PORTLAND, Ore. (KOIN) – It’s finally feeling like summer in Portland with the much-anticipated return of the Waterfront Blues Festival, and thousands came out for the first of four days of music and sun during the 35th anniversary of the festival. 

“You’ve got a great crowd here. This is one of the best blues festivals I have ever been to and I’ve been to a lot of them,” one attendee told KOIN 6.

After the pandemic reduced 2020’s fest to a traveling bandwagon and 2021 saw a scaled-down version of pods at Zidell Yards, thousands flocked to Tom McCall Waterfront Park Friday for the first of four days of music, fun and sun.

“It’s probably been about 15 years since we’ve been to the blues festival but we wanted to bring our kids to a festival and thought this was a great opportunity to do it,” said Debbie Dion, who is attending the festival with her family.

While there’s plenty of shopping, bar tents and live bands to keep the adults busy, the festival is also welcoming in families of all ages with dancing lessons for the kids and even a youth music showcase this weekend.

“It’s a great way to see a lot of different music and for the kids to experience different types of bands and see different people play instruments,” said JP Dion, attending with his family.

Musicians also welcome the return of the downtown Portland festival with plans to jam together all night.

“Usually at night after the main acts are done, we kind of get together at the bottom of the ship, find a piano somewhere and have an all-night jam,” said performer Chuck Barber. “It’s so surreal that we have been off almost three years, so anybody is clamoring to get back. I see old friends. Today my arms are tired from hugging people.”

Whether you like blues, soul, funk, R&B, or just sitting out in the sun and enjoying the festivities, there’s a little bit for everyone.

You still have three days to check out the Waterfront Blues Festival. Gates open daily at 11 a.m. with music kicking off around noon. They’re also following state and local guidelines when it comes to COVID precautions so there are no requirements for vaccinations, masks or testing.