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It’s All About the Blues: 26th King Biscuit Blues Festival

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Buddy Guy
Buddy Guy
    Keb Mo
Keb Mo
Delbert McClinton
Delbert McClinton
    The Street Scene at the King Biscuit Blues Festival
The Street Scene at the King Biscuit Blues Festival
Crowds enjoy the Blues at the King Biscuit Blues Festival
Crowds enjoy the Blues at the King Biscuit Blues Festival
Sept. 28, 2011
Photos available: 501-682-1110;

Historic Helena Celebrates Musical Heritage on Oct. 6-8
Kimberly J. Williams, travel writer
Arkansas Department of Parks and Tourism

Tweet Line: 26th Annual King Biscuit Blues Festival:

“The Blues are the true facts of life expressed in words and song, inspiration, feeling, and understanding.” Willie Dixon

Blues fans from around the state, the country and the world know that there’s only one place to be the weekend before Columbus Day – at the world-renowned King Biscuit Blues Festival in historic Helena, Ark. This year’s dates are Oct. 6-8.

The festival, which turns 26 this year, is still the “hottest ticket in town” for the thousands who make their way each year to the Arkansas Delta. This year’s lineup proves that, like a fine wine, the King Biscuit Blues Festival only gets better with age. Headliners are Buddy Guy on Thursday, Oct. 6; Delbert McClinton on Oct. 7; and Keb’ Mo’ on Oct. 8.

The festival is a yearly opportunity to hear some of the best musicians and bands from around the world; but the festival is much more than music. Downtown Helena becomes a music-infused community during the October festival, with food, arts and crafts and shopping opportunities at every turn.

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. 5. 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 $25. 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 4 p.m., the Reba Russell Band will take to the Main Stage for an “informal jam.” 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. 6, is the official kick-off of the 26th annual King Biscuit Blues Festival. Music begins from the Main Stage at 11:30 a.m. The evening concludes with a performance by Grammy Award-winner Buddy Guy, considered to be one of the greatest guitar players of all-time.

On Friday, Oct. 7, the Main Stage opens at 11:30 a.m., followed by Lockwood Stackhouse Stage at noon and the Emerging Artist Stage at 2 p.m. All three stages will feature performances throughout the day and evening. The Main Stage headliner Friday evening is singer-songwriter-musician Delbert McClinton.

Saturday, Oct. 8, begins with the Kenneth Freemyer Memorial Run. This year, runners can choose from the 5K or the 10K. The event begins at 8 a.m. The route is located throughout historic Helena and the banks of the Mighty Mississippi River. This year’s race will also feature, for the first time, chipped timing by Stearns Race Timing. Also new in 2011 is 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 10 a.m. on Saturday, Oct. 8. To find out more about the races, the fun run, registration and the course, visit

Saturday also brings performances on the Bit-O-Blues Stage beginning at 11 a.m. and the Gospel Stage at 4 p.m. Music will also be featured on the other stages throughout the day and evening, including the headliner, three-time Grammy Award-winner Keb’ Mo’ from the Main Stage at 9:35.

Also on Saturday is “Call and Response: The King Biscuit Blues Forum” blues symposium. Held at the Malco Theater, this year’s event includes two discussion topics. The first, moderated by award-winning blues journalist and BluesWax editor-in-chief Don Wilcock, is entitled “Milestones in the Blues” and begins at 12:30 p.m. Roger Stolle of Cat Head Delta Blues & Folk Art moderates “State of the Blues in the Delta” at 1:30. Both events are free and open to the public.

The 2011 King Biscuit Blues Festival BBQ Cook-Off winners are named on Saturday, Oct. 8. The judged categories include whole hog, pork rib, pork shoulder, sauce and Bloody Mary. Prizes will be awarded for first, second and third place in each category, with the Grand Champion being chosen from the overall winners.

This year’s festival promises something for everyone – great music, special events, sumptuous food, and an experience you’ll never forget.

To learn more about the 26th annual King Biscuit Blues Festival, log on to


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