last five or six years," he said. "And most are regional acts that have performed during our blues competition in February."
Larry Wright, of Belleville, W.Va., wasn't a performer during Friday's event but his custom-built oak drum set took center stage.
"I've played all my life and always wanted a better-sounding drum," he said. So he designed his own and has been crafting Larry Wright Signature Drums for five years now.
"It's a lot of work but I enjoy it," Wright said, noting the set used by the blues bands Friday night was finished last Christmas.
More to come
What: Demolition Derby
When: Saturday. Pits open at 2 p.m., gates at 7 p.m.
Where: Washington County Fairgrounds.
Cost: General admission is $5, pit passes, $20.
For information: www.washcountyfair.org.
What: Independence Day fireworks display following Southern Ohio Mud Bog Shootout .
When: Sunday, around 10 p.m. (nightfall).
Where: Washington County Fairgrounds and surrounding areas.
Cost: $7 to get into grandstand or free to view fireworks from other locations.
For information on the Mud Bog or to sign up: www.washcountyfair.org
What: Marietta Independence Day parade sponsored by AMVETS Post 1788
When: Monday; line up beginning at 9:30 a.m., parade kicks off at 10 a.m.
Where: Gathering at Fourth and Butler streets, goes down Fourth to Putnam, Putnam to Second, Second to Butler, Butler to Front and wraps up at the Armory on Front St.
"My Christmas present was when my wife gave me two days that week to work on the drums-she couldn't have picked a better gift," he said.
The event is sponsored by ReStore Marietta, an organization dedicated to the promotion and development of the downtown district.
"You could call this our 'crown jewel' fundraiser," said Mark Morris, president of ReStore Marietta.
"The proceeds go into our general fund and helps support the purchase and upkeep of the hanging flower baskets and other decorations along Front, Putnam and Second streets," he said.
Morris said the Red, White and Blues Fest is well-attended every year.
"Where else can you go for such a small price ($5) and enjoy such great entertainment?" he asked.
Paula Degen, a native of Marietta now living in Annapolis, Md., had stopped by her hometown to do a little shopping on the way to see her brother in Cleveland.
"It's a nostalgic trip I take back here every three or four years," Degen said. "I saw signs advertising this event as I came into town. It's my first time at Red, White and Blues. But it's a great event. And I love what ReStore has done with the town."
ReStore Marietta member Karen Briley co-chaired Friday's event with Rob Schaefer.
"It's been a successful event every year," she said. "And the reason it all started was the hanging flower baskets. We needed some way to pay for them."
She said purchasing and maintaining the plants alone costs around $6,000 a year.
"Buying the flowers is the easiest part," Briley said. "But we also have to hire an individual with a tractor who keeps them watered all season."
She noted that ReStore is also responsible for providing flags along the streets for the Fourth of July, Memorial Day and other holidays, as well as the annual downtown Christmas decorations.