River City Blues Festival underway at Lafayette Hotel in Marietta

Photo by Michael Kelly Annika Chambers and her blues band opened the 29th River City Blues Festival on Friday night at the Lafayette Hotel.

MARIETTA — All ages, appearances and attitudes, and from many places, they gathered Friday night to soak up and surrender to the blues.

It was the kickoff for the 29th River City Blues Festival at the Lafayette Hotel.

Barb Goldsmith and her friend Jill Starcher came from northern West Virginia.

“I saw it advertised on the Weather Channel,” Goldsmith said. “I grew up with blues, B.B. King and all. My kids are like, ‘What are you listening to?'”

Starcher said she loves coming to Marietta.

Photo by Michael Kelly Evan Cunningham sings with the High Schools That Rock band before the opening of the 29th River City Blues Festival. The group, made up of more than a dozen high school and middle school students, played blues, country and rock music for an appreciative crowd in the Lafayette Hotel ballroom Friday afternoon.

“My birthday’s in September, and I always spend it at the sternwheel festival with the fireworks,” she said.

Six members of the Beebe, Boice and Delcotto families laughed and talked in the ballroom, waiting for the music to start.

“It’s close to home,” said Tanya Delcotto, who is from St. Clairsville. “I just got back from a blues festival in Panama.”

“I started hearing it in Chicago,” said Mike Beebe, of Athens. “It just runs in your veins, it’s the soul of music.”

Savannah Charlton and Stephanie Brown are old friends who reunited for a while Friday night.

Photo by Michael Kelly Erin Yeager talks to Jim Caldwell and his 9-month-old granddaughter, Olivia, in the Lafayette Hotel on Friday night while waiting for the opening of the 29th River City Blues Festival. “I try to get her out as much as I can,” said Caldwell, who was just passing through the hotel.

Brown said she used to live in Belpre and now resides in North Carolina. She came back specifically for the blues festival and to see her friends.

“I’ll bet I’ve been here 20 times,” she said.

Charlton volunteers for the Blues Jazz and Folk Music Society, the event’s organizers.

“I love blues and jazz, and zydeco. It’s so neat we can bring this to Marietta. It’s a great place to meet old friends and make new connections,” she said.

Curley Taylor and Zydeco Trouble were ready to play the second set Friday night. Despite 35 years of playing his music, it was Taylor’s first gig in Ohio.

Photo by Michael Kelly The crowd responds as Annika Chambers and her blues band rock the opening of the 29th River City Blues Festival on Friday night in the ballroom of the Lafayette Hotel.

“I love coming out, meeting new people, spreading my music,” he said.

At 8 p.m., the Annika Chambers blues band took the stage. With a voice like the forge where music was first made, she opened the festival.

The festival continues today, beginning with the 28th annual River City Blues Competition in the afternoon and more blues music tonight at the Lafayette.

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Today’s Schedule

* When: Doors open 11:30 a.m. today

* Competition music: 12:30 p.m., BFH Blues Band; 1 p.m., Damian Knapp; 1:30 p.m., Canterberry Blues; 2 p.m. Ron & Keith; 2:30 p.m., The Simpletones; 3 p.m., Micah Kesselring

* Festival acts: 4 p.m., The Delgado Brothers Band; 8 p.m., Selwyn Birchwood; 9:45 p.m., Billy Branch and the Sons of Blues

* Where: Lafayette Hotel

* Cost: Saturday afternoon, $30; Saturday night, $40

* For information: bjfm.org

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