It’s a Grammy-Packed Weekend at the Heritage Music BluesFest
By: Jeremy Morris
“I never thought it would last this long,” says festival founder Bruce Wheeler, but here we are on the cusp of the 19th weekend of award-winning blues music in Downtown Wheeling — Aug. 9-11.
“Each year our fans say ‘this is the best line-up ever, and that challenges me to make each year better than the year before,” says Wheeler. This year he noticed that seven of the 10 blues 2019 Grammy nominees had performed at past festivals, which sparked an idea.
The music kicks off Friday, Aug. 9, with an entire night of 2019 Grammy-nominated musicians. There will be four acts, and the evening will be closed out by Rock and Roll Hall-of-Famer Elvin Bishop, who also closed out the Friday night of the very first Heritage Music BluesFest in 2001.
The Grammy nominees will continue on Saturday with two-time Grammy nominee Sean Ardoin, a Kreole Rock and Soul accordion act. The 2019 Grammy nominee Danielle Nicole Band will perform later in the day. Sunday will see Steady Rollin’ Bob Margolin take the stage, a contemporary of Muddy Waters, and past Grammy nominee himself. Check out the full three-day lineup.
During set breaks, a second stage features local and regional blues artists, including Glen Dale native Craig Coffield, bringing his Delaware-based band, Bad Avenue. Each night stretches into the wee hours of the morning with an AfterJam at River City Restaurant, just one block from the festival gate, $10 cover. Check out the AfterJam on Saturday with Albert Castiglia; he is a fan favorite of the Florida contingency that comes up for the festival each year.
For George Klein, a longtime member of the Atlanta Blues Society, this is one of the best festivals in the country, and he would know as he attends nearly a dozen blues festivals a year. “It’s honestly everything about this festival that makes it spectacular: it’s the family that hosts it, the people that attend, the musicians, the vendors, the venue. Over time we have become one big blues family”
What you need to know
Parking: Free on-street parking in downtown on Friday after 4 p.m. and all day Saturday and Sunday. Byrd intermodal parking garage at 14th and Main. $5 event parking. Limited handicap spots on 12th Street are available on a first-come basis.
Ticketing: Tickets are available at the Main Gate (12th and Water streets) during the open hours of the festival, Ticket Pricing.
Gates: Gates open at 3 on Friday (second stage music starts at 4, main stage music at 5) Saturday and Sunday, gates open one hour prior to music
Sun Protection: Heritage Port is an open-air venue and the audience faces west. You will be grateful for your sunscreen, sunglasses and a hat.
Transportation: Uber and Lyft are available, but service can be spotty at times. The Hampton Inn operates a shuttle to and from their hotel to the venue for their guests. City bus system operates from 6 a.m -6:30 p.m. on Friday and Saturday, no operation on Sundays. Routes and Fares
Canopies, Coolers & Alcohol: Canopies are allowed by permit only. Coolers for food and water are permitted, but coolers must fit underneath chairs so as not to take up seating space. No outside alcohol is permitted per West Virginia state law. Smoking at the venue is prohibited by city ordinance. Beer, wine and food are available inside the gates.
Changes from past years: There is NO Taste of the Blues to kick off the event on Friday. Gates open at 3 p.m. that day.
Visit the festival website for more details