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Annual Blues fest back this weekend.


MURPHYSBORO -- It can be a raucous dance sound that celebrates pleasure or and expression of verses that express injustice or longing for something better, but no matter what the topic, Blues is a musical form that has earned its place in southern Illinois history, a place that Will Stephens wants to make sure is remembered.

"I have a passion for music, especially blues," said Stephens, the Murphysboro mayor as well as one of the organizers of the Riverside Art, Wine & Blues Fest coming to Riverside Park this weekend.

Stephens has hosted a blue radio program on 91.1 FM for nearly two decades.

"I grew with the music," he said. "My father listened to it. I started forming relationships with local artists and it just kind of went on from there.

That interest led to bring one of a very few blues festivals in Illinois to a permanent home in Murphysboro.

According to Stephens, the festival dates back to 1990. "There was a gap between 2006 and 2012," he said. However, the festival is going strong, drawing an average of about 800 visitors each year.

Stephens said that part of that history is showcasing the city's band shell.

"It's a venue that can only be used at certain times of the year because of mosquitoes, floods, and what not," he said, "but September is the perfect time to use it."

This year's festival is slated for Sept. 7, from noon until about 8 p.m.

Admission is $20 and includes a full afternoon and evening of blue music from five different performers, including two newcomers from the Chicago area as well as wine tastings and several arts and crafts vendors.

Festival veterans Roland Johnson & Soul Endeavor, L8 July, and King Juba w/Rip Lee Pryor will join newcomers Toronzo Cannon and Jamiah Rogers will complete this year's musical lineup.

Stephens said the Murphysboro festival is one of three yearly in the state that include Chicago and Peoria.

"It's a rare thing these days," he said. "To have this in southern Illinois is a treasure and something people can come and enjoy."

More information about the festival is available on Facebook @riversideartwinebluesfestival.

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Publication:Daily Herald (Arlington Heights, IL)
Geographic Code:1U3IL
Date:Sep 4, 2019
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