Tribune-Courier News Editor
BENTON – Hot August Blues drew approximately 6,000 festival goers to Kenlake State Resort Park last year. Organizers expect to top last year’s numbers as the event continues to grow heading into its 22nd year.
“We’re trying to make it bigger and better this year,” said Debbie Howard with Hands-on Promotions of Murray, which is in charge of the event. “We’ve added a lot of fun vendors. Our regular vendors are great, but we’re adding more things like LED lights.”
While plans continue to grow food and activity options, the main draw of the event is still a variety of music acts that draw music enthusiasts from around the country. This year’s lineup includes Soul Creek, John D’Amato, Steve “The Harp” Blues Band, the Relegators, The Tommy Akers Band, Long Tall Deb and the Drifter Kings, the Library Trio, “Simply Stevie,” a tribute to Stevie Ray Vaughn by the Alonzo Pennington Band, the Avey Brothers, Greg Nagy and Delta Moon.
Soul Creek Blues Band, formerly Tympanic Blues Band, opens things Friday Aug. 26 at 6 p.m. Delta Moon will close the show Saturday night.
“We’ve made a name for ourselves in the festival circuit,” Howard said. “This is one of the festivals everybody asks about. I’m still getting submissions from people wanting to play in it.”
Howard said based off early ticket sales and inquiries, she expects to top last year’s attendance numbers. In addition to the talent on stage, Howard said keeping ticket prices flat has helped the event’s growth.
“For $25 you can enjoy two days of food, fun and friends,” Howard said. “The campground is totally booked. Hotels are filling up.”
Despite the increasing number of festival-goers, Sheriff Kevin Byars said the number of driver’s under the influence of alcohol and other substances has decreased. Byars credits that to factors: increased enforcement throughout the weekend and Kenlake’s use of shuttles.
“They’re getting to and from the event safely and that’s what we want,” Byars said. “It’s getting the desired result. We want people to have a good time, but we also want them to be safe and responsible.”
Byars said when the sheriff’s department began enforcing DUI checkpoints during the weekend, impaired driver arrests were around 16.
“Last year, six DUI’s were all we got from the two days,” Byars said. “They’re getting the message.”
Byars commended organizers on using the shuttles to promote public safety.
This year, Murray’s Amvets Post 273 will operate the shuttles. The event will help Amvets raise funds for veterans’ transportation needs.
Advanced tickets are on sale for $12 for Friday, $17 for Saturday and $25 for both days. Tickets at the gate are $15 on Friday, $20 on Saturday and $30 for both days. Children 12 and under are free.
Tickets are available at Roof Brothers Wine & Spirits locations, Kaylee’s Farmhouse Restaurant in Aurora and online at www.hotaugustbluesfestival.com.