Rippin blues fest puts food bank in striking distance of goals

Performances by Buddy Guy and others attract thousands to annual show
by: Becca Quint Blues legend Buddy Guy bent a few notes Sunday evening on the 2011 Safeway Waterfront Blues Festival’s main stage. Guy closed the show with a set of blues played so funky “you could smell it.”

Chicago guitar legend Buddy Guy played the blues so funky Sunday night on the Safeway Waterfront Blues Festival main stage, that, in his words, 'you could smell it.'

Guy's note-bendin', rip-snortin' old-school guitar playin' provided the blues festival audience with a little bit of fireworks a full day before the real fireworks were planned.

Portland saxman Patrick Lamb nearly blew the roof off the First Tech Stage just a few minutes before Guy picked up his guitar on the other side of Tom McCall Waterfront Park.

Local bluesman Curtis Salgado let it rip on the main stage, performing with his band a few new songs from an upcoming CD.

All of the bands are helping the Oregon Food Bank raise money and collect food in the group's largest fundraiser of the year. By late Sunday night, the food bank had collected $380,000 toward its $650,000 fundraising goal, said Jean Kempe-Ware, public relations manager for the food bank.

The festival also has collected about 59,000 pounds of food toward its goal of 100,000 pounds, Kempe-Ware said.

'It's a higher goal this year than in previous years,' she said. 'We think we are in striking distance. If we have a good day (Monday) and everyone is generous, we think we can make it.'

No estimates on fundraising and donations were available Monday. The food bank planned to tally the donations after the blues festival ended with a bang.

Thousands of people in the audience jammed in front of both stages and sat in along the sloping park grounds during the third day of the four-day festival. The audience was so large that festival organizers didn't trust the numbers they were getting at the gates, Kempe-Ware said, possibly because most of the smokers had to go outside the park to smoke.

'We've had some really, really big days,' she said. 'The weather and the lineup have just been drawing a lot of people. We're happy and we hope to have another day.'

Last year, blues fans set a record for donations, giving about $650,000 in cash and providing about 100,662 pounds of food.

Oregon Food Bank distributes food through a statewide network of 20 regional food banks and 947 partner agencies serving Oregon and Clark County, Wash.

On the big screen

The 24th Safeway Waterfront Blues Festival kicked off Friday afternoon on the banks of the Willamette River with performances all day and into the evenings.

The festival is a major fundraiser for the Oregon Food Bank, with admission at $10 and two cans of food per person. The festival, the largest blues event west of the Mississippi, featured performances by Robert Cray, Buddy Guy, Lucinda Williams, Salgado, Lamb, Soul Vaccination and Maceo Parker.

New this year was a 24-by-14-foot video wall, which will feature live performances on the Miller Stage and the First Tech Federal Credit Union Blues Stage. Portland Community College's Media Services heads the production team for the big blues screen.

On Monday night, July 4, the festival closed with the Northwest's largest fireworks show, with the National Anthem performed by Portland's Linda Hornbuckle.

Western Display Fireworks of Canby fired the aerial display from a barge on the Willamette River choreographed to the tempo and intensity of a soundtrack produced and simulcast by 101.9. The 22-minutes show featured 11,500 rocket shots into the air.

For the 24th year, Western Display produced the display with Bob Gobet, company owner, as the lead pyro-technician.

Photos in the slideshow were taken by Becca Quint and Kevin Harden.