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Heritage Music BluesFest Promises a Return to Form This Weekend in Wheeling

Grammy-nominated artist Victor Wainwright returns to Wheeling this weekend to anchor Sunday night’s lineup of the 2022 Heritage Music BluesFest at Heritage Port, putting an exclamation point on a three-day weekend of award-winning blues. (Photo Provided)

WHEELING — Music fans from near and far will be making their way to Heritage Port in Wheeling this weekend for the 2022 Heritage Music BluesFest.

This year’s festival promises to be a return to form after the COVID-19 pandemic pulled the plug on public gatherings for live music in 2020. And what could be better than a three-day weekend celebration of award-winning blues overlooking the Ohio River? Perhaps the enticement of picture-perfect weather and blue skies could be the icing on the cake.

“The forecast for the weekend looks very promising,” said Bruce Wheeler, director of entertainment for Roxby Development, noting that the outlook for Friday, Saturday and Sunday — so far — appears to have a pleasantly warm, comfortable and dry weekend in store.

As founder and longtime executive director of the Heritage Music BluesFest, Wheeler has been the mastermind behind the stellar lineups that bring a variety of top-notch blues artists to the Heritage Port stage each year. Like in years past, the 21st installment of BluesFest this weekend offers a balanced mix of veteran artists and the best up-and-coming acts, as well as a variety of BluesFest returnees and newcomers to the festival.

“We’re excited to see — for the first time in Wheeling — Popa Chubby, King Solomon Hicks and the Katie Henry Band,” Wheeler said of this year’s Heritage Music BluesFest, presented by Roxby and Yuengling.

Fan favorites like Mike Zito, Brandon Santini, Albert Castiglia, Joe Louis Walker, JP Soars and the Red Hots and many more will return to the stage, as well. Grammy-nominated band Victor Wainwright and the Train has been a BluesFest standout in the past, most recently headlining WinterBlues Weekend in Wheeling earlier this year.

“There’s hardly a more beautiful spot to have this big celebration, and the band and I are very excited to play in front of large crowds again supporting live music,” Wainwright said on Monday. “BluesFest is a great opportunity to get outside and celebrate what brings many of us all together. For those that haven’t heard us yet, I guarantee a fantastic evening, with lots of smiles, dancing and more roots music than you can shake a stick at.

“The music festival season is here.”

Wainwright tipped his hat to Wheeler for his long history and dedication to inviting national touring talent to the Ohio Valley’s little Rust Belt corner of rural Appalachia.

“It stands as a testament to his love and appreciation of roots and blues music, the very much alive music loving community and artists alike,” Wainwright said. “I played one of my first ever outdoor festivals at BluesFest, and if it wasn’t for Bruce believing in me, the last 10 years would have played out much differently for the band and me. Bruce has the eye and talent for both introducing new, hot acts to the scene, but also bringing in steadfast titans and legends, so that any music lover could always appreciate something new, while at the same time enjoying celebrating with favorites.”

Those in the know — in the Ohio Valley and beyond — make it a point to circle this weekend in August for Heritage Music BluesFest every year. Nonetheless, there are still some local folks who have never made it down to the waterfront to check out what the annual festival is all about. According to Wheeler, there is a segment of people who take the term “blues” literally and view blues music as a genre of music that expresses sadness, heartbreak and grief. Nothing could be further from the truth, however, as BluesFest is much more of an oftentimes upbeat celebration of American music that serves as the roots of rock’n’roll and much more.

“People who are not familiar with the blues think that it is depressing music because of the name ‘blues,'” Wheeler said. “But it is party music meant to help you get over the blues. Think The Rolling Stones.”

The great music and good company are things longtime fans can’t wait to revisit — and the same applies to the veteran artists.

“We look forward to another fantastic BluesFest, and the opportunity to see many old friends and meet new ones as well,” Wainwright said. “We’re ready to have a party with all y’all, so hoot, holler and yell! If you can’t have fun with us, then what the hell?”

In addition to the world-class lineup of artists on the main stage, a rock-solid lineup of local and regional acts will keep the music going on the second stage throughout the weekend. Second stage performances will be delivered by the Catch Blues Band, Lil’ Red & the Rooster, Patrick McLaughline, Pierce Dipner and the Sarah Hays Band.

Even after the party ends each night at Heritage Port, the music will continue just up the street at the McLure House Hotel.

“After Jam in the McLure House Bar and Grill after the last main stage act will feature Billy the Kid as the After Jam host,” Wheeler said.

There will be merchandise, food and beverage vendors on hand at Heritage Port all weekend long.

For tickets or additional information, visit www.heritagemusicfest.com.

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