As I munched on a double chocolate chip cookie and sipped my McDonald’s coffee from the booth that I volunteered at, I surveyed the 10th Annual Jazz and Blues in the Village set up. Huge tent – heated. Check. Band stage and sound system. Check. Merchandise booth, food vendors. Check. Beer, wine and Hurricanes, New Orleans style. Check. Music. Check, check, check.
All is well in the beautiful green space at Lochiel Kiwanis Community Centre, known as McGibbon Park in Sarnia, Ontario.
Jazz and Blues in the Village is located in a unique setting for a festival as the park only accommodates 1500 people – that makes for a cozy and intimate feel. I believe that is why so many of us return to the festival, each and every year; not only to volunteer for a worthy cause (Sarnia Organ Donor Awareness), but to enjoy the great music and catch up with old friends. I often tell my friends that attending the festival is like returning home or going to a school reunion – one meets old friends, neighbours and acquaintances, and re-unites with “new” friends from past festivals.
Whether you choose to sit under the tent to hear the music or set up a lawn chair on the hill, you are sure to appreciate the wonderful sounds of talented musicians. Over the years we have had the privilege to enjoy some exciting moments from the likes of Peter Appleyard (one of my all-time favourite performers; he was electric!) the late Jeff Healey Band, the legendary Downchild, Danny Brooks, Denise Pelley, Dave Rotundo Band, and so many more. All of them have been exciting, award-winning performers and all of them have thrilled the crowds.
This year our coffee booth team settled in to listen to the Saturday afternoon line-up: Jim Clayton and Al Weiss, and Guido Basso and Friends special tribute to the late, legendary Peter Appleyard. Wow, Saturday afternoons just don’t get better than this. We knew we were in for some great stuff as we had already enjoyed Friday’s performances of vocalists Robin Banks and Cheryl Lescom, and the harmonica virtuoso Jerome Godboo.
On Saturday evening, we were entertained by Lit’l Chicago who opened for the main event, a 1969 Woodstock favourite – Canned Heat. When the musicians started to play “Going up the Country,” I thought the crowds would erupt into dancing…and they did! Oh, and so did we – dance, that is. (Because I defy anyone who loves to dance, not to get up and boogie when those oldies, but beloved tunes begin.) We were not the only volunteers dancing…the popcorn booth’s crew were line dancing so well – I think they practised beforehand! (Now that’s dedication!) The dance floor was fully occupied throughout the whole evening and if the crowd wasn’t dancing, they were swaying.
What a fun, professional performance from Canned Heat! No wonder the band has sustained popularity since 1969. They deserved the standing ovations and we were just as enthusiastically, wildly clapping with the crowds, as well as hooting and hollering.
That’s why I love the festival so much – we allow ourselves to drop our defenses for a few crazy hours…and just soak up the atmosphere and listen and enjoy some wonderful, great music. (You should try it sometime. You would love it.)
So at the end of the evening, as we packed up our booth, I reflected on the people who were dancing in the rain, up on the hill and realized that they pretty much summed up how I feel about this jazz and blues festival – no matter the weather, no matter rain or shine, we just let go and have fun.