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BluesFest No. 9 in the History Books

August 12, 2009 - Phyllis Sigal
Well, Heritage Music BluesFest No. 9 is just a musical memory.

Every year, what I'm left with at the end of the weekend (besides a case of exhaustion) is an overwhelming feeling of camaraderie.

I really miss my friends who come in town for the festival, and now I've come to be so sad at the end of the weekend, already missing all of our BluesFest friends & family.

So many people return year after year ... and they like to boast about that fact.

One guy, Kevin Tasey, from Weirton, had a T-shirt made for himself, which proudly noted that he's been to every Heritage Music BluesFest, and then listed all of the years.

Many people sport their T-shirts from years past, many having a favorite or two or three they wear throughout the weekend.

Others came up to me throughout the weekend, saying, "I've been to all but one BluesFest," or "I've been here for the last five years," or "I'll never miss another BluesFest" ... The best part is hearing the excitement in their voices as they share these stats with me.

I think the people who attended the first year are most excited to share that news. They remember the meager crowd, and feel proud to have been a part of this thing that has grown so much over the years.

Yep, they knew it when ....

And, because they knew it when, I believe they feel they've played a role in making it what is was this past weekend. And they certainly have. Because if that little crowd that first year hadn't kept telling their friends about it and hadn't kept coming back, this festival would not be where it is today.

And each year it grows because the Heritage Music BluesFest lovers bring more friends and talk it up at other festivals they attend.

A Virginia couple, Tim and Charlotte Walker, came this year because they met people in Charleston, W.Va., who told them they would love Wheeling's festival. So they came. And they did love it. And they'll be back, they said.

Three women from Wales came because someone in Mississippi told them that if they go to one blues festival in this country, make it the one in Wheeling.

My friend Misty and her husband, Joe, keep increasing our numbers by bringing more and more friends each year.

Beth Musser, who used to live in Wheeling, brought a whole contingent of people from San Diego, which she now calls home.

A local group has been coming for many years, and each year makes a T-shirt with photos from the previous year. Pretty cool!

And then there's the "Wheela" group from North Carolina. They make up T-shirts each year thanking Bruce for the "Wheela" good time. This year they made up a beautiful banner with the waterfront on it, and turned it into a 5X7-inch magnet, too.

The Atlanta, Ga., and the South Florida contingents just keep getting bigger and bigger, too.

Each year we get more "lifers" ... and they're proud to say they'll never miss one now that they've been here. My brother is the newest one to swear he'll never miss it again.

So, hey everyone ... thanks for coming! And, I'm already looking forward to seeing you next year! ... No. 10 believe it or not.

But, I think I'll take a little nap first, though.


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A "wheela" nice banner ....