Courtesy of Mark Hamari
The Marquette Area Blues Society is hosting their 17th annual Blues Fest on Labor Day weekend at Mattson Lower Harbor Park. The event will take place from Friday, Sept. 3 through Sunday, Sept. 5.
“Our mission for the Blues Society itself is for promoting, preserving and educating people about the blues in the U.P. because we feel blues music is a uniquely American art form,” Mark Hamari, president of the Marquette Area Blues Society, said.
Much of the modern music prevalent in today’s society—rap, country, jazz, rock and roll, R&B—stems from blues music. According to Hamari, the older generation of blues artists and lovers is passing on, and the Blues Society feels it important to pass on blues music in order to keep it alive.
In addition to music, the festival “also has a learning component with workshops about the music presented by the artists through the weekend,” said Marquette Area Blues Society board member Walt Lindala who will also be the stage announcer this year.
The event features blues artists from the Midwest region as well as from around the country. Additionally, there will be arts and crafts vendors, beer and wine tents and multiple food vendors.
“These performers coming to Marquette are some of the best of the best blues artists out there working today and they should not be missed,” said Lindala. He described the event as high-energy, jamming music that always makes for a great time.
On Friday night there will be a free show featuring Mike Letts and the Marquette’s with special guest The Tomcats, as well as James Reeser and the Backseat Drivers. The gates will open at 5:00 p.m. with music beginning at 6:00 p.m. and ending at 9:30 p.m.
“This is a way not only to say thank you to the community for all their support but also to give people a chance to check it out and see what it’s about,” said Hamari. “Some people have this very narrow view of what blues music is.”
Tickets are available at the NMU ticket website, as well as in-person at Yooptone Music and Marquette Wallpaper and Paint. Weekend passes are available through Friday and other tickets must be purchased at the gate for $35. This year the Blues Society is offering a special $10 daily ticket for young adults ages 14-23 with ID.
“We wanted to make the festival an affordable option for high school and college students who might be on a budget to take in over the holiday weekend,” said Lindala. Saturday and Sunday the gates will open at noon and music will begin at 1:00 p.m. and run until 9:30 p.m.
The Marquette Area Blues festival is held outside in Mattson Lower Harbor Park, so there is plenty of room to dance and social distance. While the event does not require proof of vaccination, “we recommend people follow the latest guidelines from the CDC and the Marquette County Health Department about mask usage and outdoor crowds,” Lindala said. Additionally, masks will be available at the information tent and sanitization stations will be placed throughout the grounds for anyone to use.
“We’re a nonprofit, all-volunteer organization, so all through the festival, we have volunteers. A lot of the community members step up and help us out there,” Hamari said. Volunteers are welcomed through the festival for positions in setting up, tearing down, bartending, ticket sales and grounds security. “If you volunteer one shift you get a Blues Fest T-shirt with this year’s logo on it, and if you do two shifts you get a T-shirt and up to $60 of your ticket price reimbursed,” added Hamari. “You get to work and listen to great music.”
For more information, or to sign-up for volunteer positions, visit www.marquetteareabluessociety.org.