Tuesday, 01 June 2010 11:13
t is hard to believe we are approaching the 18th Guinness Blues Festival, which will be staged in Castlebar this weekend – the longest running blues festival in the country.
Hundreds of blues fans are expected to converge on the county town from Friday to hear an array of musicians at 35 gigs, all of which are free of charge.
They will feature the cream of blues acts from Ireland, the UK and the international blues scene.
Planning for the festival has been in the melting pot for months. It will be headlined at concerts by Imelda May on Friday, Willie Nelson on Saturday and Status Quo on Sunday at the plush TF Royal Theatre and Events centre.
The blues gigs in the town's top pubs are always a huge attraction and part of the festival will be a family day on the Mall on Sunday, in conjunction with Destination Castlebar, a Chamber of Commerce promotion. Hopefully the weather will be kind and the sun will shine for the occasion.
In 1966 Castlebar spearheaded the Irish festival boom with the renowned Castlebar International Song Contest followed a year later by the Castlebar International Walking Festival.
Sadly the song contest ran its course but the Walking Festival organisers are set to celebrate their 43rd anniversary at the end of this month when over 1,000 walkers are set to step it out on the byroads and bogs around Castlebar and Newport.
The necessity to provide a festival-type attraction is important to keep visitor numbers up.
In these recessionary times we need a distraction and an excuse to let our hair down, if only for a brief weekend.
Many of the blues groups have been playing the same local pub venues for many years and have built up a loyal following.
The bars see some returning favourites and some new visitors from all over the globe, including, from the US, Big Daddy Webster, Peter Lang and Chicago Red; from Australia, Hat Fitz and Mark 'Dingo' Russell; from Germany, Thomas Schied; from the UK, Dave Peabody and Colin Earl; and from Ireland, Ali & the DTs, Cara Robinson, Sons of Gingerbread, Parchman Farm, Trevor Hansbury, Left Right and Centre and the Mark Black Band.
The spin-off to businesses will be a welcome boost to what has been a rather lack-lustre trading year.
Hotels, pubs, B&Bs, restaurants, taxi operators as well as the selection of high street shops in Castlebar will all benefit from the blues invasion.
Let's hope it will hit the right note and visitors will enjoy the experience.