Blues to rock harbor


Community members dance and enjoy a blues concert during the 2018 Marquette Blues Festival, continuing a longstanding tradition of music. NW Archives

Mary McDonough

Sounds from all over the world will light up Lower Mattson Harbor Park this weekend as the Marquette Blues Society kicks off the 16th Annual Marquette Area Blues Fest.

Different acts are all gathering in Marquette to give a musical weekend no one will forget. Gates will open at 5 p.m., the concert will start at 6 p.m. with Eliza Neals taking the stage, tickets will be free to the public. Saturday and Sunday’s gates will open at noon and concert tickets can be found at NMU tickets. Students ages 14 to 23 can purchase tickets for $10 a day at the gate.

Festival Director Walt Lindala still remembers when the annual tradition was only an idea. The thought that it would eventually have such a large following was never anticipated.

“The idea for the festival was born around my kitchen table,” Lindala said. “I would never believe it would grow into the event it has become.”

Working alongside Lindala since day one, Blues Society President Mark Hamari began as a festival volunteer. Looking back, Hamari credits community support with the festival’s growing success.

“Every year it’s grown, and it’s been amazing to watch,” Hamari said. “The support from the community is fantastic.”

Both Lindala and Hamari will embark on planning and booking next year’s line up with the help of the Festival Entertainment Committee. Those decisions begin shortly after the festival wraps up, and they will continue being planned throughout the year.

As the celebration builds, Hamari has found while community members love the music, these artists are attracted to Marquette’s unique atmosphere.

“They love our hospitality and our people here,” Hamari said. “We’re not exactly on the festival circuit. They have to want to be here.”

When it comes to the amount of work she must put into the celebration, Lindala finds great reward in the time spent with so many people bonded by blues.

“People from many different walks of life come to Marquette to have a great time with spectacular live music,” Lindala said. “I love the smiles and the happy vibe.”

Besides just time enjoying the music, Hamari hopes that this experience will continue to show people the influence of blues and its impact on music history.

“The blues is the roots for all kinds of music,” Hamari said. “We hope to educate and preserve a uniquely American tradition.”