TROY - A free public discussion and musical presentation, featuring musicians Debbie Bond and her husband Rick Asherson, at the Studio in downtown Troy on April 30 will kick off this year's Wiregrass Blues Fest.
Officials from Troy University, the city of Troy, the Pike County Chamber of Commerce and the Johnson Center for the Arts announced the kickoff event during a press conference at the Johnson Center on Wednesday. The free event is set for 7 p.m. at the Studio, 300 E. Walnut St, and is made possible with grants from the Alabama Humanities Foundation and the Alabama State Council on the Arts with assistance from the Wiregrass Blues Society and the Smithsonian grant "The Way We Worked."
Bond and Asherson will be joined by musician Lenny Trawick and disc jockey Gil Anthony in a discussion of the festival's 2015 honorees – the late guitarist J.W. Warren and musician and producer Paul Hornsby.
Since 2011, the Wiregrass Blues Fest has presented unique educational opportunities about the impact blues and blues musicians have had in the region, as well as entertaining musical presentations.
"We are so excited to partner with downtown Troy, the Johnson Center for the Arts and the Pike Chamber of Commerce," said Dr. Jeneve Brooks, professor of sociology at Troy University and co-organizer of the festival. "We have been doing this festival for four years and have been honoring and celebrating the unique history of blues in this area. This will be a great opportunity for students from Troy University and members of the Troy community to become involved to make this an exciting event."
Hosting such events add to the quality of life in the city of Troy, said Mayor Jason Reeves.
"I heard someone say one time that there are two things that are authentically American – baseball and the blues," Reeves said. "We are excited about this opportunity. We believe that creating a great quality of life is important and events such as this add a layer to that."
The Troy event will kick off three days of activities. On May 1, Troy University will present a "Blues in Schools" performance at Abbeville High School. The event will be led by Debbie Bond and will also feature a presentation by Dr. Kirk Curnutt, professor of English at TROY's Montgomery Campus, on how the poetry of Langston Hughes drew upon the blues tradition. The event is sponsored by Troy University with the help of grants received from the Alabama Humanities Foundation and the Alabama State Council on the Arts, as well as assistance from the Wiregrass Blues Society.
A free "Meet and Greet" will also be held May 1, from 5:30 p.m. to 7:30 p.m. at the Wiregrass Museum of Art. "A Cast of Blues," an exhibit by Sharon McConnell-Dickerson of Como, Miss., will be on display. The exhibit features 40 resin cast masks of blues legends, the life-cast hands of the late bluesman Jonny Winter and short biographies and photos of each musician.
The "Meet and Greet" will also feature a photography exhibit by blues musician E.G. Kight of Dublin, Ga., and a painting exhibit by artist Tami Curtis-Ellis from New Orleans, La.
Events on Saturday, May 2 will include two free, hour-long blues harmonica workshops beginning at 10 a.m. and 11 a.m., featuring blues master harmonica player Gary Loftin in the Great Hall in the Conference Center; the sixth annual ALS Gumbo Cook-Off hosted by the Blue Moon Café from 2 p.m. to 5 p.m. in front of the Wiregrass Museum of Art; and musical entertainment beginning at 6 p.m., featuring E.G. Kight and the Blue South Band, Debbie Bond, Shar Baby, Rachel Edwards, Lil' Jimmy Reed and Paul Hornsby.
The 2015 Wiregrass Blues Fest will kick off with a free event at the Studio in downtown Troy. A press conference announcing the event was held on Wednesday at the Johnson Center for the Arts. From left to right, are: Kathleen Sauer, president of the Pike Chamber of Commerce; Judy Fulmer, director of Sponsored Programs at Troy University; Troy Mayor Jason Reeves; Dr. Jeneve Brooks, assistant professor of sociology at Troy University and co-organizer of the Wiregrass Blues Fest; Gil Anthony, disc jockey for Blues Power and co-organizer of Blues Fest; Lenny Trawick, musician and friend of the late J.W. Warren who is one of this year's honorees; Vicki Pritchett, executive director of the Johnson Center for the Arts; and, Sheila Jackson, director of public relations for the city of Troy.