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Rhythm and blues comes to Blue Mountain

  • TERRY AHNER/TIMES NEWS Shakura S' Aida performs on the main stage during the Pennsylvania Blues Festival at Blue Mountain Ski Area on Sunday.
    TERRY AHNER/TIMES NEWS Shakura S' Aida performs on the main stage during the Pennsylvania Blues Festival at Blue Mountain Ski Area on Sunday.
Published August 01. 2011 05:02PM

They juked and jived to the soul and rhythm like there was no tomorrow.

Hip was indeed in at the Pennsylvanis Blues Festival, which celebrated 20 years of Blues in the Poconos this past weekend as the event made a seamless transition to Blue Mountain Ski Area in Palmerton.

Prior to this year, the event - then known as the Pocono Blues Festival - had been held from 1992 to 2010 at Big Boulder Ski Area in Kidder Township.

The festival showcased 15 national and international acoustic, electric, contemporary & traditional blues, soul, sacred steel gospel and New Orleans styles of music on two stages in two days.

It got an early start Friday evening with a performance by Studebaker John & The Hawks from Chicago inside the air-conditioned Adventure Center.

Among those who performed Saturday on the Main Stage were John Nemeth, Cyril Neville, Betty Lavette, Lil' Ed & The Blues Imperials, and Otis Clay, while Samuel James, Linsey Alexander, and Nemeth performed on the Tent Stage.

An on-site After-Fest Jam with Big Daddy Stallings was then held inside the Adventure Center.

On the Main Stage Sunday were The Lee Boys, Shakura S'Aida, Magic Slim & The Teardrops, Kenny Neal, and Shemekia Copeland, with Steve Guyger & Billy Flynn, Big Daddy Stallings, and the Lee Boys on the Tent Stage.

In addition, the new Slopeside Pub & Grill at Blue Mountain summit Lodge offered Blues for free all weekend long as guests were able to enjoy the Panoramic View of the ski resort. There were also on-site campsites as well.

Valerie Ragusa of Phoenixville, Chester County, was clearly into the music as she danced and swayed to the sounds.

"I'm enjoying it," Ragusa said. "Any blues band who wants to get together with happy people, this is the place to be."

Bobby Evans of Dover, York County, said he was on hand for the initial Pocono Blues Festival at Big Boulder.

"I'm a blues junkie," Evans said. "This is awesome; good stuff."

Jim Dailey, ski area general manager, said the festival was a "great success."

"The people are so pleasant, so polite," Dailey said. "There's a lot of pride among these people."

Based on the success of this year's event, Dailey said Blue Mountain would love to host the event again next year.

Michael Cloeren, festival producer, said he was glad to see the event still has such a devout following.

"It's been an exciting, successful weekend," Cloeren said. "Thousands of blues fans have traveled far and wide."

Cloeren, founder and producer of the festival, said he was informed last fall by Peak Resorts - which operates Jack Frost/Big Boulder - that the company was headed in a different direction.

"It was a shock to music fans, because it was one of the better events in the country that was eliminated," he said. "The Poconos always had life to it; after 19 years, it wasn't ready to end."

Cloeren estimated there were people from 15 states and four countries who traveled to Blue Mountain to view the festival.

"I'm proud that the guests followed my dream," he said. "This is a nice facility; the future is definitely bright for the Pennsylvania Blues Festival."

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