The Blues Views & BBQ Festival is a uniquely Westport tradition.
And it’s one that reaches far beyond our borders.
Now in its 11th year, the Labor Day weekend event brings Southern- inspired food, nationally recognized music, and good ol’ family fun to downtown.
You may not think of Westport as a blues town. With Bobby Q’s gone, there ain’t much barbecue left.
But the Festival — set for this Saturday and Sunday (September 1-2) — brings out our inner blues and BBQ. It draws thousands of non-Westporters who really understand that kind of music and food to places they otherwise might never go: the Levitt Pavilion, Library parking lot and Imperial Avenue commuter lot.
People come from around the state — New York and New Jersey too — to hear fantastic performers at the Levitt, and on 2 auxiliary stages. This year’s lineup of 20 bands includes funk powerhouse Karl Denson’s Tiny Universe, Grammy Award winner Fantastic Negrito, Sister Sparrow and Carolyn Wonderland.
Fantastic Negrito comes to the Blues Views & BBQ Festival this weekend.
Blues, Views and BBQ introduces up-and-coming and local talent too, like first-time performers Alpaca Gnomes, Mingo Fishtrap, Cris Jacobs and Ruby Velle & Soulphonics.
All that listening whips up an appetite. A BBQ competition, cooking demos, rib- and pie-eating contests, and plenty of food trucks and stands take care of the heartiest eaters.
Throw in 6 bounce houses, car painting, touch-a-truck, airbrush tattoos and more kids’ fun, and Blues, Views and BBQ is something you just don’t see every day. Particularly in Westport.
Enjoying a great day of blues at the Levitt Pavilion. (Photo/Lynn Untermeyer Miller)
This year, the Westport Weston Chamber of Commerce takes over the event from the Downtown Merchants Association. They spent 2 years making the transition, so it will be seamless.
This year too, the event has expanded to fill the entire Imperial Avenue lot. Folks will wander from there to the Levitt, library parking lot and back. Fantastic music and amazing BBQ aromas will fill the air.
… and, of course, BBQ in the parking lot nearby.
“06880”‘s tagline is “Where Westport meets the world.” This weekend, Blues, Views and BBQ shows some of the special ways we do it.
Huge crowds enjoyed yesterday’s opening of the 10th annual Blues, Views & BBQ Festival, at the Levitt Pavilion and Westport Library parking lot.
Rain kept attendance down early today. But as soon as the drops stopped, folks came. The lawn and lot were filled nicely from 2:30 p.m. on.
Organizers pushed the schedule back slightly. Anders Osbourne is now set to play at 5 p.m. Deep Banana Blackout follows at 7.
There’s still time to enjoy one of Westport’s greatest music-and-more events. For details, click here.
The Levitt Pavilion main stage offers some of the best music anywhere….
… while in the library parking lot, future stars from the School of Rock play.
For the 4th year in a row, Dane Tilghman came from Pennsylvania with his blues-oriented art.
These 2 fans enjoyed the music while sitting on the Levitt lawn …
but the mud didn’t deter this guy from dancing.
What’s a Blues, Views & BBQ Fest without food from Bobby Q’s?
It wasn’t quite Houston. A few puddles did not stop this youngster from enjoying one of the attractions in the library parking lot.
Meanwhile, Hurricane Harvey was not far from organizers’ minds. The Westport Downtown Merchants Association collected food and clothing for victims, and donated proceeds from yesterday’s BBQ cooking competition to relief efforts.
You may have noticed the signage downtown. Perhaps you saw the hanging baskets, the holiday snowflakes or the Christmas tree near Starbucks.
All are part of recent initiatives by the Westport Downtown Merchants Association. Since welcoming new president Randy Herbertson this summer — and installing a fresh team including a marketing manager and events coordinator — the sometimes active, occasionally moribund, often ill-defined group has worked hard to make its mark on Main Street and nearby.
“We’re here to be the merchants’ advocate,” Herbertson — whose fulltime gig is running a Church Street multimidia design and promotion firm, The Visual Brand — says.
“We’re taking ourselves up a notch.”
The WDMA has addressed nagging issues like the Parker Harding dumpster — long a pig sty — with new enclosures and daily maintenance.
The organization has spoken with the Public Works and Parks & Recreation departments to ensure clear lines of responsibility for downtown upkeep.
Merchants are responsible for keeping their sidewalks clean. The WMDA is making sure they do it well.
Some of that sounds mundane. But small stuff pays off big time, in areas like public perception.
The WDMA has vowed to protect the new sidewalks. Each merchant is in charge of keeping them clean, but “everyone has different standards,” Herbertson notes. His group is working on a collaborative plan.
The Downtown Merchants Association may be best known for event sponsorship. Moving forward, Herbertson says, “We’ll try to focus on what matters most to merchants.”
The popular carriage rides, Santa visits and singing groups will continue this holiday season, for example. But the WMDA will offer gift wrapping and craft activities for children.
Plus this: valet parking.
It began on Friday, and continues every Saturday and Sunday through Christmas (plus Friday, December 23). The valet station is at the corner of Main and Elm Streets. Cost is $5 per car (plus optional tip).
Last year, horse-drawn carriages clomped throughout downtown.
The Fine Arts Festival may be relocated. The Blues, Views & BBQ Fest will be “better than ever,” Herbertson says.
A Fashion and Beauty Week is in the works. 80% of downtown merchants are involved in those fields, he explains.
The WMDA has just launched a new website. It offers more information on stores promotions and hours, along with a robust calendar.
Meanwhile, the merchants’ group is already looking ahead to next year. In 2017, Herbertson promises, the new trees on and around Main Street will be mature enough to decorate.
Once a year, white, suburban Westport turns into the blues capital of the world.
Also, the barbecue center of the universe.
It’s great publicity — and branding — for Westport. But it’s not a Westport crowd.
They come from across Connecticut. And Massachusetts, New York, New Jersey, Pennsylvania and beyond.
They come for fantastic music. Great (and decidedly non-vegan) food.
And — for their kids — face painting, bounce houses and the chance to run around and around and around.
And come they do. Crowds formed long before the library parking lot and Levitt Pavilion opened at 11 a.m. They’ll be there today, too — smiling and enjoying the hell out of the day, just like everyone did yesterday.
Here’s what they saw and did:
I got there just as the barbecue contest was ending. This is all that was left.
But I was right on time for Anders Osborne, on the Levitt Pavilion mainstage.
This guy went from the BBQ contest to the music…
…while this guy was getting all the attention.
If you didn’t — or couldn’t — buy a pass for the sold-out Levitt acts, there was lots more music in the library parking lot tent.
There was art — like this from Dante Tilghman (left) — for the adults…
…face painting for kids like Zachary O’Dell…
…while others found a way to hear the music for free. This group probably WAS from Westport.
An alert “06880” reader loved loved loved this weekend’s Blues, Views & BBQ Festival. But the ending left a sour taste. Here is the reader’s report:
At the end of yesterday — as my friends and I were all on a high after such an amazing weekend — I heard a story that almost ruined everything.
Paper Source — the store between Restoration Hardware and Bank of America — had every car towed that was parked in their lot.
They didn’t have to. The store was closed on Sunday. [UPDATE: As noted in John Suggs’ comment below, the store was open for business.]
Yes, they technically were within their rights to do this. But as the saying goes, just because you can does not mean you should.
The police are incredible each BBQ Fest weekend. They allow everyone to park everywhere. I believe that no tickets have ever been issued during a Festival weekend.
Cars parked behind Paper Source on the Post Road were towed during yesterday’s Blues, Views & BBQ Festival.
I could not be more upset that this was how the Festival ended for some Westporters and our visitors. Can you imagine a family, exhausted and ready to go home, only to find their car gone? An officer told me the charge to release the car was $212.
The police did not know this was happening until people started to call with complaints.
I myself am a rule follower. But even I would have parked in the Paper Source lot, knowing the store was closed!
I can’t imagine why anyone would do such a mean-spirited, anti-community thing. Someone said that because this is a national chain, with maybe a manager who lives far from Westport (and possibly because managers change all the time), they just don’t get it.
They aren’t a true part of the community, so they don’t understand that we are one. I am not anti-chain at all. I hope this was just some jerk making a stupid, stupid decision.
The only thing I can do is let “06880” readers know what Paper Source did.
And tell everyone that I myself will never shop there again.
Huge crowds attend the Blues, Views & BBQ Fest. Parking is tight — but most businesses realize the importance of the event to downtown. (Photo/Lynn U. Miller)
Westport is many things to many people. We’re hedge fund headquarters, an arts colony, and a great place to raise kids.
For 2 days every year, Westport is also the blues and BBQ capital of the Northeast.
A multi-hued, very diverse crowd of music and food lovers descended on the Westport Library and Imperial Avenue parking lots, plus the Levitt Pavilion, today and tonight.
The 8th annual Blues, Views & BBQ Festival kicked off in its highest gear ever. From kick-ass music to definitely non-vegan food — and with games, booths, fun and more for all ages — it was the liveliest opening day ever.
Tomorrow’s (Sunday) show runs from 11 a.m. to 9 p.m. If you’ve never been, you have to check it out (info here).
If you’ve been before, you know you’re going back.
Anders Osborne — the Swedish bluesman from New Orleans — rocked a full Levitt Pavilion house tonight.
Amits Bread was a perfect complement to Big Animal Barbecue. Check out their smoker, next to Amit.
What’s a barbecue festival without ribs…
…and fried food.
These kids loved Tom’s roid-rippin’ hot sauce.
Dane Tilghman came from Pennsylvania to show his blues-infused artwork.
Tats: They’re not just for teenagers.
The Levitt Pavilion concerts were sold out. But a brass band played for everyone else in the Westport Library parking lot.
An enthusiastic crowd enjoyed the Levitt Pavilion shows.
Even at the crowded Levitt, there was a chance to chill, and enjoy the day.
LeRose — the “Bobby” of Bobby Q’s restaurant — zeroed in on his 2 passions: barbecue and music.
The result — organized in conjunction with the DMA, 2nd selectman Shelly Kassen, the Westport Library and Levitt Pavilion — was the 1st-ever Blues, Views & BBQ Festival.
The name might be a bit clunky — what’s up with “views”? — but it quickly became a fixture of the downtown late-summer scene. Its attraction spread far beyond Westport — kind of like Festival Italiano — but like that Saugatuck celebration of yore, it’s still ours.
Westport’s Emergency Medical Services staff participated in last year’s hotly contested barbecue competition.
The 8th annual Blues, Views & BBQ Festival is set for Labor Day weekend (September 5 and 6) at the Levitt Pavilion and library and Imperial Avenue parking lots.
Once again, there’s kick-ass music (including Westport’s own Rock & Roll Hall of Famer Mark Naftalin); cooking demonstrations by top local chefs (including Da Pietro’s, Vespa and of course Bobby Q’s); rib- and pie-eating contests; bull riding; a drum circle; kids’ activities (from bounce houses to face painting), and the very popular Kansas City Barbeque Society competition.
The Levitt Pavilion is the perfect spot to hear great, get-up-and-move blues. (Photo/Lynn U. Miller)
A specialty food court is filled with wood-fired, grilled and roasted meats, and handcrafted beer.
New this year: a “People’s Choice Wing Contest.” Whole Foods is donating the goods.
I’ve heard a few snarky comments about the price (tickets range from $30 for Sunday bought in advance, to $85 for a two-day pass bought onsite). Children under 12 are free with a paying adult.
But the event sells out. And plenty of out-of-towners seem thrilled to be there.
This couple was VERY happy to be at the Blues, Views & BBQ Festival. (Photo/Lynn U. Miller)
More importantly, it’s a way for the DMA to continue their great job of keeping downtown attractive and lively; promoting commerce, culture and community, and bringing something unique and fun to the area.
The DMA uses its funds to improve downtown. They also support other organizations like the Westport Woman’s Club, Rotary, Levitt, Library and First Night.
The Blues, Views & BBQ Festival does not fall out of the sky. It costs money to produce. There are bands and police to hire, port-a-potties and fencing to pay for, signs and programs to produce, tents to erect, and clean-up to be done.
Oh, yeah: rental for the Levitt too. (Plus sound guys, lighting guys, and ribs for the bands.)
Vegans are welcome at the Blues, Views & BBQ Festival. But meat-lovers will have an especially great time.
It’s all worth it. As Bobby LeRose says, “Thousands of people support this event each year. We get support from everyone. We see smiles all around. People are so happy with the music, food, activities and sense of community.
“You just don’t see this caliber of talent on one stage for the price we charge this close to home, in our beautiful and intimate Levitt Pavilion.”
Westport was recently named one of Connecticut’s 10 Most Boring Towns. Any of the thousands of happy folks who ever heard 2 days of fantastic music, scarfed down ribs, ridden a bull or done anything else fun at the Blues, Views & BBQ Festival would beg to differ.
(The 8th annual Blues, Views & BBQ Festival is set for Saturday, September 5 [11 a.m.-10 p.m.] and Sunday, September 6 [11 a.m.-9 p.m.] For ticket options, daily schedule, and entry forms for the eating and BBQ competitions, click on www.bluesviewsbbq.com.)
With 3 separate events — great music at the Levitt Pavilion; a barbecue competition in the Imperial Avenue parking lot, and kids activities/food trucks/vendors in the library lot — there is something for everyone.
Westport’s Emergency Medical Services staff joined the hotly contested barbecue competition.
A number of Westporters — and many more from throughout the region — strolled easily around the grounds. The footbridge connecting the Imperial Avenue and library parking lots got more use than maybe ever. Kayakers drifted up the river to see what was up.
The music was awesome. And the smell of barbecue ribs, chicken and steak was everywhere.
This dude had a great time listening to some blues.
(For information on bands, tickets and more, click on http://www.bluesviewsbbq.com or call 203-505-8716. The festival runs through 9:30 tonight. On Sunday the music starts at noon, and goes straight through to 9:30 p.m.)
Lucy Roth (left) waits as a balloon man creates a unique design.
A WPKN fan listens to music at the Levitt.
Westport 1st selectman Jim Marpe enjoyed the Blues, Views & BBQ Festival, with his wife Mary Ellen and daughter Samantha.
The 7th annual event — set for Saturday and Sunday, August 30-31 on Labor Day weekend — will make all previous ones look like county fairs.
Spin Doctors will headline this year’s Blues, Views & BBQ Festival.
Blues, rock, brass and funk fans will be blown away by the lineup. The WDMA has signed Spin Doctors, Rick Derringer and a host of other big names — Bill Kirchen, Pop Chubby, Big Sam’s Funky Nation, Raw Oyster Cult and Reverend Raven and the Chain Smokin’ Altar Boys, to name a few — and rented the new Levitt Pavilion for 2 days of fantastic entertainment.
There’s 9 hours of music each day, for the very cool pre-pay price of $50 Saturday and $25 Sunday ($60 and $30 respectively, at the door). A 2-day pass is just $70 — and kids under 12 are free, with a paying adult.
(For Westporters only — and only through August 17 — the Saturday all-access pass is $40. The regular pre-sale price is $50; on-site, it’s $60.)
Meanwhile, the “Family Fun Fest” — in the library and Imperial Avenue parking lots — features plenty of food (including Bobby Q’s, but also from Blue Lemon, Meltmobile, Rolling Cones and others, plus of course a worthy selection of beverages); the always popular BBQ competition; rib- and pie-eating contests; cooking demonstrations; music (including School of Rock kids); bouncy stuff, and all that jazz.
And the price for that has been cut, from $25 last year to just $10. Kids 12 and under go free.
The Packin’ Heat BBQ team always provides hot competition. (Photo/MIke Thut)
The WDMA does a great job — often without proper credit — promoting free community events, like the Fine Arts Festival, Halloween Parade and Art About Town. They donate to other non-profits, and with projects like Tunnel Vision they beautify downtown.
The Blues, Views & BBQ Festival is the WDMA’s signature event. In just 2 weeks, Westport will be smokin’.
(For advance tickets and more information, click on http://www.bluesviewsbbq.com or call 203-505-8716. Gates open at 11 a.m. Music starts at noon, and goes straight through to 9:30 p.m.)
Big Sam’s Funky Nation will also perform at the Blues, Views & BBQ Fest. (Photo/Adam McCullough)
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