It might have just been a happy accident that the Uptown Music Collective’s 11th annual Blues-A-Thon and Williamsport’s third annual StrEAT Food Festival are happening at the same time, but the partnership should benefit both.
“It might raise our event to a new level this year by bringing in a bigger crowd on Saturday,” said Dave Brumbaugh, executive director of Uptown Music Collective.
The Blues-A-Thon will be held Friday and Saturday, and on Saturday the events will be held downtown alongside the increasingly popular StrEAT Food Festival, which will include 31 food trucks this year, coming from all over the region. The types of food available will include tacos, funnel cakes, smoothies, whoopee pies, French fries, burgers, barbecue, pizza, water ice, ice cream, Brazilian food, sausages, brats and more.
Jessie Novinger, director of recreation and special events for the city of Williamsport, said this year they will host a “Chopped” style competition, with mandatory mystery ingredients, from 2 to 3 p.m. She said four vendors will have 45 minutes to create their best dish. The winner will receive a $150 cash prize and a Chopped champion trophy.
Novinger said they are also excited about the new partnership with the Uptown Music Collective.
“Partnering with UMC kind of fell into our laps this year, but bringing families and music and the community together is always a goal of the city,” she said. “We like to offer events for the entire community and what better way to do that than through food and music.”
And particularly this genre of music.
“Food and blues are a natural combination, so it only made sense,” she said.
In the past, the food festival has been held in Bowman Field parking lot, but this year it will move to the downtown in conjunction with the Blues-A-Thon that will provide entertainment at the Mid-Town Landing stage behind the Collective’s headquarters.
On Friday, the Blues-A-Thon will be held on Pine Street as part of Williamsport’s First Friday festivities.
Performing for the first time at the Blues-A-Thon this year is UMC’s guest clinician, Fruteland Jackson.
“We’re very excited to have him here working with our students and taking part in our performances,” Brumbaugh said.
Jackson’s visit is possible thanks to the support of the Billtown Blues Association.
Other performers will include UMC students and staff, Brumbaugh said, “as well as local blues musicians and friends performing a variety of blues styles.”
The lineup will include The 3rd Street Blues Band, River City Blues Band, Becky Blue Band, Doug McMinn, Stacia Abernatha and Noe Socha, Dirty Mojo, and Cadillac Cats.
Brumbaugh said the Blues-A-Thon usually draws around 1,000 people each year, coming from all over Lycoming and surrounding counties.
Both attendance and donations continue to grow each year.
Brumbaugh said the UMC hopes to raise $5,000 this year to support their non-tuition-based program, which helps the school to keep their tuition prices down, “while still allowing us to deliver an exceptional music education.”
But aside from that specific goal, Brumbaugh said the Blues-A-Thon has an even larger mission.
“The event is also an educational event, both for our students and the community, as we seek to keep the blues alive in the best way possible,” he said, “by sharing it with our youth and performing it for our community.”