Between 3,500 to 4,000 people from Berks and across the region packed Fleetwood Park throughout the day Sunday for the Blues.
“The park was crowded!” said Lee Turner, Fleetwood Recreation Board member who was in charge of the Blues Fest concessions.
Sponsored by Fleetwood Rec Board, the Fleetwood Blues Festival rocked Fleetwood Park for the sixth year on Aug. 11, bringing in eight Blues bands performing from noon to 8 p.m.
Beckey VanEtten, festival co-founder with her husband Keith, estimated the attendance to be closer to 5,000 people.
“What made the event successfulfirst and foremost, the fans,” said VanEtten. “Thanks to everyone who posted great comments and photos on our Facebook page.”
She hopes Blues fans gained “a fun relaxing day where they could relax, forget they’re struggles for a, few hours and not spend alot of money to do so.”
VanEtten also credited the event’s success to the festival’s“top notch band line up, many new vendors who all stated they would like to come back next year.” Also, this was their first rain free event.
The Kelchner Brothers Blues Band from Lenhartsville opened the festival and were followed by The Don Hoffman Blues Band, The Sterling Koch Band, Pawnshop Bound, Blues City Blues Band, James Supra Blues Band, Lil’ Ragu Blues Band and concluded with The Blues Factor.
The festival also featured food and vendors ranging from clothing to metaphysical rocks and hula hoops. Attendees also had the opportunity to win several guitars in raffles.
“I love the Blues. We have some of the greatest; you just heard James Supra Blues Band,” said guitar winner, Barry Hay, North Catasauqua, host and MC of the Lehigh Valley Music Awards.
“For the last 14 years, which is as long as that’s been going, James Supra has won the Number One Harmonica Player in the Lehigh Valley.”
Hay plans on giving the red Classic Vibe Stratocaster he won to his two-year old grandson, James Sullivan Connell, of Erie. He hopes to influence him toward the Blues.
Hay runs a website, hayblue.com, that tells where everybody in the Valley plays music everyday of the week. According to Hay, there are different styles of Blues such as Delta, Mississippi Blues, electric guitar Blues, and many more.
“Here, you’re at a Blues festival today and most people that are here are a Blues fan or they’re friends of a Blues fan and most of the people that don’t know the Blues say, ‘Why do you want to listen to sad music?’ Blues is not sad; Blues is the most exciting music around,” said Hay.
According to historyofblues.net, the Blues, being a very real-life oriented medium, has few content restraints which allows for a diverse amount of emotional subjects to be covered by its musicians. The site went on to say this has led to significant insight into the intimate details of people’s lives as musicians were free to express in vivid detail the serious issues they faced.
Wheelchair bound Jessie McCrimmon felt the Blues resonated within him.
“Some of it gets me down and others bring me back up,” said McCrimmon.
When McCrimmon listens to the older styles of Blues, he misses his loved ones. He lost an older sister to drugs at the age of 30 and has had to overcome obstacles of his own. He feels connected to the Blues spiritually and mentally because of the things he had been through in life.
For Coatesville resident Kathleen O’Hara, Blues brings a different king of mood.
“I love the Blues because of the way the music sounds very lusty, it’s very sexy, and I’ve been following them for the last 20 years,” said O’Hara.
She did a little Hula Hooping to the Blues with Saige Adams, 5, Blandon.
Angie Mayes, Fleetwood, gave herself a night off of cooking and did a little shopping from the vendors while listening to the music.
Brenda Henne, Shoemakersville, and Sandy Obendorfer, Spring City, are Blues fans all the way. Henne said her boyfriend, guitarist Dave Thoman, played earlier with Pawnshop Bound. The two fans also enjoyed shopping for jewelry made by Tara Helwig, Mystical Creations.
Winnie Gass, Douglassville, brought her pooch, Outlaw, and spent the day at the park soaking in the Blues with their friend, Missi Esser, Fleetwood.
Diane DiPasquale, Oley, and Rayond Kunz, Pottstown, enjoyed dancing together to the music.
Brooke Boyer, Reading, with his sister/partner, Joanne Snyder, Philadelphia, came out for the day to enjoy the music. They own the Bowl Grille in Reading and have worked with many of the bands that play at the festival.
Harold and Teresa Drexel, Reading, came out for the Blues City Blues Band and the James Supra Blues Band. Although they like these bands in particular, they enjoyed the other bands music as well.
Lisa and Ed Reichelc, Reading, their daughter, Ashley, and their Bichon Frisé, Tucker, also took advantage of Fleetwood’s Blues Festival. Ed just developed a taste for Blues andsaid he loves the sound of the guitars.
“We love this park,” said Ed.
Irvin Knouse, Colonial Hills, and Margie Keller, Leesport, spent the day lounging in their camp chairs. Knouse likes any kind of music as long as it’s the Blues.
An annual non-profit fund raising event, the Fleetwood Blues Festival is a free admission family event. All proceeds are donated to the Fleetwood Rec Board for maintaining a safe environment for children, according to the Fleetwood Blues Festival on Facebook page at https://www.facebook.com/FleetwoodBluesFestival.
Patriot editor Lisa Mitchell contributed to this article.