PORTLAND, Ore. (KOIN) — It’s day 32 in the 35 days of blues countdown– and AM Extra is looking forward to seeing more than 100 artist and thousands of fans at Tom McCall Waterfront Park.
The Waterfront Blues Festival is recognized as one of the best in the world.
“You see, music is that vehicle that makes people smile. It makes people dance and move, and you don’t know why,” Norman Sylvester said.
Portland bluesman Norman “Boogie Cat” Sylvester has played blues festival since the beginning.
It started in 1987 as the Rose City Blues Festival — sponsored by the Cascade Blues Association. Local stand-outs including Curtis Salgado, Lloyd Jones and Sylvester joined national headliner John Lee Hooker.
The festival was an instant hit, continuing the mission to collect food for the hungry.
While blues fest brings in national artists, Portland’s abundant local talent is featured prominently.
That includes singer Arietta Ward, daughter of the late legendary keyboardist Janice Marie sSroggins, who played many blues festivals.
“It’s just something about Portland,” Ward said. “It’s always been a town for music. It’s always been that way.”
Artistic director Peter Dammann books the musicians, and has for most of the festival’s history.
“Blues is at the core of American music,” Dammann said. “Rock & roll came from the blues. Every rock guitar solo has its roots in T-Bone Walker and BB King.”
The Waterfont Blues Festival is helping cement Portland’s creative reputation, and it’s a great way to spend Fourth of July weekend.
“It’s a party, it’s a big party at the waterfront,” said Sylvester.