Sunday, August 05, 2001

Eat, drink and be mellow; all's cool at Blues Festival

Browsing amid artists' wares an added bonus in Lebanon

By Jenny Callison
Enquirer Contributor

        LEBANON — Hot licks and cool sounds, spicy snacks and mellow crowds seasoned Lebanon's third annual Blues Festival Saturday.

        For most of the day, downtown Lebanon basked in the smoky aroma of barbecue as seven bands served up multiple flavors of blues on the festival stage.

        “The food is great, and there's an excellent quality of music,” said Dick Starnes of Dayton, who has attended the festival all three years. He worked on a plate of ribs while listening to the Back Forty Blues Band cover a Robert Johnson blues ballad.

[photo] Opening the festival, Scotty Bratcher, 13, with the Scotty Bratcher Band, performs on a stage set up on the street.
(Ernest Coleman photo)
| ZOOM |
        “Beer sales have been great, certainly comparable to what they have been in previous years,” said volunteer Liz Jorling as she snapped plastic bracelets on folks entering the beer garden. “There's been no rowdiness at all.“

        While some attendees focused on the music and refreshments, others browsed among tents where artists displayed their photography, pottery, paintings and jewelry. An emphasis on the arts was deliberate, said an event organizer.

        “Applefest has arts and crafts. We wanted to focus on the fine arts,” said Barb Smith, past president of the Lebanon Optimist Club. It sponsored this year's Blues Festival.

        “A lot of the artists here are local, or people I've met at art shows,” said Sara Stegemoller, a photographer who recruited the vendors. “Next year, we would like to be able to draw quality artists with a juried show, if that's possible. That way, we don't appear to be picking and choosing.”

        “We didn't know what to expect, since this is our first year at the Blues Festival,” said Karen Baum, who greeted visitors at her husband's pottery booth. “We've done real well; it's a good crowd. Blues fans tend to be older and more affluent.”

        The festival's fate was in limbo earlier this year because Lebanon's Chamber of Commerce, which had spearheaded the event, wanted to find another sponsor.

        “The new chamber director, Wilma Grace, said the chamber didn't want to be in the festival business except for the Christmas Festival,” Ms. Smith said.

        At first, the Optimists were reluctant to take on what seemed a huge project, but they later agreed. Ms. Grace guided the organization with information from past years.

        “We just dissected it, and parceled out different pieces of it. We also worked with the city's new festival committee and the downtown merchants,” Ms. Smith said. “All festival profits will support our projects for youth in the community.”

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