Blues Festival brings talented performers and local vendors to DTK

On Saturday Aug.10, Kitchener celebrated their annual Blues Festival in the downtown core. King Street was lined with local vendors, artists and food trucks that led to the main stage in front of city hall.

I have had the pleasure of attending the growing festival for the past three years, and this was the first time I had to line up to get into the free entrance at the clock tower stage in Victoria Park.

I was happy to see how popular the festival has become. I definitely thought the lineup this year was much “bigger” than in the past, but I would assume it’s all about personal preference.

I was more interested in the eighties rock that was showcased, however, the DTK clock tower was just one of many stages that had performances going on simultaneously.

This is a free event which is run by  volunteers who were handing out stickers for donations and selling event merchandise — like t-shirts, which were priced at a whopping 50 dollars.

After hearing one of the volunteers mention onstage that the event is solely volunteer-run, entertainers donate their time for free and donations and merchandise sales are what keep the festival going — I saw the value.

The food trucks that were featured had the usual varieties of Italian, pork, fries, beaver tails, fish tacos, burgers and so on —Nothing too exciting.

The layout in Victoria Park featured a large tent in the centre of the grass with smaller ones on either side. Stage left was the VIP area, and the other side had bar tables where you could stand or sit if you could find an empty one or be like myself — extra friendly and meet new people by joining others a table.

I ended up sitting at a table and getting to know a young couple visiting from Ottawa. They talked about how much they liked that the event was free and that it was more enjoyable than the festival they attended back home.

I was there to see The Northern Pikes, a rock band from Saskatchewan who started out in 1984. The crowd enjoyed singing along to their biggest hit, “She ain’t pretty, she just looks that way.” The band was promoting their new album released this past June, “Forest Of Love,” which I had the pleasure of hearing them perform.

Joining the band was a new addition and former member of The Grapes of Wrath, Kevin Kane.

The Northern Pikes had a great turnout and most of the people I was able to chat with at the event said they attended the festival to see them and Kim Mitchell.

I visited one of my favourite blues hot spots on King Street called Rhapsody Barrel Bar. If you went on their patio you could watch and hear the band playing on the main stage in front of City Hall or you could go inside and dance to a blues band playing onstage.

When I was inside, I had the pleasure of listening to Chris Ayries singing the blues while onlookers danced with enthusiasm.

Overall, the Kitchener Blues Festival was a well-run event, my only disappointment was the exclusion of the local craft breweries in town. I was looking forward to drinking local and that wasn’t the case, for whatever reason.

The event still had a great sense of community and connection, though, and I would recommend the festival to everyone near and far.

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