CHENANGO COUNTY — There's only one more week until the 29th annual Chenango Blues Fest, scheduled for Friday, August 19 and Saturday, August 20 at the Chenango County Fairgrounds.
"It’s a great year for us. Jimmie Vaughan is a big headliner for us, we have a really strong lineup. Looking forward to being back to normal and doing the Blues Festival, so I think that will be great," said Chenango Blues Association Event Organizer Eric Larsen. "It’s the highlight of the summer for us and hopefully for a lot of people as well."
The weekend's festivities will actually begin on Thursday, August 18, with another installment of the NBT Bank Free Summer Concert Series. Opening the evening will be local group the Nate Gross Band at 7 p.m., and at 8 p.m. Mike Zito's Big Band will take the East Park stage.
Friday's show will be free to attend, with parking opening at 4:30 p.m. and the festival gates opening at 5 p.m. The Hi-Jivers will kick off the show at 5:30 p.m., followed by Angel Forrest at 7:15 p.m., and lastly Popa Chubby taking the stage at 9 p.m.
On Saturday, parking gates will open at 10 a.m., with the festival gates officially opening at 11 a.m. Throughout the day, nine high-caliber bands and artists will be rocking the fairgrounds on the infield stage and tent stage.
Taking the infield stage at 11:30 a.m. will be the Misty Blues Band, followed by Annika Chambers at 12:30 p.m., Altered Five Blues Band at 2:45 p.m., and Nick Moss and special guest Dennis Gruenling performing at 5 p.m. The final infield stage performance will begin at 7:30 p.m., featuring headliner Jimmie Vaughan.
Shows on the tent stage will begin at 1:45 p.m. with Corey Harris and Cedric Watson. At 4 p.m., the EG Kight Trio will be hitting the stage, followed by Teresa James and the Rhythm Tramps, and a 9 p.m. performance by Southern Avenue to close out the day.
Attendees can expect a return to the Blues Fest they remember this year, as Larsen said this year's festival is a far cry from the ever-changing COVID guidelines and restrictions seen last summer.
"I was looking through all my notes from last year, I always review everything, and we jot down a lot of stuff for next year. I was looking at all the notes we had for all the different things that were related to the restrictions, and it was a lot easier to manage that process this year," he said. "We always encourage anybody who feels like they might be sick that they should probably stay away. But other than that, we don’t have any protocols."
Tickets to the Chenango Blues Fest are available now at SimpleTix.com, and are $45 a piece. Tent camping tickets are also available up until the day of the event for $80 per person.
Larsen said RV tickets, which are $50 extra for basic sites and $75 extra for enhanced sites, are still available as well. However, they're going fast.
"Tent camping will be no problem right up until that Friday, and tent camping they can pay at the door. RVs will most likely be sold out. We have a few more, they can buy them now, but we don’t sell them at the door and if anybody wants them they should buy it ASAP, because there's only a few left," said Larsen.
This year's festival will also feature a new addition — a raffle contest for an electric guitar crafted by former Norwich resident Mike Aronson.
"We had a former Norwich resident, Mike Aronson, who has gotten into making custom guitars, and he’s made them for some big blues artists that have commissioned him to make guitars. And he made us one to raffle off to benefit the Blues Festival, and it’s a beautiful guitar," said Larsen.
Raffle tickets are $5 a piece, and can be purchased at the Summer Concert Series show on Thursday, August 18, as well as at the Chenango Blues Fest. The winner will be drawn at the festival on Saturday, August 20, but does not have to be present to win.
All the money raised from the raffle will go to the Chenango Blues Association, to help them continue to put on the annual Blues Fest and Summer Concert Series.
"It helps us cover all of our expenses," Larsen explained. "You know, every year it’s just getting more and more difficult to manage the cost of production, so every little bit helps."
Attendees of the 29th annual Chenango Blues Fest can also enjoy plenty of delicious food on Saturday. Vendors include Big Zeus Barbeque, Lekkie's Thai, Birdsong Cafe, Mama Shep's, Tuller's, Nina's Pizzeria, Brake from the Grind, TacoCat Food Truck, Stathis Greek Food, and Gilligan's Ice Cream.
Several craft vendors and entertainers will be in attendance as well, including Allyne Studios, Amazulu, Blue Wave Records, Fly Dye Clothing Company, Earth and Air Wellness, Simply Primitive, Cook Maple Syrup Products, Custom Engraving Products, Jasmine Moon Wellness, Golden Hands Design, and the Palm Reading Lady.
The 2022 Chenango Blues Fest and Summer Concert Series was made possible by the support of several sponsors, including NBT Bank, Norwich Rehabilitation and Nursing Center, Laral Management, Raymond Corporation, Southern Tier Pet Nutrition, Oliver's Campers, Flanagan Law Office, NYCM Insurance, Walking Ridge Development, SUNY Morrisville Norwich Campus, Rentals To Go, Build Block CNY, The Evening Sun, the Pennysaver, and NYS Music.
Larsen said the support of the community also plays a big role in keeping the events going each summer.
"I encourage people to come," said Larsen. "We do ten days of programming, nine of them are free. We charge for one day, so we really hope people will come out and support us because it's a really important part of keeping the organization going forward."
More information on the 29th annual Chenango Blues Fest can be found at ChenangoBluesFest.org or on the Chenango Blues Association Facebook page.