Artists Please Crowd at South Orange's Annual Blues Festival
Sunday, September 9, 2012 • 9:10pm
SOUTH ORANGE, NJ - South Orange hosted its annual International Blues Festival at South Mountain Reservation this Sunday for the third year in a row.
The day-long event was held in the Oakdale picnic area of the park, which is technically in West Orange, but remains faithful to its South Orange roots by keeping the town in the title of the celebration.
Mike Griot, the executive director of the festival, said that the event is meant to shed a spotlight not only on blues music, but on the village of South Orange as well.
“This village has been very good to me and my music production business,” said Griot. “Our motivation was to spotlight our village which was already well-known as a haven for fine artists and musicians.”
The South Orange International Blues Festival began at 11 a.m. Sunday, and with its full line-up of renowned blues artists lasted for over nine hours, wrapping up after 8 p.m.
Headlining the event was Grammy-winner Vernon Reid of blues rock band Living Colour, joined by Michael Hill’s Blues Mob. The line-up also consisted of Blues Hall-of-Famer Michael Packer, Dean Shot, Rosalyn McClore and others.
While the presenters of the festival went to great lengths to capture well-known blues artists for the event, the SOIBF remained free for all attendees. The event was sponsored by local businesses and vendors in order to keep it free for all residents, said Joel Levin, Griot’s partner and marketing consultant for the event.
Cassie Denbow, a South Orange resident, attended the SOIBF for the first time Sunday. “It’s a really awesome community event,” said Denbow. “It’s a great location and it’s great that it’s free.”
“Our aim in producing a free event was to bring music to the people and people to the music,” said Levin. “Music is the vehicle that furthers the broader goals of the festival by providing free family entertainment while familiarizing guests with the cultural, shopping, and culinary attractions of Essex County and South Orange.”
The producers of the event even organized a free shuttle to run residents from the South Orange train station to the picnic area where the event was being held. The shuttle was provided by the South Orange Parking Authority and ran concert-goers back and forth for the duration of the festival.
“There’s a lot that South Orange has to offer,” said Bill Torres, a South Orange resident and second time attendee of the SOIBF. “People just don’t put in the effort to experience everything.”
In between performances, the event was emceed by celebrity chef Johnny Ciao, a blues aficionado. Ciao also got on stage to play guest harmonica for a song with Michael Packer.
After three years of conception, the festival had its first undertaking in 2010 in the village of South Orange, but was moved in 2011 to the South Mountain Reservation in order to accommodate a larger crowd, said Levin.
For complete line-up and more information on the artists, visit the festival’s website at southorangebluesfestival.com.