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PBBF prepares to take blues fest in new direction

July 15, 2014

BY JOSH PRESLEY
news@dailytimesleader.com

As the 19th annual Howlin’ Wolf Blues Festival draws near, the Prairie Belt Blues Foundation (PBBF) has begun preparing local volunteers for the event.
The festival will kick off at 6 p.m. Friday, Aug. 29 — just prior to the annual Prairie Arts Festival — at Community Counseling Services, formerly Mary Holmes College, in West Point.
The lineup for this year’s festival is headlined by Texas Blues artist Carolyn Wonderland and George Porter Jr. and Runnin’ Pardners.
The newly formed PBBF took over all functions of the annual blues festival from the Howlin’ Wolf Blues Society this year, and looks to take the festival in a new direction.
PBBF President and Southern Ionics owner Milton Sundbeck said there was a desire to take the festival to a new level, and bring in new blood and new organization. He said PBBF’s goal is to honor all blues legends and to promote West Point for growth and development.
“The city has already received visitors from 42 states and 23 countries on the Mississippi Blues Trail,” Sundbeck said. “Blues music is part of our DNA in the South, and it’s something a large number of people are interested in.”
PBBF Vice President and Blues Festival Coordinator Richard Ramsey said the festival typically brings in more than 600 people, many of which come from out of state and country to West Point. He said he expects at least that many this year. He said, with that in mind, this attitude for this year’s festival is “Welcome to West Point,” and the PBBF wanted to bring in volunteers that would be able to show what West Point is all about.
“We wanted to provide the concert and festival goers with some of the best of the citizens from West Point,” Ramsey said. “These folks are not only volunteers for the festival, but a welcoming committee of sorts for the community.”
He said the volunteers for this year’s event are mostly first-time workers for the festival, and are a combination of citizens from city and county government, as well as other local groups.
“They’ll be working as ticket takers, selling merchandise and helping with backstage security,” Ramsey said. “Everybody thinks you just walk up and put a band on the stage, but it’s a lot more than that.”
West Point Ward 2 Selectman William Binder said he’ll be heading up security for the event, along with members of the West Point Police Department.
“Our task is to provide a safe atmosphere for the festival,” Binder said. “We’re looking forward to a fun night, but also a safe one.”

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