HUGHESVILLE - Blues music filled the air while blue skies and high temperatures dominated the scene at the 23rd annual Billtown Blues Festival held Sunday at the Lycoming County Fairgrounds.
Festival goers of all ages came to stake out their spots to hear and see a lineup of artists including headliners Johnny Winter and Bernard Allison Group. If those people were lucky, they got a spot under a large white tent provided by the Billtown Blues Association. Those who didn't sit there brought their own tents complete with packed coolers of food and beverages, while others basked in the heat, watching the performers on stage.
Asked what was needed to have a good time at the daylong music event, first-time blues fest attendee Doug Frisco, of DuBoistown, said, "I think you need a tent today, that's what you need."
CRAIG S. McKIBBEN JR./Sun-Gazette
Matt Hill, of the blues band Matt Hill & The Deep Fryed Two, center left, sings to and among the crowd after scaling the orange fencing separating the bands from the crowd.
Frisco, who came to the festival with Lauren Baumann, also a first-time attendee, said their neighbor, who works at the Uptown Music Collective, encouraged the couple to go.
Jack and Susan Welsh are a little more experienced. Self-described "blues aficionados," the couple from outside Philadelphia set up their tent in the furthest reaches from the stage.
Jack said the acoustics are better further back. He and his wife also can kick back and enjoy a little more space, he added.
The couple, who travel to several blues festivals throughout the year, say this is one of their top three favorites.
The Welshes said the outdoor festival is a bargain compared to seeing one artist inside an arena for just a few hours.
"That's why blues festivals are so great," Jack said.
Their tent helped shade them from 90-degree temperatures Sunday. The normal high for this time of year is 78, according to Peter Jung, forecaster at the National Weather Service in State College.
The record high in the Williamsport area on June 9 is 95, which was set in 2008, Jung said.
Temperatures will get more seasonal after today, as the possibility of rain makes its way into the area tonight through Thursday, the weather service predicts. Thunderstorms are likely Tuesday and Tuesday night, but daytime highs will be around 79.
Jung said an inch of rain may fall in the area through Thursday.
Outdoor activities for the weekend look good, he added, with dry and warm conditions and highs around 80 Friday, Saturday and Sunday.
Nearly 3,000 people were expected to spend the day getting their groove on at the festival with other musical acts such as J.P. Soars and the Red Hots, Fiona Boyes & Band, Matt Hill & The Deep Fryed Two, Roy G. Blues and the Young Blood Blues Band from the Uptown Music Collective.
Bonnie Tallman, blues association board secretary and one of the event organizers, said she anticipated record attendance at the festival based on advanced ticket sales. She also said she thought more first-time event goers would make the trip because many people were asking on the phone where "Billtown" was.
Bernie Strosser, another event organizer and former board vice president of the association, said work on next year's festival got started as soon as Sunday's event ended.
"We work all year," Strosser said, adding that money made gets funneled back into the nonprofit association.
"Nobody takes a salary. Nobody makes any money off this," he said. "We could not afford to do this at the ticket price we charge without the support of our sponsors."
The main goal, Strosser said, is to advance blues music across generations.
Goodtime Charlie Lockard, association treasurer and local blues radio personality, agreed.
"This style of music isn't heard that often and this is a good chance to promote it," he said, noting that the event is one of the longest consecutive running blues festival in the state.