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Tuesday, August 28th, 2007

Ready to sing the blues at St. Marys' Geiger Park

By Janie Southard

K.C. Geiger Park in St. Marys will be transformed into a Bluesfest on Saturday f. . .

ST. MARYS - "My mama done told me" the blues will be in town Saturday when Riverside Bluesfest opens for a daylong, out-on-a-hill blue note festival at K.C. Geiger Park - the first ever in the area.
Organizers Chris Botkin, Rees McKee and Dave Stilwell, all of St. Marys, say the whole thing was an idea they had years ago just "sittin' around in somebody's basement gabbin' " about how to upgrade the SummerFest Duck Race, the trio's first baby hatched more than 15 years ago to benefit the local park.
(By the way, these guys and their ducks have raised more than $100,000 for the park over the years - and are still going strong!)
After they tried to get their ducks in a row for another year, it was apparent the ducks just wouldn't line up anymore and the fellas decided to break out the blues.
"Chris and I both like the blues and all of us were looking for another way to raise money for the park. So we thought why not have a blues festival right at the park. And, bring people out here," McKee told the newspaper last week under a hot sun at K.C. Geiger.
Under that same hot sun, Botkin agreed it all began with just an idea. And, no one's singin' the blues in the night over lack of volunteers.
"Once word got out, everybody loves the idea; and, really one of the easiest parts of this whole thing has been getting volunteers," Botkin said.
It's not quite a cast of thousands, but those wanting to help out with this first blues venture in St. Marys certainly number in the hundreds, well, at least 100 or close to that.
Botkin said the mother group has had 14 well-attended meetings in the past 12 months. Plus interested folks just keep dropping in to offer their services, which doesn't hurt any project.
"It's amazing how many people around here like blues music," Botkin said.
Both men mentioned a huge raft of volunteers who have pulled more than their share of event prep, among them Scott Steineker, a St. Marys native who has made a name for himself as a promoter. He owned the former Polaris now Germain Amphitheater and now is president of Promowest Productions in Columbus.
"Scott has helped us so much," McKee said. "He allowed us to come down (to his Columbus location) and see how it all works. Plus he helped Chris with our preliminary budget and eliminated a lot of our guesswork."
A big, really big, feature of the event will be the 13-by-9-foot video panel reflecting what the on-stage cameras are filming. This, along with recording and other video, will be handled by Rich Spencer, volunteer extraordinaire.
"He was actually our easiest sell," Botkin said of Spencer who has experience with Memorial High School's M-TV.
Speaking of education, McKee said he's hoping to introduce some blues workshops in the local schools some time in the not-too-distant future. Joe Bonamassa, one of the big names performing Saturday, is part of the Blues Foundation, a nonprofit corporation whose mission is to preserve blues history, support blues education and promote blues as an American art form.
The Bluesfest trio have sold tickets online in every state, except West Virginia, with 31 percent of their Web site hits purchasing tickets. Requests for information have even come Europe, which Botkin attributes to Bonamassa's reputation.
But, getting down to the real grit of the situation, what about parking?
"We have 1,000 paid-parking spots in the park: 700 for passenger cars and 300 for motorcycles," Botkin said. "Plus, the city, (officials) who have been so supportive of us, welcomes people parking in town and walking back here on the canal towpath."  
Like true natives of west central Ohio, almost above all else the local blues boys are fervently hoping for good weather or even passable weather or just not a big torrent of rain.
However, what's more bluesy than a rainy Saturday in the park, I think it was the fourth of July. No, wait, that's another song and not the right holiday and not even the blues. But, can you dig it? This Saturday at K. C. Geiger Park in St. Marys? Yes, you can.
Reporter's Note: Experience indicates that Dave Stilwell would have chimed in any number of pithy (not to say terse or trenchant) comments in this article; however, he was (a.) out of town; (b.) hesitant to be photographed; (c.) heart-broken over abandoning the ducks; or (d.) practicing some mournful tune on his harmonica.

If you go:
What: Riverside Bluesfest
Where: K.C. Geiger Park, located on Greenville Road, just east of the intersection with state Route 66, St. Marys
When: Saturday, grounds open at 11 a.m. with performances, 1-11 p.m.
The line-up: Joe Bonamassa, Lonnie Brooks, Cleveland Fats, Doghouse Daddies and Scotty Bratcher Band
Tickets: $15 advance and $20 at the gate; on-site parking, $5 per vehicle.
Purchase online at or locally at Chief in St. Marys and Celina, all six Schwieterman Pharmacies, St. Marys Music Clinic, Pantry Pride in St. Marys and St. Marys Area Chamber of Commerce.
Details: Food and refreshments, including beer, will be available throughout the event.
Bluesfest policies include: No audio/video recording equipment; no carry-in coolers; and no weapons. Security personnel will visually inspect the contents of bags and large purses prior to entrance into the venue. Banned items will be confiscated.
- Janie Southard
Additional online stories on this date
ST. HENRY - A new community festival celebrating the village's strong German ancestry will be held Sept. 22 at the St. Henry American Legion.
Local [More]
ST. MARYS - Celina received a stiff challenge from St. Marys, but was able to get a 5-0 shutout in Western Buckeye League dual-match action on Monday at Memorial High School courts. [More]
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