BBQ & Bluesfest shakes up downtown Washington and attracts 15,000 people over three days | Local News

The only blue things at WashMO BBQ & Bluesfest this weekend were the sky and the songs.

“We’re extremely happy, extremely pleased with how everything turned out,” said Tyler King, executive director of Downtown Washington Inc., which puts on the annual festival. “Obviously the weather was my biggest concern, as it always is whenever we have an outdoor festival.”

But, a short shower on Sunday morning did little to dampen festival-goers’ spirits, and for those whose spirits (and head and shoulders) were dampened, 12-year-old singer Meaza Edwards, from Washington , brought the vibe right away, singing covers of popular songs like Dolly Parton’s “9 To 5.”

“I really like to sing whatever fits my aura,” she said after her set. “(It’s) just very powerful, maybe sentimental if the song meant anything to me.”

Edwards was one of dozens of artists who performed and sang at the festival. Members of the Washmo Blues Society also picked up instruments and played alongside the six bands booked for the weekend.

Winner of Billboard’s Best Emerging Artist Album in 2016, Amanda Fish and her band hit the headlines on Saturday, belting out original songs to the sounds of wailing saxophones and guitars bouncing around the three-story buildings at the corner of Main and Elm streets.

“What I’ve noticed is that (other artists) do the right thing by playing all the real blues stuff,” said Pacific guitarist Jared Cattoor. “This traditional sound keeps the blues tradition alive.”

Owners of DogMaster Distillery in Columbia, Joe and Amanda Pangborn made the trip east for the Whiskey Walkin’-ticket event, when they and other distillers offered samples of their products from downtown businesses. city. The Pangborns set up shop at Vintage Trader on Elm Street and had bottles of spirits available for sale. Then the couple went to other vendors, visiting booths like the one at Hope Ranch, which sold sports memorabilia for charity.

“We did well,” Amanda Pangborn said after Saturday’s event. “It was a good time. We are thinking of coming back next year.”

On the other side of the festival, 30 competitive barbecue teams competed in a contest sponsored by the Kansas City Barbecue Society. Four categories were judged – brisket, pork ribs, chicken and pulled pork – and Boonville, Indiana-based Scuffletown Smokers took home the grand champion.

“It’s a beautiful setting,” team co-owner Stan Metzger said of the festival. “I love the river, the location, they did a great job of organizing.

Competitive barbecue Reagan Broesche accepted. He made the trip to Washington from Austin, Texas, where his team, La Pasadita, is based. Broesche said New Haven native Tim Scheer invited him and other contestants to WashMo BBQ & Bluesfest because of his “special” character and friendly people.

“I really think it’s one of the best events in the country because of the atmosphere and the crowd participation,” Scheer said.

Scheer owns Blues Hog Barbecue in Washington, and his team, Shake ‘n Bake, competes in no less than 40 competitions a year. On Saturday, he won first prize in the pork chops category, Scheer’s specialty. Despite being a fierce competitor, Scheer said he always welcomes other competitors to hang out at his house after the event is over.

Before the festival, King estimated he would draw around 15,000 people over the three days of the festival – and after the event he said that was an accurate prediction.

“It’s hard to get exact numbers, but we try to gauge based on how our vendors are doing and things like that,” said Cassidy Desmond, events and promotions specialist for Downtown Washington Inc. “Most of our food vendors have run out of food, which is a good problem to have.

He said Saturday was the busiest day of the event.

Besides the Art Fair & Winefest in May and Fall Fest in September, WashMO BBQ & Bluesfest is one of Downtown Washington Inc’s signature events. Desmond said she won’t have revenue numbers for a few weeks. , but said all 200 Whiskey Walkin’ and 250 BBQ, Bacon & Bourbon Tasting tickets had been sold out. She said the two events, which replaced the People’s Choice BBQ Award, would likely be back for another year.

“I hope our business owners are happy with the outcome,” King said. “You know, the idea is yes, to have a big festival for the city, but really to help do business with our vendors and our business owners who are here. That’s where it’s It’s really about maintaining economic vitality here.

David H. Henry