Hot Springs Blues Festival!

Photo of the 2012 Hot Springs Blues Festival. Photo by Z. Clift

The blues are one of the most influential forms of American music. Arkansas has deep ties to this music art form, and blues legends like Robert Lockwood, Jr. and Sister Rosetta Tharpe are from here.

Hot Springs showcases the genre during the 17th annual Hot Springs Blues Festival August 30 through September 1. The family friendly event is held each Labor Day Weekend in Hill Wheatley Plaza in downtown Hot Springs.

If you have never been before, the atmosphere is laid back with lawn chairs scattered about, kids dancing to the music and blues lovers enjoying some down time. I went last year and though we got rained out for many of the performances due to severe storms, there were still some hard -core blues fans out there enjoying the sounds before the rain hit. There are clear skies in the forecast for this weekend.

The festival takes places in various venues and admission is $10/day or $15 for a weekend pass. Friday there will be performances at various bars in town including Little G Weevil at the Ohio Club; Bart Walker Band at Fat Jack’s.

Saturday the festival kicks off with workshops at the Fine Arts Center ( 610 Central) from 12-3. Workshops include rock photography classes and a class on how to build a cigar box guitar from Bluesboy Jag. Gates open at 2:30 p.m. at Hill Wheatley Plaza for the music  and the headliners are Shakura S’aida and Zac Harmon. Harmon has played the festival before and makes a stop or two in Hot Springs every year. He is a former International Blues Challenge winner. After-parties start at 9.

There are more workshops Sunday and the music starts at 3:30 p.m. Headliners are Bart Walker Band and Southern Hospitality, and after-parties start up again at 9.

For those interested in the history of the blues in Arkansas, be sure to check out the Delta Cultural Center in Helena-West Helena sometime. The city is also home to the popular King Biscuit Blues Festival each October.

More details on the Hot Springs Blues Festival can be found at or by calling 501-815-2939.