Downtown was rocking in North Bay this past weekend, as the second annual BluesFest took to the Capitol Centre parking lot Saturday night, bristling with a lineup of blues artists.
Instead of indoor seating and the classic stage on hand with the Capitol Centre, people took to the asphalt with lawn chairs and tables, the air filled with blues music and the smell of pulled pork and deep-fried goodies.
“This is the first year we’ve been able to do it out here in the open air while we have a theatre inside,” Katelyn Ricci, Marketing Manager at the Capitol Centre said.
“A lot of people have asked why do one outside when you have a festival it sorts of speaks to the open door atmosphere, we have the food, the vendors, the beer, you can’t get this in a theatre.”
Starting at 4 p.m., eight blues bands took to the stage outside to mark the end of the two-day festival—which began with the Blues Cruise on Friday night. Kevin Robert Walsh & The Blues Machine, Friends of Jim Harney, Paul Pruneau & The Journeymen, T.S. Harpoon & The Blues Whalers, Conor Gains, and Rita Chiarelli & The Sweet Lorettas; while Elijah & The Backburners played the after party at the Raven & Republic.
“Rita has always been on our mind as a blues legend in Canada and we had an opportunity to bring her back, it’s quite the spectacle,” Ricci said. “Picking the rest of the bands was kind of a joy getting locals on board. With Jim Harney’s passing this year it felt really relevant to do something in his honour to get friends of his to get them to play some of his music.”
With hours of live music to enjoy, Ricci said they had the Raven & Republic to provide the food, while New Ontario Brewing Co. provided the drinks on tap. And just in case, the Capitol Centre was prepared to move the event indoors if the weather wasn’t right. Thankfully, despite an odd summer, BluesFest closed on a nice night, free of issues.
“This was sort of an add-on to the blues cruise, this would be the sixth, it’s been a sellout each year and raised money that way,” Ricci said. “Last year it was the week after, but we decided this year to make it a two-night event. Slowly but surely we’re getting to more days and more add-ons, but maybe something bigger in the future. I have a few bands in mind for next year that we couldn’t get for this year, maybe more features in the parking lot, and these are the types of things we’ll have to explore. We rely on a lot of people to come together for this venue, it’s really important we keep it local.”