Roots and Blues 2017

By on March 1, 2017

Last weekend, the fourth annual Roots and Blues Festival took place in downtown Lancaster.

The three-day celebration of music, organized by local promoter Rich Ruoff, boasted more than 70 artists who played across nine performance venues both large and small throughout the Red Rose City.

And in 2017, like several years prior, our local area was well represented.

Just ask Deb Olsen of Lititz, who’s now in her third year of volunteering.

“The first year I was a green room manager at the Elks Lodge, making made sure that the musicians had plenty of food, drink and anything else they needed,” Olsen said. “My second year I was a lead volunteer at the same venue, which meant I was there all three days, in charge of the volunteers. It was a very exhausting job, but I got to meet and talk to every artist. I was so excited.”

This year Olsen chose Tellus360 as the venue she’ll work out of, and her duties were again numerous. She worked in many facets including ticketing, welcoming guests, the greenroom, and working backstage. And as the drummer in an all-girl band, she even picked up a few pointers from several performers along the way.

For Lititz musician Todd Fulginiti, performing no less than three different times over the course of the festival was a true labor of love.

The Steven Courtney Band was one of more than 70 acts to perform at Roots and Blues over the weekend. They are (left to right) Eric Foster, Bobby Wehner, Steven Courtney, Andy Lake, and Doug Walton

The Steven Courtney Band was one of more than 70 acts to perform at Roots and Blues over the weekend. They are (left to right) Eric Foster, Bobby Wehner, Steven Courtney, Andy Lake, and Doug Walton

“It’s one of my favorite weekends of the year,” he said. “Playing Roots & Blues is a blast, not only because it’s fun to play, but also because of all the great musicians from around the country you get to meet and hear. I’ve played the festival for the past three years with various artists. This year, I performed with Kerensa Gray on Friday, and The Evolution of Sound and King Street Big Band on Saturday.”

And with so many talented artists, when asked, Fulginiti struggled to name a top pick.

“My favorite shows of the weekend were Cassie Blanton, Michaela Anne, Tommy Emmanuel, and Soggy Po Boys,” he stated. “But there were so many highlights, it’s hard to pick even those few.”

Award-winning regional musician and Manheim resident Steven Courtney and his band were also one of the many acts this year, playing the Chameleon Club’s Lizard Lounge stage on Sunday.

Performing two sets of roadhouse blues and juke-joints may seem like a drastic departure from his lengthy career as a children’s performer, but judging by the cheers and applause from the crowds, he hasn’t missed a beat.

“To me, Lancaster Roots and Blues Festival is truly an extension of the city itself,” Courtney said. “Lancaster…ever changing and moving. A city of reinvention. A true melting pot of culture, art, food, people…with roots and blues music deep in its core.”

And spotted among this melting pot were many familiar faces, including Joe and Betty Narkiewicz of Lititz.

“My husband and I have been attending the event for three years,” Betty said. “Our favorite artist was Clarence Spady at the Excelsior. The festival is a very open and inviting event, and draws people from all over the country. There are so many talented musicians who provided different genres.”

But not all of the talent was confined to the stage.

For the fourth year in a row, Lititz resident Fred Rodger provided his original artwork for the festival’s poster, being more than happy to lend his talents to such a great cause.

“Anything I can do to help Lancaster and its bustling arts scene I am all for,” he said. Despite his busy schedule, he even took some time to check out some of the artists who performed.

“All the acts were first class. Billy Price Band was my favorite, but it’s so hard to pick a favorite,” Rodger said.

Lititz artist Fred Rodger created this poster advertising Roots and Blues 2017.

Lititz artist Fred Rodger created this poster advertising Roots and Blues 2017.

A new venue this year was the Main Stage at Lancaster Square. Located at 125 N. Queen St., this very large tent included food vendors, a full bar, and even heated restrooms. Boasting a sound system provided by Clair Brothers Audio Systems and lighting courtesy of Stray Production Services (both of Lititz), it had to be seen to be believed.

Speaking of local ties, the Greg Shenenberger managed companies/Shenny Enterprises once again sponsored artist performances on the Main Stage, as well as hosted a Sky Box section there on Sunday.

“I love supporting Rich,” said Shenenberger. “He does so much for the area and always has. He put his music career on the map by starting the Chameleon Club, and now he has his hands involved in this. I will always financially support his vision. The neat thing Rich does is involve artists from all genres, but still holds true to the roots and blues mantra.”

Cory Van Brookhoven is president of the Lititz Historical Foundation and has authored several books on topics involving Lancaster County history, including Lititz. He welcomes your comments at coryvb@hotmail.com.

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