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Many big acts scheduled for Briggs Farm Blues Festival

Swampcandy

NESCOPECK — The Briggs Farm Blues Festival may have started out as a one-day event with 800 attendees, but it has grown considerably over the last two-plus decades. Nowadays, the festival, which attracts fans by the thousands, has expanded to a four-day format that features camping and draws in some of the biggest national touring acts in the blues genre.

With Central PA being a hotbed for blues lovers, many from the area make it a point to attend the festival annually. That’s a trend that should continue next week, when the event returns to Briggs Farm on July 11-14 for its 22nd year.

“We are always excited for the festival coming around; we work on it all year,” said Richard Briggs, founder of the event. “I do think that this year our lineup is the best we have ever had. It is kind of a testament to the success of the festival that our numbers keep growing.

“Our audience keeps growing and attendance keeps growing because we have been doing this for 22 years, and people just like the atmosphere. They like the friendliness and they like the bands,” Briggs added. “As we grow, we are able to get more bands and a higher stature of bands — the bands that people want to see.”

Briggs said that this year the festival is expected to draw in no less than 7,000 people. To accommodate for the swelling attendance numbers, he has expanded the space available for campers and RVs by five acres, and enlarged the car parking areas as well.

“We try to expand the space that is available every year,” Briggs said. “We are prepared for any kind of numbers that come in, because you really never know.”

For the last several years, the festival has offered a show to its campers when they arrive on Thursday evening. That tradition will keep going this year, but will have a special twist, with “Briggstock” being presented as a tribute to the 50th anniversary to Woodstock. With Brett Alexander & Friends scheduled to play from 7 to 11 p.m., Briggstock will see the group play around 30 songs from the artists who performed at the original Woodstock festival.

“Briggstock is appropriate for us because I believe the blues music I was listening to in ’69, ’70 and ’71 came out of the bands that played at Woodstock,” said Briggs. “Those bands are very closely related to the blues bands that are still playing today.”

Another reason that the tribute seems fitting is because, back when he was only 16 years old, Briggs was inspired to one day host a music event on his family’s farm when he saw what was going on at Woodstock.

“I would say that the inspiration for what we have done for the last 20 years came from Woodstock,” said Briggs. “Even though from a production aspect it was kind of a nightmare, it still was the setting for some very incredible live music. That brought my attention to what could be done with live music outdoors.

“That was when I sort of had the seed planted in my head that I wanted to do a music festival of some sort here,” he added. “It just took (a lot of years) before I was in the position to do it.”

One of the bigger acts to play the festival this year will be Vanessa Collier, who is making her third trip to the event. Collier, a renowned saxophonist, is coming back to the festival after winning her first Blues Music Award (Instrumentalist: Horn) back in the spring. She is scheduled to perform at 5:50 p.m. July 13 on the Main Stage.

“(Collier) is a prolific songwriter,” Briggs said. “People just love her, and a lot of people are looking forward to seeing her again.”

Though she is just 27 years old, Briggs said that Collier will be given a Lifetime Achievement Award by the Philadelphia Blues Society after her performance at the festival.

“I guess they figured that this would be a good place, with the audience we have, to present it to her,” Briggs said. “We are looking forward to that and we are happy for her.”

Perhaps the biggest act slated for festival will be Christone “Kingfish” Ingram, who has been considered to be a blues prodigy since he was only a small child. Briggs said that Kingfish first came on his radar when the musician was only 11 years old, and he saw him play live in Mississippi.

“(Kingfish) is going to be a very exciting act to watch,” Briggs said. “I have been following him.

“I was looking for a real blues band that had a lot of energy for that time of day — the last act of Saturday night,” added Briggs. “I wanted someone that would take the build of a full-day festival and really take it some place. I am definitely looking forward to that show.”

Aside from the aforementioned musicians, other acts scheduled to play at the Briggs Farm Blues Festival include: Annika Chambers, James Armstrong, Southern Avenue, Donna The Buffalo, Bobby Kyle & the Administers, Miz, Robert Kimbrough Sr., the Clarence Spady Band, Lonnie Shields, Cedric Burnside, Slam Allen, Scott Pemberton, Nate Myers, Mikey Junior, King Solomon Hicks, Heather Gillis, and the Alex P. Suter Ministers of Sound.

Though his blues festival has grown considerably over the 22 years, Briggs said that he always imagined that it would expand even more rapidly than it has. He said it’s okay that it hasn’t, though, since blues isn’t the type of music that has an integrated business structure designed for making a profit.

“Blues is more renegade and comes more from family passing it down and playing it. It is more hardworking, middle class music compared to some other genres of music,” he said. “That is probably why it is so easily acceptable to people who don’t really know the blues yet. It sort of makes sense to them with the type of storytelling, charisma and musicianship that we have on stage. People seem to always get that.”

For more information on the festival, go to briggsfarm.com.

THURSDAY, JULY 11

“Briggsstock”

Brett Alexander & Friends

7 p.m. – 11 p.m.

FRIDAY, JULY 12

Annika Chambers

4:15 p.m. July 12

Main Stage

James Armstrong

6:05 p.m. July 12

Main Stage

Southern Avenue

7:55 p.m. July 12

Main Stage

Donna The Buffalo

9:45 p.m. July 12

Main Stage

Bobby Kyle & the Administers

1:40 p.m. July 12

Back Porch Stage

Miz

3:30 p.m. July 12

Back Porch Stage

Robert Kimbrough Sr.

5:20 p.m. July 12

Back Porch Stage

Clarence Spady Band

7:10 p.m. July 12

Back Porch Stage

Lonnie Shields

9 p.m. July 12

Back Porch Stage

SATURDAY, JULY 13

Cedric Burnside

4 p.m. July 13

Main Stage

Vanessa Collier

5:50 p.m. July 13

Main Stage

Slam Allen

7:40 p.m. July 13

Main Stage

Kingfish

9:30 p.m. July 13

Main Stage

Scott Pemberton

1:10 p.m. July 13

Back Porch Stage

Nate Myers

3 p.m. July 13

Back Porch Stage

Mikey Junior

4:50 p.m. July 13

Back Porch Stage

King Solomon Hicks

6:40 p.m. July 13

Back Porch Stage

Heather Gillis

8:30 p.m. July 13

Back Porch Stage

SUNDAY, JULY 13

Slam Allen

11 a.m. July 14

Main Stage

Alex P. Suter Ministers of Sound

1 p.m. July 14

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