The Daily Item, Sunbury, PA

August 8, 2013

A festival for all ages

By Jerri Brouse
For The Daily Item

LAURELTON — Summer is almost over -- but there’s still enough time to squeeze in one last fun-filled weekend with the family  and what better way to wind down then with a little camping and live music?

“We really wanted to organize something that would work for all ages,” said Bob Cunningham, organizer of the first Jack’s Mountain Blues Festival.

Cunningham has been working with Jim and Juli Unger for the past 10 months to put together what they hope will become a popular annual event featuring live music, food and craft vendors.

“A lot of other organizations put on events that require you to be 21 to attend,” said Cunningham. “We wanted to stay away from that and offer a nice family event.”

They chose to host a blues festival, he said, because they seem to draw a good crowd and are enjoyable.

Jacks Mountain Blues Festival is set to kick off with the first band taking the stage at 6 p.m. Friday, Aug. 16 at the West End Fairgrounds in Laurelton. The event continues throughout the day Saturday.

Tickets are $30 if purchased in advance and are $35 at the gate. Children ages 6-16 are just $10 and kids 5 and under are free.

Cunningham said they tried to keep the price low so more people could attend.

“We wanted to make it affordable – our early bird tickets were $25 and all our tickets include camping (except for electrical hook up). How many places can you go and get all that for that price?”

The weekend’s musical line-up includes some local favorites as well as one band from as far away as Boston. The weekend will feature performances by the Sterling Koch Band, Skyla Burrell Blues Band, Reverend Blue Jeans, Mystery Train, Burgess, Mitchell, & Seal, Ann Kerstetter Band, The Blind Chitlin Kahunas, Max Schang Band, James Supra Blues Band, Kelly Richey, Dan Lawyer and Serious Trouble and Ron Yarosz and the Vehicle.

Cunningham said there has been a great response from the bands that asked to be a part of the inaugural event, and a few have even offered their time free of charge since a portion of the proceeds is being split among two local charities.

“A lot of the bands have even offered to play for nothing since it’s for kids,” he said. “People are being really generous. We’ve ended up with some great bands.”

A portion of the proceeds from the festival are being split between two local causes – the Taylor Bingaman Health Care Fund, set up to offset the costs of the care for Taylor Bingaman of Mifflinburg; and Camp Spifida, a week-long annual camp for kids with spina bifida.

Bingaman, 22, is a Mifflinburg man who, on Thanksgiving morning, 2012, fell down a flight of stairs at his parents’ home and suffered a fairly immediate traumatic brain injury.

Nicole said the family is grateful for the outpouring of community support they’ve received, including the offer from Cunningham and the Ungers to donate to Team Taylor.

“I don’t even know how they heard of us,” she said. “We feel absolutely overwhelmed at what our community and people outside of the community have done for Taylor and our family. When you are panicked like this you do want to cry for help – and we haven’t had to do that.”

All money donated to the Bingamans’ fund goes directly to The Taylor Bingaman Health Care Fund and Bingaman family for upcoming expenses they will be facing.

Kelly Hammaker, staff director, at Camp Spifida, said they’re also grateful for the unsolicited help.

“Our camp is completely funded by donations,” she explained. “Our budget is generally around $60,000 and we spend that so each year we start from scratch.”

Camp Spifida, a camp for kids age 6-18 who suffer from a vertebrae deformity called Spina Bifida, is held at Camp Victory in Millville each July.

The cost for camp – even at just $75 – can sometimes be a financial hardship, though. That’s why Cunningham said they wanted to donate proceeds from the festival.

In addition to food and craft vendors (and of course, the awesome music), attendees at theJack’s Mountain Blues Festival can also purchase a chance to win one of two major prizes. Tickets for the motorcycle are $20 and benefit Team Taylor. Tickets for the spa are just $5 each. Drawings will be held on Saturday evening.

For band bios and links to their individual websites, and more information about the Jack’s Mountain Blues Festival, visit www.jacksmountainbluesfestival.com or look for Jack’s Mountain Blues Festival on Facebook. To learn more about Taylor Bingaman, donate to the cause or keep up to date on his progress, search “Team Taylor” on Facebook. For more information on Camp Spifida, go to http://campspifida.wikispaces.com.