Coming into its 11th year, the Blues, Views and BBQ Festival taking place Sept. 1-2, has evolved into a family-friendly event while keeping its core focus on Southern-inspired food and good blues music.
Located at the Levitt Pavilion on the banks of the Saugatuck River in downtown Westport, the festival has grown over the years into one of the area’s summer’s must-attend events with more bands, more food and more of everything.
“The festival is kind of like two festivals in one,” said Bob LeRose, who launched the festival just over a decade ago when his restaurant, Bobby Q’s, was in downtown Westport. “You have the music on the main stage and this year, it’s all national acts that don’t usually play around here. We have a bunch of bands over two days on one stage.”
“The big change this year is there was always another festival component behind the library in a parking lot, with food trucks and different vendors selling things, entertainment for kids, a bouncy, and a second stage,” LeRose said. Festival organizers are moving that part of the festival from the library parking lot into the Imperial commuter lot, which is downstairs from the Levitt. “It’s a much larger footprint — people won’t feel as cramped in there and it allows us to spread everything out and bring in more of the attractions,” he added. “Instead of just sticking musicians under a tent, we have a proper stage for our second stage. It will sound better and look better. We are able to do more with the kids’ area. There will be more to do and more to see,” he said.
Since its inaugural year, the festival has featured some renowned blues, funk and rock performers, including The Revivalists, The Funky Meters with Eric Krasno, The Spin Doctors, and Anders Osborne. This year’s lineup presents 20 bands, including headliners Karl Denson’s Tiny Universe, the Grammy-winning Fantastic Negrito as well as Sister Sparrow and the Dirty Birds. Besides renowned national acts, the festival has a long history of debuting rising talent and this year includes first time performers Carolyn Wonderland, Mingo Fishtrap, Cris Jacobs and Ruby Velle & the Soulphonics.
The Imperial Jam, intends to be more appealing to a variety of ages by featuring music on two stages, including a Kids Stage, a Bounce Park, Touch-a-Truck, airbrush tattoos, food vendors, pie- and rib-eating contests, a BBQ competition, cooking demonstrations and more.
The annual BBQ Competition on Sept. 1 will feature wings, pulled pork, ribs, chicken and dessert. The list of food vendors is diverse, ranging from lobster rolls and pizza to Greek, Mexican and Italian food.
The festival’s organizers, DBD Productions, announced this year a new partnership with the Westport-Weston Chamber of Commerce this year. “The Blues Views & BBQ Festival is a double win for the community and the town. It is both a world class, two-day music event held at the Levitt Pavilion and at the same time a wonderful family-friendly experience with two stages for local bands and kids shows, food trucks, artisan vendors, a BBQ competition and more. It is a not-to-be missed event,” said Matthew Mandell, executive director and president of the Westport-Weston Chamber of Commerce.
While the festival has grown, the festival has stayed true to its roots to promote the downtown business area. “I started the festival 11 years ago. As a member of downtown merchants, we were looking for a way to get more people to come to downtown and thought it would be a good to have a musical and food festival.”
LeRose and Derek Signore, publisher of Sound Magazine, have jointly run the festival the last few years and this year teamed up with the Chamber. Given the festival’s solid reputation and its sell-out crowds, they deliberately didn’t change much else this year other than adding more space and more activities.
A Saturday pass is $55, Sunday pass is $45 or $90 for the whole weekend. Imperial Jam-only tickets are $15. The Levitt Pavilion is at 40 Jesup Road. For more information, visit BluesViewsandBBQ.com.