Blues festival to strum up support for area homeless

Selwyn Birchwood plays for the crowd at last year's Blues House Music Festival. Birchwood recently was awarded the Blues Foundation's Blues Music Award for "Best New Artist Debut" at the 2015 ceremony held in Memphis, Tenn. Blues House has been a proving ground for many up-and-coming Blues artists like Birchwood. Courtesy photo by Kimberley Wilt.

The 16th annual Winchester Blues House Music Festival plans to raise the roof this July in support of Habitat for Humanity of Winchester-Frederick County.

The festival will take place rain or shine from 11 a.m. to 7 p.m. July 18 in the outdoor pavilion of the Eagles Club Aerle 824 at 700 Baker Lane, Winchester. Tickets are $15 in advance and $20 at the gate. Children younger than 12 get in free.

Last year’s festival raised $29,000 for Habitat, said Kimberley Wilt, marketing development coordinator for the local organization.

“They’re unrestricted funds so they can go to anything that we’re building,” she said.

Habitat has built more than 60 area houses since it started in 1997. Since the festival began supporting the organization eight years ago, she said it’s raised more than $150,000 — the equivalent of about a house and a half for area residents.

“This is one of our biggest events,” she said. Expecting a crowd of between 1,000 and 1,500 from around the tri-state area, she said, “It’s one of the largest outdoor music festivals in Winchester.”

Previously, Blues House donated festival proceeds to other organizations that include Celebrating Patsy Cline Inc., Fremont Street Nursery, The Office of George Washington Museum and Caretakers, which in 2006 became the Boys & Girls Club of Northern Shenandoah Valley.

Invested in helping Habitat, Blues House Chairman and Stage Manager Joseph Boyd said the collaboration was serendipitous.

“We’ve been through several nonprofits before, and we were in the search for a good nonprofit,” he said. Habitat, he said, was also looking to partner on an event.

“It worked out very, very well,” he said.

Excited for this year’s lineup of musicians, Boyd said visitors should expect exciting tunes that will clear up any misconceptions of blues music being sad or slow.

“It’s everything but that,” Boyd said.

Special guest Ron Holloway plays high-energy saxophone music, Boyd said.

Other performers will be Phil Zuckerman’s Rock Room All-Stars of Winchester, the Low Society of Memphis, Tennessee, with lead vocalist Mandy Lemons; Anthony Rosano & the Conqueroos from Norfolk and Brent Johnson & the Call Up of New Orleans.

Chicago blues musician Ronnie Baker Brooks will headline the event.

It’s a variety of styles he said should appeal to anyone.

“I don’t like it for our festival to be five hours of the same music,” Boyd said.

“I like to have a different vibe from every band.”

Contact staff writer Josette Keelor at 540-465-5137 ext. 176, or jkeelor@nvdaily.com