Blues, jazz and razzmatazz on display at 11th annual festival
By Noelle Edwards and Shelley Smithssmith@salisburypost.com
Members of Homemade Jamz, a blues group of three under-18 siblings, played around on their instruments on stage, singing and warming up before their performance at the Blues and Jazz Festival in downtown Salisbury.
“One, two. One, two. One, two,” vocalist Ryan Perry called into the microphone. “One, two, five. One, two, five, eight.”
And the group was off. And so were members of the audience, caught up in the music, dancing along, swaying in their seats.
Ask people how they were enjoying the evening, and some barely could take their eyes off the stage to answer.
“We like music, all kinds of music,” Micha Ennis said. She’s been coming to the festival three or four years.
“I’m having a good time,” Shirley Moss said. She has come pretty much each of the 11 years the festival has been held. “I’m originally from Tennessee, so what can I say?”
“I love the blues,” said Thomas Hopkins of Salisbury. “I can’t deal without it.”
Ernestine Cornelius of Cleveland came to the festival for the first time in a few years since her last visit.
“Jazz is my favorite, and I love the fellowship,” she said.
Charles Goldman of Salisbury said he has been twice to the festival.
“I love to come,” he said. “It’s one of the best things they have around town.”
James Stout, a veteran of the Blues and Jazz Festival who has come every year since it began, said he likes everything about the festival.
“It’s part of me,” Stout said. “It has definitely gotten better over the years, and a big ‘thanks’ goes to Qadirah.”
Stout is talking about Eleanor Qadirah, the festival’s founder. She organizes the event every year, as president of the Rowan Blues and Jazz Society.
For 10 years the festival was free, but the society announced earlier this fall it would have to charge $15 a person this year because donations had been down. Then this week an anonymous donor gave enough money that, combined with donations received previously, the society was able to make Saturday’s festival free too.
“It made me feel good because that was my mission,” Qadirah said.
She said she thought that last-minute change helped boost attendance.
Still, the crowd was slightly lower than last year, she said. A lot of it had to do with rain in neighboring areas, she said. Forecasters were originally calling for rain in Salisbury, too.
Qadirah doesn’t organize and carry out the festival by herself. A team of volunteers helps in the planning stages and on the day of the event.
She would like to see more people get involved and commit to keeping the festival going after she is no longer able to one day.
“I want those young people to come and learn what I do,” she said.
Tia Glass, a first-year volunteer, plans to do just that. Next year, she said, “I’ll come back with the same enthusiasm,” but she wants to be more involved in planning the event.
Latisha Feamster volunteered this year for the second year.
“This is actually a wonderful opportunity to provide blues and jazz to the community,” she said.
Not everyone was so enamored with the event, though. Nicholas Parrish, a chef with vendor Caribbean Island Cuisine, has come to the festival to sell food five years, but he said he’s never coming back.
Normally, he said, things run smoothly, but this year he didn’t have a way to get power to his booth. He cooked food with propane but needed electricity for lights and to keep his food warm within eyesight of customers. He had to get power from Java Hutt Express’ truck parked next to him.
“You don’t wait till I get here the same day to put stuff together,” he said.
He was also upset that the fee for vendors increased from $100 to $150, especially given the problem he had getting power.
Qadirah said she increased the cost for vendors to cover the costs of operating the festival.
She said the average person doesn’t consider the logistics and expenses, such as lights and amplifiers, involved in such an event.
She said other festivals charge $200 or $300 for vendors and those who come to Salisbury’s festival will go and pay higher fees at other festivals.
“I also consider our residents,” she said. She wants to provide the festival as cheaply as possible for those who live in Salisbury.
As to the issue of generators, Qadirah said there were problems with generators during the day, but she said the parking lot is not equipped to provide the electricity the festival really requires.
“We appreciate the parking lot,” she said. But she said if events are to continue to be held there, it should be updated for events in a world that relies on things that run on electricity.
Other vendors mentioned problems with the lights but said they plan to come back in the future anyway.
Joseph Ansley of Jo-Pott Smoker Sandwich said business was slower than usual.
“The music was great, though,” he said. “The crowd was still cheerful and receptive.”
Hubert Switzer of H&B Country Cooking said, “It’s been a good day. Yeah. Great.”
He did mention problems with having to turn his lights off and on. “We’ve been in the dark half the night,” he said. But he’s come eight years and plans to come back again in 2010.
So does Dolores Vaughn, who was in the audience for the second year in a row.
“I love the blues,” she said. “They really make you feel good all the way down to your soul.”