There’s no question who the crowd was there to see at Friday’s opening night at the 13th annual Thunder Bay Blues Festival.
Rocker Melissa Etheridge was the No. 1 draw on most people’s list, including Cindy Scheiwiller’s.
A four-year veteran of the Marina Park festival, Scheiwiller says there’s nothing not to like about the three-day party.
“I came here because this is good for Thunder Bay. Everybody has a great time. Everybody has lots of fun, whether it’s blues or rock and roll. Everybody gets along and it’s lots of fun,” she said.
The lineup this year is stacked, she added.
“I love Melissa Etheridge, the Wallflowers, Spin Doctors. Last year was awesome with Collective Soul. It’s all good.”
It marked the debut visit for Joey Furlong, who was convinced to come to Marina Park by several of her friends.
She’s glad they did.
“Actually, Melissa Etheridge brought me here. I think it’s amazing,” she said.
“It’s great. I think Thunder Bay, once again, hosts a miraculous event. It’s lots of fun and a great place for everybody to mingle.”
The headliner agreed.
Etheridge, who took the stage shortly after 9:30 p.m. and played full tilt for about 1:45, had plenty of love for Thunder Bay.
“It’s the land where the sun doesn’t even think about setting until 10 o’clock,” she said, introducing herself to the masses and talking about her ordeal of getting to the Lakehead, first traveling east to later head west.
“We’re going to wake the Sleeping Giant.”
Furlong plans to return on Saturday, when the headliners are Jimmy Vaughan and Rival Sons, and Sunday, when the Wallflowers close out the fest.
“Absolutely, all weekend long,” she said.
She won’t be alone.
Festival organizer Bob Halvorsen said the crowds are expected to rival last year’s record gate.
“As of Friday night, ticket sales are ahead of last year,” he said.
Robert Slater was among the throngs Friday night and said he’s having a blast.
“It’s excellent every year. We’ve been here every year for the last 13 and it’s been perfect. I think what it is, for my generation, it’s like a high-school reunion. You meet people you haven’t seen for years and they have good music to boot,” said Slater, looking forward most to the Led Zeppelin-like sounds of Rival Sons.
Not everyone was quite as familiar with the lineup and at least one fan might leave a little disappointed or surprised – one of the two.
“We wanted to see Alanis Morissette and on Sunday the Wallflowers,” Ricky Martin said.
Well, one out of two ain’t bad.
The Blues Festival continues on Saturday and Sunday. Gates open at 11 a.m.
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