News Column

Blues Fest Closes On High Note

June 22, 2014

By Scott Smith, Times Record, Fort Smith, Ark.

June 22--Live music and some Frisbee-throwing play time with family made life perfect for Bill Bradshaw on Saturday in Fort Smith.

Bradshaw's broad smile reappeared every time his granddaughter, Rhylan Nicole Bradshaw, tossed him a Frisbee and plastic ball at the Fort Smith Riverfront Blues Festival at Harry E. Kelley Park. To help keep Rhylan clear from heat exhaustion, Bradshaw gently tipped his water bottle over her head, letting the cool water sprinkle her grinning face.

"It's just a wonderful family affair, and you can't beat the price," Bradshaw said of the festival, which concluded Saturday with sets by Jigsaw Mud, Peterson Brothers, former "The Voice" contestant Patrick Dodd, JP Soars and Lil' Ed and the Imperials. "The music here is just incredible, so why not enjoy and celebrate some great music with friends and family?"

Many fans of the blues genre set up temporary camp in the park, with folding chairs and blankets covering much of the area in front of the stage. One bushy-haired toddler clutched a blue-colored Frisbee and playfully would run away from relatives before being repeatedly "captured" by a family friend.

That jovial vibe also rose to the stage. When a guitar player's string broke during the Peterson Brothers' performance, the group's bassist, Alex Peterson, stepped up for an impromptu, low-end solo to cheers.

"Did you see that?" said festival board member Denise Messamore. "The bassist just took over for a minute, grinning and having a great time. They're just kids, and it was incredible."

Festival emcee Wanda Watson joked with the audience between sets, while various festival board members fired what they called a "T-shirt bazooka" into a crowd with arms raised high. Festival president Dale Fraze Sr. frequently jogged back and forth on and behind the stage, helping ensure the festival ran as smoothly as possible.

"Do you guys think we have time for one more song?" a dreadlock-donning Patrick Dodd asked the audience before leading his band through a rendition of the Allman Brothers Band's early career classic, "Whipping Post."

Michael Barnes of Lawton, Okla., and Jacob Johnson of Kansas City, Mo., were named the latest recipients of the Fort Smith Riverfront Blues Society Educational Endowment Fund, formerly known as the Barry Ratfliff Memorial Scholarship; each scholarship is $1,000.

Barnes will major in music education and music performance at the University of Oklahoma in Norman, Okla., while Johnson is majoring in guitar performance and music production at the Boston-based Berklee College of Music.

"We're excited to be giving away our 17th and 18th scholarships this year," said Chad Kennedy, FSRBSEEF chairman. "We received a record number of 31 applications this year, which is exciting, as well.

"In the past, we took on the moniker, the Barry Ratliff Memorial, to honor a great local musician taken from us too soon," he added. "Without Barry, the posthumous gifts from friends of the society and people like Robert and Gayle Smedley, Charlie Hiatt, Jim 'Chef Eddy' McCormick and Eric Shaffer, we would not have been able to continue at the pace we have. It's people like them and their families that believe in what we're doing to help musicians, and we're continuing to do this with them in mind."


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Source: Times Record (Fort Smith, AR)

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