Marietta blues

The soulful sound of the blues flowed from the Lafayette ballroom Friday as hundreds of attendees packed inside the hotel for the 19th annual Red, White and Blues Fest.

The yearly event draws music lovers from far and wide and this year was no exception.

“I’m from out of town and a friend told me about it. I’m a big blues fan,” said Scott Robinson, 56, of Carrollton, Ky.

Marietta resident Friday Knight was enjoying the festival with friends, but was disappointed the event was not being held outside this year.

“We like the outside environment, but we still like the socialization,” said Knight, 59.

The event is typically held in the hotel’s parking lot, but a cloudy forecast led to an early morning decision to move the festival indoors, said ReStore Marietta’s Karen Briley.

The event is one of the year’s biggest fundraisers for ReStore, an organization that strives to stimulate the downtown economy and improve the quality of life in Marietta.

“The proceeds from this will go to beautification projects like the hanging flower baskets, the flags and the holiday decorations,” said Briley, who chaired this year’s Red, White, and Blues Fest committee.

Most attendees did not seem fazed by the indoor relocation, simply setting up their lawn chairs inside the ballroom.

For some, like Marietta residents Jeff and Suzanne Walker, the blues festival was a first-time experience.

“We’ve only lived here 15 years and this is our first time,” joked Jeff, 48.

Added Suzanne, “Jeff loves the blues and yesterday was his birthday.”

It was a nice treat having the opportunity to catch some great blues performers in Marietta, said the Walkers.

For performer Long Tall Deb, the festival feels like home away from home.

Deb Landolt first played the festival in 2005, but Friday was her first time fronting her own festival performance.

“I just wanna play for the hometown folks,” said Landolt, a Texas native who now calls Columbus home.

Dennis Tarman of Byesville has also been a longtime fan of the festival.

Sporting a T-shirt from the 1998 festival, Tarman said Marietta has proven to be very supportive of the blues.

“People here want to hear this type of music. It’s a dying art and somebody’s got to keep it alive,” he said.

Also performing Friday night was solo artist Austin “Walkin’ Cane,” of Cleveland and Ricky Nye Inc., of Cincinnati.

Nye first performed at the festival 14 years ago and said he enjoys playing in Marietta where he has made several friends in the blues scene.

“It’s a really beautiful city,” added Nye. “You can’t beat that river town feeling.”

Whether a first-timer or a festival regular, the festival continues to be popular because the blues are something everyone can relate to, said Briley.

“Everybody has a story,” she said.