First Fridays honors the arts in Marietta

Photo by Michael Kelly Scotty Walton and Jason Marquez bend to the music as the Roadhouse Redeemed blues band sets off the annual Red, White and Blues Fest in the Lafayette Hotel on Friday night.

MARIETTA — The crowds turned out after 6 p.m. as the heat began to lift, and First Fridays got under way in downtown Marietta. This month, the theme was a downtown art walk, with artists and musicians at work or offering their work for sale in about 20 of the locally owned shops.

The pairings ranged from a metal artisan at Schafer Leather Store and a potter at Teri Ann’s to calligraphy at the Riverside Artists Gallery and a mandolinist at Wit & Whimzy and Gold Line Jewelers.

Along with merchandise, food and beverages, performing and fine art, those who walked the downtown streets could also take in some live music at the annual Red, White and Blues Fest in the Lafayette Hotel.

It’s the 25th year for the festival, organized by the Blues, Jazz and Folk Music Society of Marietta. John Gifford, competition manager and stage manager, said it’s the first year the BJFM has set up the event on its own, and the society decided to return to its roots.

“We took it back to its original format,” he said. The two acts booked this year were Roadhouse Redeemed, a four-piece band from Columbus that has won two River City Blues Festivals and gone on to Memphis for the International Blues Festival, and Miss Freddye, also known as Pittsburgh’s Lady of the Blues.

“It’s always been the day after the Fourth,” he said, noting that this year it’s fortunate it fell on a Friday night.

Inside the darkened ballroom, Sharon Watkins sat with her friend Kim Flanigan, both from Vienna.

“I love the blues, it’s just a great event here, the music always wonderful,” Watkins said.

Tom Chambers and Tammy Henry came from Moundsville. W.Va., for the show.

“I’ve seen Freddye before. Blues, I like the fans, I like the music, there’s such a range of sounds and styles,” Chambers said. “And it might be the blues, but it’s not all sad.”

Stella Gonzalez said she moved to Marietta only recently from Glendale, Ariz.

“The blues is just soulful, I love B.B. King,” she said. Her mother, Estella Gonzalez, was with her.

“I love the beat, and I love the story of its origins, in the South,” Estella said.

With more than 100 blues fan seated, people were still filing in to the darkened ballroom of the Lafayette when Helen Holt introduced Roadhouse Redeemed.

“This is our music,” she said. “It began in America.”

The band launched into “If the house is a-rockin’, don’t be a-knockin'” and the festival headed into the night.

Michael Kelly can be reached at mkelly@mariettatimes.com