Annual blues festival draws music fans to downtown event

Published 12:00 am Friday, May 9, 2003

NATCHEZ &045; To the uninitiated, it might seem curious that hundreds of people could listen to such mournful guitar strains and such heartbroken lyrics and still be so happy.

But those who gathered for Saturday’s Natchez Bluff Blues Fest said it’s no secret &045; they just love this stuff, and they love the chance to see familiar favorites on stage.

Take Eli Ivory, for example. When he heard that old friends and fellow Natchez natives Y.Z. and Theodis Ealey were going to play at the festival again this year, he couldn’t wait to get to Natchez.

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&uot;I enjoy the band,&uot; Ivory said. &uot;Plus, Y.Z. and Theodis and me, we were raised up together. And I haven’t seen Theodis in maybe 20 years or more.&uot;

Jolene Roberts and family, now of Memphis and formerly of Natchez, come down to the festival every year.

But they had a special reason to attend this year &045; Roberts’ 15-year-old son, Josh, played blues guitar Friday night with Black Bayou and will play again at a blues brunch today.

&uot;But we really like it&uot; even when Josh isn’t playing, said Jolene Roberts. Her family set up a red, white and blue decorated tent to sit under while they watched the show on the grounds of the antebellum house Rosalie.

Starting at 11:30 a.m. Saturday, festivalgoers had several acts from which to choose.

Those included Alvin Shelby and the Mass Choir, B.B. Major, the Juvenators, the Y.Z. Ealey Band with Lljuan Love, Raful Neal, Mark May, Henry Gray & the Cats, and Y.Z.’s brother, Theodis Ealey.

But while music was the main attraction, there was also plenty of fun and food for all ages.

Vendors set up around the perimeter of the grounds sold everything from crawfish and red beans and rice to T-shirts and trinkets.

Although a crowd count wasn’t available Saturday afternoon, the event usually attracts about 1,500 people each year.

&uot;For one thing, the weather is absolutely perfect,&uot; said organizer Eric Glatzer, who spends more than four months out of each year preparing for the event. &uot;And we’ve brought Š some old favorite back to play.&uot;