Erie Art Museum Presents 19th Annual Blues and Jazz Festival

Categories:  Events    Music    Features    Arts & Culture/Entertainment
Wednesday, July 27th, 2011 at 12:00 AM
Erie Art Museum Presents 19th Annual Blues and Jazz Festival by Cory Vaillancourt

She changes with the seasons. She changes in the summer. She becomes her summer-self; she becomes a whole other being, a vivacious vital vibrating vixen far more vivid than her weary weakened winter-self. She opens up a bit, showing her flirty side. Sundresses and sandals. Tank tops and flip-flops. You see things about her that you feel you’ve never seen, and you feel things about her that you see you have never felt. She’s warm, if not hot. She’s definitely someone I want to spend more time with.

Erie, she’s beautiful.

Erie’s outside all summer. She’s on the sparkling waters. She’s on the sandy beaches. She likes to eat outside, especially at Alto Cucina, Jekyll & Hyde’s, and the Oasis Pub. She likes to drink outside, especially at Molly’s, Calamari’s, and the Sandbar. Erie likes music outside too, the 8 Great Tuesdays series, the downtown block parties, the assorted ethnic festivals. While Erie tolerates the sit down, shut up, no drinky, no smokey indoor events, she prefers the stand-up, shout-out, shake-your-ass-on-the-grass events at the outdoor events. And Erie definitely likes the open container policy associated with these outdoor events.

Erie gets her fill of live outdoor music all summer long, which is good, because although Erie likes Kansas, Erie also likes blues and jazz. Next week, Erie will be at the Erie Art Museum Blues & Jazz Festival in Frontier Park.

“It’s going to be good, just like always,” says John Vanco, director of the Erie Art Museum.

Yes, Erie will be there. You should be there too. It’s free; it is also obviously outdoors, so you should bring an umbrella, sunscreen, and bug spray. There will be food and merchandise vendors, but you’ll have to bring your own booze and glow-in-the-dark hula hoops. It starts at 9:00 A.M. on Saturday August 6, and if you set up a tent before 9:00 A.M. on Saturday August 6, the tent police will come and take it away. If you bring your turkey fryer, charcoal grill, or other open-flam cooking contraption, the real police will come and take you away. Sleeping in Frontier Park is neither smart, nor fun, nor permissible, so don’t try any of that nonsense either. Those are pretty much the only ground rules, so you can really let your freak flag fly at this one. And did I mention it’s free? You really ought to check it out, if for nothing else than to see all of Erie as her full summer-self.

And what better place to see Erie really loosen up and party than the Erie Art Museum Blues & Jazz Festival? This event is the go-to festival of the summer for most people. “We try to promote the event, as an event. It’s something you can mark on your calendar, bring your friends, bring your family, bring a Frisbee, bring a cooler,” says Carolyn Eller, Director of Marketing at the Erie Art Museum. Eller knows that a good festival is comprised of equal parts music, audience, food, and venue, and she thinks this festival has it all.

“You have to have good music, you have to have a great crowd. We have people who would camp out if they could,” she says. “People just really enjoy it. We have good food, we have some of the same vendors coming back—local favorites, like Connie’s ice cream—but we’re getting some new additions this year. And this is an interesting crowd. I don’t want to call them a hippie crowd, but they are a little bit, so we’re getting some vegetarian options as well we haven’t had before.”

But before you assume this event resembles a mid-‘70s Grateful Dead concert, consider the plethora of activities available for both young and old. “It’s a great family-friendly setting, so even if you’re not there for music, you can have a great time, you can bring your kids, you can see artwork, it’s not just about music,” Eller tells me. “You know, we are the art museum.”

Indeed. There is more to do at this festival than just eat, drink, and listen to music—for both adults, and children. Eller goes on to tell me about one of the more interesting, and possibly more messy, activities. “We are promoting the museum’s clay space program, which a lot of people don’t know about,” she said. “Kids can make their own clay pots for free. We’ll have some professional clay instructors on site, all day, both days.” I’m going to try to keep my 4-year-old daughter away from this, which means it will instantly become her favorite component of the festival.

One of my favorite components of the festival is the tradition of commissioning original artwork each year for the festival’s advertising and merchandising. This year’s artist, David Nene, used musical terms to describe his creation. “By using typography as the instrument and color as the score, I hope this year’s poster is music to the eyes,” said Nene in the museum’s press release. You’ll be seeing this work all over Erie for years to come on the commemorative posters, T-shirts, and other merchandise available for purchase at the festival; Nene’s contribution will become a part of the long history of this festival, joining other distinguished artists, including Todd Scalise, who contributed his piece in 2002 and “Scalisized” Nene’s 2011 logo for this week’s Erie Reader cover.

If you want to see Erie as her summer-self, she’ll be in Frontier Park August 6 and 7. She’ll probably drop by the Erie Reader booth as well and suggests you do the same. Erie will be searching for old friends and making new friends. Erie will be checking in on Facebook. Erie will probably tweet about it too @ErieArtMuseum. Erie will be there for the food, the drink, the art, the music, the activities; it’s everything Erie likes, all in one place. But Erie knows that none of that is as important as the strong sense of community that is generated by this event. It makes Erie better. It makes Erie happier. Erie also knows that she must support our local artists and community cultural assets, not only by attending, but also by purchasing memorabilia and donating to the festival itself; although the festival is free, volunteers will be accepting $5 minimum donations in exchange for a button. So Erie’s summer-self also needs to bring cash. Lots of cash.

Cory Vaillancourt is a brilliant writer/complete hack and can be complimented/heckled at

Erie Reader: Vol. 6, No. 21
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