With October comes a cooler temperature, fall color and the Blues! The 28th annual King Biscuit Blues Festival is scheduled for Oct. 10-12, in historic downtown Helena. This year’s headliners are Marcia Ball on Thursday, the Robert Cray Band on Friday, and the Gregg Allman Band on Saturday.
Back again this year is Warm-Up Wednesday, an opportunity for people to experience a “behind-the-scenes” look at how the festival comes together. Food and beverage vendors will be open to the public beginning at 4 p.m. on Wednesday, Oct. 9. Festival wristbands (required to access the Main Stage area) and Blues Bucks will also be available for purchase. During Warm-Up Wednesday, the three-day festival wristbands will be available for $40. After Wednesday, all wristbands are $45, which includes Main Stage admission for all three days. The official Festival Store will also be open, offering a wide variety of licensed King Biscuit Blues Festival products, including t-shirts, posters, pins and much more. Beginning at 6 p.m., it’s the Michael Burks Memorial Jam, featuring Doug McMinn, Robert Tooms, Josh Roberts, Darryl Starks, and Sterling Billingsley. The concert is free and open to the public.
The festival encompasses the majority of the historic town’s Cherry Street, the same street that blues legends Sonny Boy Williamson, Robert “Junior” Lockwood and Robert Johnson once strolled on their way to becoming musical legends. The festival area includes five different performance stages – the Main Stage, the Lockwood Stackhouse Stage, the Bit-O-Blues Stage, the Rising Biscuit Stage and the Gospel Stage – along with a varied selection of food vendors, arts and crafts booths and street musicians.
Thursday, Oct. 10, is the official kick-off of the 28th annual King Biscuit Blues Festival. Music begins from the Main Stage at 11 a.m. The evening concludes with a performance by the award-winning Marcia Ball. The blues singer and pianist is known for her dynamic stage show. Ball takes the stage at 9:35 p.m.
On Friday, Oct. 11, the Main Stage and the Lockwood-Stackhouse Stage open at 11 a.m. Both stages will feature performances throughout the day and evening. The Main Stage headliner Friday evening is the Robert Cray Band. Cray, a five-time Grammy Award winner and member of the Blues Hall of Fame, performs at 9:30 p.m.
Saturday, Oct. 12, begins with the Kenneth Freemyer Memorial 5K and 10K run. Run. The event begins at 8 a.m. The route is located throughout historic Helena and the banks of the Mighty Mississippi River. There’s also the One Mile Fun Run for youngsters ages 5-10. The fun run, an opportunity to give kids the chance to build or enhance a love of running, kicks off at 9 a.m.
Saturday also brings performances on the Bit-O-Blues Stage beginning at 11 a.m. and the Gospel Stage at 5 p.m. Music will also be featured on the other stages throughout the day and evening, including the headliner, the Gregg Allman Band. Allman and his band perform from the Main Stage at 9:05 p.m.
The third annual Call and Response: The Blues Symposium, begins at noon on Saturday, Oct. 12 at the Malco Theater on Cherry St. Participants include Bobby Rush, Carl Weathersby, Blind Mississippi Morris, Brad Webb, Matt Marshall, Don Wilcock, Earnest “Guitar” Roy Jr., Bill “Howl-N-Madd” Perry, Robert “Dr. Feelgood” Potts, David Malone Kimbrough Jr., and Roger Stolle.
New this year is the People’s Choice BBQ Contest. For $10, you can sample 15 different barbecues and vote for your favorite. The price also includes one free beer ticket. The People’s Choice BBQ Contest takes place in the Helena National Bank parking lot on Saturday, Oct. 12, from 5-8 p.m.
This year’s festival promises something for everyone – great music, special events, spectacular food, and an experience you’ll never forget.