Some 250 to 300 blues fans braved inclement weather to attend the first Walla Walla Blues Festival at primary sponsor Pierce's Green Valley RV Park on U.S. Highway 12.
"Biggdaddy" Ray Hansen said it "was a fun event with vendors and great food from the Mad Hatter Cafe. Any profits made were to go to building handicapped access to the river for veterans and others. Additional sponsors included the Walla Walla Blues Society and Mike Hammond, who represented wallawallamusic.com, was entertainment coordinator and emcee for the event.
It wasn't the first blues fest in the area. Some will recall The Hot August Blues Festival, which held forth at Fort Walla Walla Amphitheater from 2001-2004.
"Still, what the festival had a lot of was great music," Ray said. Walla Walla bands The Coyote Kings and Johnny No-Land, The Vaughn Jensen Band from Tri-Cities and Portland's Tommy Hogan Band set up a great finale by the Northwest's "Queen of the Blues" Duffy Bishop.
"Even through a steady rain for the last three hours, most of the festivalgoers stayed until the last song, a wonderful take on the Allman Brother's 'Whipping Post.' "
Duffy finished the last chorus of the song admid the crowd and shared the mic with Ray.
The $25 admission fee featured five bands, free camping and many giveaways from sponsors, including Pierce's.
Festival promoters told Ray turnout was much lower than hoped for but they are determined to try again next year should they be able to generate more sponsorships. "These outdoor festivals are really something special and most everyone who attends falls in love with the experience," Ray said. "Everyone involved, especially local musician Mike Hammond, worked hard to put on a fun show that was as entertaining as it gets." Ray co-hosts The Blues Therapy Radio Show, formerly Biggdaddy's Blues Show, with Armand "The Doctor" Parada.
It's been aired on Whitman College's KWCW for seven years and produced by the pair. The show recently received its sixth nomination for the Inland Empire Blues Society's annual regional awards. It's the only show to have been on the final ballot each of the last six years for Best Blues Radio Show. The Walla Walla show is usually the only one outside the Spokane area to be nominated, Ray said.
IEBS is taking votes through Thursday. Blues Therapy Radio can be heard every Sunday from 7-9 p.m. on KWCW 90.5 FM and online at www.kwcw.net . It currently has regular listeners as far away as Texas and Indonesia.
Etcetera appears in daily and Sunday editions. Annie Charnley Eveland can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org or at 526-8313.