Our sales director Cheryl O’Grady Yearnshaw and her blues lovin’ husband Tom continue their journey through the Delta.
BOGALUSA, LA – “The Blues brings the community together in Bogalusa, LA”
We left Mississippi and headed South to Louisiana and arrived in Bogalusa, LA to meet with Malinda White, Executive Chair and Marcelle Hanneman, Promotions Board Member for the Bogalusa Blues & Heritage Festival. We were curious about this festival since it had only been around for a couple of years (since 2012) and we had heard many positive comments about this festival.
Malinda White explained how a group of community minded music lovers wanted to recognize folks from the region that had made major contributions to the arts. A celebration of the rich heritage was needed and the Bogalusa Blues and Heritage Festival was born. There was a lot of work that was needed including renovating a park, getting liquor laws changed, doing historical research, soliciting artists, etc. The group worked with the major’s office and the various government offices to make the festival happen.
Malinda was very clear that the BBHF Board is a hard working board and everyone has assignments geared to their expertise and each board member is in charge of their component of the festival.
Although the festival has only been around a few years they have been able to contribute to the local high school music program and also put monies back into the park. The park is a beautiful park filled with huge trees, a creek running through the park, a good sized stage, Indian & Pioneer Museum which is an amazing backdrop for a festival packed with premier headliners and regional upcoming acts. The festival also has regional food and the vendors are from the region and sell regional handmade items. Marcelle Hanneman spoke about expanding the children’s program and both ladies talked about expanding the camping area and building another stage. Their enthusiasm is contagious and it is not hard to understand how so much has happened in a short time if these two are examples of the folks on the Board. (see article this e-Guide issue)
HOT SPRINGS, AR – We visited David and Sherree (see above) in Hot Springs, AR. They talked about the Hot Springs Blues Festival that Spa City Blues Society annually puts on over Labor Day. They also talked about their strong blues community that included a hard working Board of Directors, volunteers, radio programs, supportive venues and community. David and his wife, Sherree, joined SCBS nine yrs ago and began volunteering and eventually joined the Board. David became the President five yrs ago. In addition to the festival they also have a jam at the Ohio Club that has been running since 1999, a BITS program and scholarship program.
The Hot Springs Blues Festival happens over Labor Day and takes place downtown at the Hill Wheatly Plaza and the show continues in the various venues (many are historical buildings including the Ohio Club where Al Capone hung out). If you make it to Hot Springs get over to the Gangster Museum of America and also try out the hot springs. They always have a great line up that includes headliners and regional acts. This is definitely a happening town. It’s obvious David and Sherree have a lot of pride in this town and we thank them for giving us a glimpse into their blues community.
FORT SMITH, AR – We had the opportunity to meet up with Dwight [Hopkins] and Denise [Messamore] and talk to them about the Fort Smith Riverfront Blues Festival that happens in June that the Society puts on. The festival takes place at the Riverfront Park in downtown Fort Smith (Riverfront Park Amphitheater pictured here). The park is next to the Arkansas River and has a huge natural amphitheater that has been upgraded. It is a beautiful site and there are no bad seats. The festival is known for having premier acts which include regional and local acts. In 2011 the festival was named one of the Top 100 Events in North America by the American Bus Association and 2015 will mark their 25th Anniversary.
The Fort Smith downtown is full of historical buildings and several are clubs that support the blues. They also have supportive clubs on the outskirts of town. Tom and I managed to find one called Chasers where Wanda Watson and Mark Albertson were playing. Wanda has a beautiful voice and Mark’s vocals complimented Wanda’s and the two of them were quite enjoyable. Wanda is well known is from the area and is performing at a fund raiser for the FSRBS on November 11, 2014 at Warrens Rec Room, Alma, AR. The funds will go towards expenses for the FSRBS IBC winners to travel to Memphis. For more details go to their website http://riverfrontbluesfest.org/
This is a very active blues society between the festival, BITS program, scholarship program and their other activities. Although we wished we would have had time to meet with all the members we were thankful that Denise and Dwight made time for us. We always enjoy speaking to folks who love blues music and speak with so much passion.
We wished we had more time to spend with our new friends.
See you on the blues highway!
Cheryl & Tom
(find more photos and tidbits at www.facebook.com/bluesfestivalguide.com)