PORTLAND, Ore. (KOIN) — Portland’s biggest summer party — the Waterfront Blues Festival — kicks off this year on the Fourth of July.
For more than 30 years, the Blues Festival has brought in world-class musicians, many of whom call Portland “home.”
The event attracts international attention and is known as one of the best of its kind in the world. For more than 30 years, the Blues Festival has brought in world-class musicians. Thousands of fans crowd Waterfront Park in downtown Portland to experience dozens of performances.
It began in 1987 as the “Rose City Blues Festival” sponsored by the Cascade Blues Association. It lasted just one day and featured stand-out artists like John Lee Hooker, Curtis Salgado, Lloyd Jones and Norman “Boogie Cat” Sylvester.
People immediately fell in love with it.
“You see, music is that vehicle that makes people smile,” he said. “It makes people dance and move and you don’t know why.”
Sylvester said the festival originated as a way to raise money for food to feed the hungry. That mission continues today.
Over the years, the event has raised more than $10 million and 1,000 tons of food.
This year, food collected at the Blues Festival’s entrance gate will be donated to the Sunshine Division.
While many of the performers who play the festival each year are national headliners, Portland’s abundant local talent is prominently featured. One such local artist is singer Arietta Ward — the daughter of the late legendary keyboardist Janice Marie Scroggins.
“It’s just something about Portland,” Ward told KOIN 6 News. “It’s always been a town for music. It’s always been that way.”
Artistic Director Peter Dammann has been in charge of booking the musicians for most of the festival’s history.
“Blues is at the core of American music,” Dammann said. “Rock and roll came from the blues; every rock guitar solo has its roots in T-Bone Walker and B.B. King.”
This year’s Waterfront Blues Festival, which runs July 4-7, will continue to help cement Portland’s creative reputation. It’s also just a great way to celebrate the Fourth of July while also supporting a good cause.
“It’s a party,” said Sylvester. “It’s a big party at the Waterfront.”