Saturday lineup keeps Billtown Blues Festival goers dancing

MARK NANCE/Sun-Gazette Nick Moss, left, and Dennis Bruenling during the 30th Annual Billtown Blues Festival at the Lycoming County Fair Saturday. Both Dennis and Nick received 2019 Blues Music Awards for Traditional Male Blues and Harmonica in Memphis, TN. The Blues Festival began Friday and continues through Sunday.

The sun peaked through the clouds to set a spotlight on the 30th annual Billtown Blues Festival at the Lycoming County Fairgrounds Saturday.

“Keeping the blues alive” on the second day of three, the Billtown Blues Association (BBA) hosted a lineup of eight musical artists and groups for the many music fans in the crowd.

Artists like 2019 BBA Audition concert winner, The Benjamin Vo Blues Band, and drummer/vocalist Lindsay Beaver stepped onto the Williamsport Sun-Gazette main stage to share their passion for blues music with the crowd. In the midst of the music, members of the audience could be found dancing on top of parked cars or up close to the stage, playing corn hole, shopping at one of the many vendors, or relaxing in lawn chairs.

On top of a wide range of vendors selling clothes, handmade jewelry, purses and bags, and a multitude of other goods, there was also a diverse selection of food vendors. Those in attendance could purchase food from places like Lil’s Daves Southern Hospitality, Jumbo Waffles & Ice Cream, Grilled Cheese Cafe and even Real Taste Mexican Street Food to name a few.

Sitting within the merchandise tent, Julia Sauers, member of the Uptown Music Collective and volunteer for the festival, spoke highly of the day’s event and of the work that Bonnie Tallman, executive director, puts into it each year.

“I love to help Bonnie out with this event and the music is absolutely awesome,” said Sauers. “Being able to meet cool people here, it is just a great event.”

Sauers added how unique the experience is to hear some of the musicians she had never heard before.

“No I did not know any of the bands. That is the awesome thing, you get to see different bands from all over,” said Sauers. “The music is my favorite part.”

Third in the days line up, Miss Freddye, known as “Pittsburgh’s Lady of the Blues,” according to the Billtown Association’s website, took to the stage. In between her set and her time walking around the fairgrounds, being commended by both old and new fans for her performance, Miss Freddye expressed how honored she was to be a part of the showcase of talent.

“It’s an honor, it’s a huge honor and it is very humbling,” said Freddye. “I grew up in a house of blues and country through my parents, so to actually be able to do this and leave some kind of mark or legacy behind, it is very cool.”

As a working, full-time mom, Freddye added how nice it was to have the opportunity to perform and then meet and talk with people at the CD signing following her set.

“A lot of people have come up to me so far and said, ‘I have never heard of you, wow is that what you always do?’ And I got to explain that yes, I have been playing all over and I am trying to expand myself outside of my city and my comfort zone,” added Freddye.

Freddye continued to emphasize that for her, the musical experience is not about her, but rather about making her audience feel good and at center stage on Saturday, she had that exact opportunity.

“When I am on that stage, I have stage fright like crazy… but I said to people today, ‘When I got up on that stage today and I looked out at the crowd and I looked at different individuals… I just knew we had to make these people feel good,” said Freddye. “Come on, let’s party.”

Also wanting everyone in attendance to enjoy their time listening to good music, Tallman spoke proudly of the success the festival was having thus far in its 30th year. The first year to have three days of music instead of just one, Tallman especially emphasized her gratitude for the people she worked closely with.

“We have very, very few people that do amazing things within our little nonprofit organization,” said Tallman. “To put on a three day festival with camping and to have stellar musicians from all over the country in our own backyard on a beautiful day, it truly means everything.”

Tallman added that the mission of the association is not so much to have a festival, but that the festival acts as “the means” for them to “expose people to blues as an art form.”

After all the planning and stress leading up to the day, Tallman was able to enjoy it and appreciate the music fans that attended the day as well.

“Watching people have a great time, that is my favorite thing,” said Tallman. “To be able to look out to the crowd and just watching them give so much back to the musicians. I find that our music fans locally … they aren’t preoccupied with a lot of other things, I mean they are having a good time of course, but they really do give back to the musicians. They don’t get that everywhere they go.”