GALLERY: Sunshine kept the Blues coming
WASAGA BEACH -- Summer weather with sunny skies and warm nights provided the perfect back drop for the seventh annual Wasaga Beach Blues Festival Saturday and Sunday.
"Mother Nature co-operated and we ended up breaking our own record with 2,500 through the gate on Saturday," said festival chair Kathy Mulgrew.
Headlining Saturday night was international performing artist Shakura S'Aida. The Maple Blues Award winner told the crowd she doesn't often get to perform in Ontario, but enjoys it.
Her powerful voice boomed over the audience for a stunning rendition of Amazing Grace and that was just the sound check.
She implored people to get up and dance.
"It's the Blues dance, not the Blues sit or the Blues watch," she said.
Bedecked in bangles, feather earrings and flowing robes she also had a message for the crowd.
"Find your voice."
She told people to speak up when they see discrimination happening. She told a story about how her mother protested violence against black students in the 1960s in the United States and was jailed for it. Then she said that after many years of not speaking about it, her mother talked to thousands of students in Vancouver about her experience, which made her a star.
S'Aida then got the audience involved in the singing of a chorus and by asking "Do you want something good?"
Numbers for the outdoor festival at the Stonebridge Town Centre were quieter on Sunday but overall the event sold 108 cases of beer.
Sunday offered the Junior Jam led by Louis Lefaive with several teenaged musicians with experience ranging from months to several years.
"One young singer, she was 16, knocked it out of the park," said Mulgrew.
Mulgrew said she would have liked to see a bigger audience as the young people had an enormous amount of talent.
"Grace was a powerhouse on Sunday," said Mulgrew about the Toronto based funk, soul, disco and rock singer.
The Cameo Blues Band closed the festival on Sunday night.
"It was fun because they are a party band."
The low $5 entry price was possible because of event sponsors and fundraising events. Mulgrew said.
Partners in the event included the Wasaga Beach Brewing Company that provide festival T-shirts. Half of the proceeds of the $20 shirts went to the festival.
Sarah Collie, the owner of the west-end Tim Hortons provided a Tim Hortons trailer with free coffee inside the event. Donations were accepted for the Wasaga Beach Ministerial Food Bank.
Two stages provided seamless entertainment all weekend.
"It went really smoothly. The bulk of the kudos go to ACS Productions and Backline Plus. We doubled their work load and didn't give them any breaks between bands. They never missed a beat."
The event also added a second 40 by 80 foot tent in addition to the VIP tent.
"We put that up in case of rain. But in reality because of the heat, it allowed people to stay out all day," said Mulgrew.
Still, there is room for growth of the festival as the Stonebridge property grounds could accommodate 3,000 people.
"I do believe we are still growing. I would think in the next year or two we will hit that."
The Friday night Boogie Woogie Bash silent auction raised $2,300 for the festival.
And the Thursday night Blues Crawl, with bus service between bars with live blues entertainment went really well, said Mulgrew.
"All the bars were well attended. We only stranded one couple at the wrong end of town after the bus stopped," she added.
"If there is anything that we will change up for next year it will be the vendors village.
Now that we have the mix on the grounds right, we need to beef it up," she said.
Lastly, the Wasaga Beach Blues Festival is in the running for top festival and event through the Ontario Choice Awards of Attractions Ontario.
Go to https://attractionsontario.ca/top-festival-and-event/ to vote. There is also a link on the Wasaga Beach Blues Festival website: http://www.wasagabeachblues.com.