THUNDER BAY -- The morning after Blues Fest looked more like Woodstock had gone through Marina Park.
Steady Saturday afternoon showers and periods of torrential downpour during portions of Sunday night’s 13th annual Thunder Bay Blues Festival lineup turned much of the festival area at Prince Arthur’s Landing into a mud pit.
City parks manager Paul Fayrick surveyed the scene early Monday afternoon and while he noted the park had seen better days, he was pleasantly surprised there was still large swaths of grass in the middle of the area.
“The ground has taken a bit of a beating but what I’m seeing now is a lot better what I expected to see,” Fayrick said. “I think we’ll be okay for the rest of the summer although the grass is going to have a hard time coming back.”
The hardest hit areas were near the front of the stage, along the lake side sidewalk and back near the picnic area, all of which were turned into mud pits.
The city had improved drainage in the festival area when the site was expanded about seven years ago. Fayrick said the parts that had been worked on held up to the water and traffic well over the weekend.
Sunny skies and windy conditions early on Monday had taken care of much of the standing water that was left after the final note was played Sunday night but city workers are still planning on aerating the grounds over the next couple weeks
Blues Fest marketing manager Trevor Hurtig said even though final attendance numbers were not yet available he expects this year’s edition of the city’s largest music event approached 20,000 attendees.
Overall, he believes the total attendance to be close to last year’s record setting mark.
Hurtig expects the first night crowd to see headliner Melissa Etheridge outdrew the opening night last year and said Sunday’s finale of the Spin Doctors, Serena Ryder and The Wallflowers was comparable to when Great Big Sea and Kim Mitchell closed the 2013 show.
The prime waterfront venue adds to the attractiveness of the festival.
“There are a lot of festivals in other places where it’s literally in a parking lot and it’s very sterile by comparison to the beauty we have here,” he said. “I think as long as the city is committed to working with us we’re committed to being in Marina Park.”
The artists in particular seem to enjoy the atmosphere from playing on the waterfront.
Etheridge tweeted after her sound check, praising the view of the Sleeping Giant and Lake Superior.
Fayrick said the only part of Blues Fest that has the potential to cause more damage than other large events is the need to play during the scheduled times.
“The difference between Blues Fest and Summer in the Parks is we would normally cancel the concert before people had a chance to be out in the park but Blues Fest obviously is going to operate rain or shine,” Fayrick said.
Despite the conditions of the grounds, the wet weather did not put a damper on the festivities.
Hurtig said the rain and muddy grounds did not deter most of the audience from enjoying the acts.
“People seemed to be willing to endure whatever was coming their way and make the best of it and we saw that in a couple of cases with the mud and sliding through it to have a great time,” he said.
As for this week’s Summer in the Parks concert city event supervisor Doug Henry said it will go ahead as scheduled, barring any inclement weather Wednesday evening.