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Posted June 22, 2009 | Copyright © The Northern Virginia Daily
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House of Blues: Festival benefits Habitat for Humanity

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Tinsley Ellis plays the blues on his guitar during the 10th Winchester Blues House Festival on Saturday. Andrew Thayer/Daily

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Tinsley Ellis plays the blues for the crowd. Andrew Thayer/Daily

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The crowd listens to blues music during the festival on Saturday. Andrew Thayer/Daily

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A fan cheers on a keyboardist during his solo. Andrew Thayer/Daily

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Oliver and Margaret Crawford sit in the shade and listen to the music along with their granddaughter, Mikala, 2, during the 10th Winchester Blues House Festival held Saturday. Andrew Thayer/Daily

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Bill Carl, right, and Kim Hockman listen and dance to the music during the 10th Winchester Blues House Festival on Saturday. This year's festival proceeds will go to benefit the Habitat for Humanity. Andrew Thayer/Daily


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By Ben Orcutt - borcutt@nvdaily.com

WINCHESTER -- Saturday's Winchester Blues House Festival may have been the most successful in the event's 10-year history.

The venue shifted from downtown this year to the Winchester Eagles Club on Baker Lane.

"The Eagles have been a wonderful organization to partner with and this venue has been an absolute delight from the abundance of parking to the ability to have a grass surface, as well as pavilion coverage," said Shawn Reiser, a member of the Blues House executive committee.

"I believe that this is the largest attendance to date," Reiser added. "So I would say we're over 2,000."

As they were last year, this year's beneficiary of the Blues House Festival was Habitat for Humanity of Winchester-Frederick County.

"Actually, all of the bands that we book for this would charge more if it was a traditional, entertainment venue," Reiser said. "They understand that this is to benefit Habitat for Humanity. It is all good. The bottom line is this. Habitat for Humanity is allowing individuals to be homeowners who otherwise would not have the ability to own a home."

Tina Daniels and her 11-year-old daughter, Rowan, were at Saturday's event and they will be receiving a Habitat for Humanity home in Stephens City.

Cheryl Connolly, executive director of Winchester-Frederick County Habitat for Humanity, said the Blues House Festival raised $65,000 for the charity last year and they hoped to top that amount this year.

"Most of the revenue that we generate for Habitat for Humanity comes from our beer sales, our T-shirt sales, the revenues we get from the folks that come in," Reiser said. "This is a regional entertainment opportunity and what's happening is, these people are coming into Winchester. They're enjoying the entertainment of Winchester Blues House. Tonight, they're gonna stay at a Winchester hotel. They're gonna have dinner at a Winchester restaurant or club or what have you, and that's what we do."

This year's Blues House brought out fans who attended the event for the first time and some who've attended them all, like Bryan Cooke, 74, of Winchester.

"Ever since they had it," Cooke said. "I'm a part of it. I'm a legend in the blues."

Cooke said he is especially fond of the Texas Chainsaw Horns, who played Saturday just after Terry Oates and the Mudcats.

"A lot of brass," Cooke said of the Texas Chainsaw Horns. "A full band. Get the full meaning of it."

Asked how he thought they played, Cooke said, "Right on time."

Jerry Miller, 62, of Syracuse, N.Y., stopped at the Blues House Festival during a road trip south. Miller said he met Cooke a couple of months ago at a blues concert in Hagerstown and decided to make Winchester a stop.

"This Scott Weis man, he just had an awesome program," Miller said of the Scott Weis Band, who substituted for Elisa Girlando and the Out of Truth Band due to an injured band member.

Josh Rodgers, 24, of Winchester, attended his first Blues House on Saturday along with his friend, Lindsey Swaim, 24, who is pursuing a doctorate in physical therapy from West Virginia University.

"I kind of came out with my dad because he likes the Texas Chainsaw Horns, so we got here nice and early, but Tinsley Ellis is gonna play and we're both really into him," Swaim said.

Her father, Mark Swaim, 55, of Winchester, is a regular at the Winchester Blues House Festival and he likes the spacious venue of the Eagles Club. He and wife Cindy Swaim, 54, got in the groove dancing to the music.

"This is great," he said. "I really like it. Downtown, you're sitting on that hot asphalt all the time. It's too hot. This is very nice."

Oliver Crawford, 91, of Winchester, has been to all of the Winchester Blues House festivals and he also enjoyed the change in venue taking advantage of a shady spot with his wife, Margaret Crawford, 79, and their 2-year-old granddaughter, Mikala Crawford.

"It's nice," Crawford said.

"It's good music," Mrs. Crawford added.

Atlanta native Tinsley Ellis and his band were the headliners, preceding the last act, the Legendary J.C.'s of Orlando, Fla., who got many in the crowd on their feet dancing to their funky soul sounds.

Ellis, 52, said he was inspired by the likes of the Allman Brothers Band, Eric Clapton and B.B. King. Ellis wowed the crowd with his hot licks and would have made Clapton and King proud of his mastery of the guitar.

"It's a great day," Ellis said. "I'm glad the weather cooperated. I hope it sounded good."

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