Okay, I admit it. I relaxed just a bit too much when I got home last evening and fell asleep before posting. In my defense, we had a busy weekend!
As I said yesterday, we had houseguests come in on Friday night and our crowd went out for steamed crabs that evening. (Eating steamed crabs at a true "crab house" is a Chesapeake thing. It's different from just going out to dinner as you need to work at eating crabs. It is noisy (people banging on their claws with mallets), messy (tables are generally covered with brown paper, newspaper or disposable plastic), time consuming and, truly, a lot of fun. The most common beverage is cold beer by the pitcher. It's not just a meal, it's an evening's entertainment. A good time was had by all.
Also, as I said yesterday, our guests left early Saturday morning and we spent the day at a local winery with yet a different crowd of family and friends.
After an evening of resting up, we rose fairly early Sunday and headed off to the 14th Annual Western Maryland Blues Fest in Hagerstown, Maryland. Held the weekend after Memorial day weekend, this is one of the leading blues events on the East Coast. Just east of the Appalachian Mountains, the City of Hagerstown is located amidst some of the most scenic rolling hills of the Mid-Atlantic region. They go all out to show the many music loving residents and visitors a terrific good time for the festival weekend. We've been attending for the last seven years or so and have seen some fantastic acts over that time.
The weekend kicked off this year with a free concert by a local band held in a downtown city park. Friday featured a limited admission, paid event held on a downtown parking lot and featured four regional and national acts. That same lot came alive on Saturday with two stages featuring eight regional and national acts performing from 11 a.m. until approximately 11 p.m. This, too, is a paid venue. This year admission was $40 at the gate. (They do offer non-refundable advanced tickets at a slight discount.) Sunday wraps up the weekend with a rocking free family event in the huge and beautiful Hagerstown City Park, also located downtown.
Normally, we attend the paid Saturday event, spend the night in town and then wrap it up with the Sunday in the park. This year, we just felt we really couldn't afford the $80 in admission fees plus a hotel fee. Since it is a two hour, one-way journey for us, it is simply too far to commute to the event both days, especially when you consider the time we would be leaving on Saturday night only to return early on Sunday. They do not allow you to bring in food or coolers to the Saturday venue so you need to add in another $50 in expenses for food and drink. (Nobody ever said festival food was inexpensive!) This year, we elected to go elsewhere on Saturday and simply go to the Sunday in the Park portion of the festival.
The park itself is absolutely fantastic. There is a huge lake with ducks, geese and visible fish. Picnic tables and permanent grills dot the landscape throughout the park and near a large playground. There are numerous paths for walking and, at least during the festival, there is a small train ride for children. The "train" is made up of several little wagon-like carts being pulled by a small tractor. The little ones seem to enjoy the thrill of the ride. Parking is plentiful, free and easily accessible. They have a large bandshell with a fairly good size area of permanent seating in the form of wooden benches, surrounded by huge shade trees. Definitely a pleasant place for warm weather concerts. There is a mansion house on the property which houses an art museum. Further down, near the parking areas, are some other buildings which are used for educational purposes. Some years, music clinics have been held in those buildings by some of the performers.
This free portion of the festival featured four regional groups this year (some years there are five). We were able to hear all four groups although we did slip out shortly before the last group finished up. They bill Sunday as the "Family Blues Picnic" because coolers and picnic baskets are welcome, as are the children. There are special music performances, musical workshops, free souvenirs and arts and crafts projects for the children. A wide range of foods are available for purchase. This year, the weather was fantastic.
Let me tell you, it was crowded!! Bumper-to-bumper blankets, chairs and people in general. At a free venue, it is difficult to count heads but I am 100% positive they set some attendance records this year. There were literally thousands of folks sitting throughout the park. People had their chairs and blankets set up in parts of the park where I've never seen them settle before. (The sound system is great and the music can be heard for quite a distance.) The lines at the bathroom facilities were long. (Very long!)
These pictures of the stage feature a group out of Loudon County (VA) called Jumptown. I understand they have a MySpace site. If you're in this part of the world, look them up. They're well worth a listen. (Of course, I'm a sucker for any band that does a good job playing a bit of Santana!)
I hope y'all had a great weekend, too.