Photo provided by the Canton Chamber
This year’s Canton Blues Fest will bring a “southern blues-rock guitar wizard” and a “modern swamp-blues master” to Stark County.
The 18th annual outdoor festival is set for June 7 and 8 in Centennial Plaza (formerly Market Square). Friday night’s headliner is Tinsley Ellis, a guitarist who recently released his album “Winning Hand,” and Saturday night’s headliner is Kenny Neal, a multi-instrumentalist with a Louisiana sound. Both are touring the country this summer and stopping in Canton before making international appearances.
Opening for Ellis on Friday is Memphis-based Americana blues and rock group Low Society, and opening for Neal on Saturday is the Andy T Band featuring Alabama Mike and Anson Funderburgh.
Main acts take the stage at 8:30 p.m., but there will be music nonstop each day starting at noon. While acts load on the mainstage, local artists will play acoustic sets on the “back porch,” which is a stage set up in the parking lot adjacent to the plaza.
An informal survey of last year’s visitors showed they came to Canton from 24 Ohio counties, 12 states and Canada. For the musicians who come to play, Canton’s festival is an event they’re excited about because of its reputation for being well-run, clean and friendly.
“It’s definitely on their radar,” said event manager Andrea Hartman.
This year’s festivities will overlap with First Friday, meaning there will be even more activity in downtown Canton. The blues festival typically draws between 7,000 and 10,000 people, but with the addition of First Friday, it could bring more.
Canton Blues Fest music ends at 10:30 p.m., and after that, visitors will be encouraged to visit the live-music venues on the Canton Music Block, said Collyn Floyd, director of marketing and public relations for the Canton Regional Chamber of Commerce.
Aside from music, plenty of food trucks will be on hand, including vendors selling gyros, fries, popcorn, pizza and sausages. New this year will be the Cheezylicious food truck serving gourmet grilled sandwiches and sides of tater tots and mac and cheese.
One other thing might set this year’s festival apart: This could be the festival’s last year in Centennial Plaza before it is rebuilt. An aggressive construction schedule is planned with the intention of finishing and opening the new plaza in time for the NFL’s centennial celebration in Canton in September 2020. After it’s complete, the festival is expected to be held in the new plaza.
The festival is free, but VIP tickets that include food, beverages and guaranteed good views of the stage are $50 for one day or $80 for both days. This year’s menu still is being decided, but in the past, the caterer was Old Carolina Barbecue Company.
Tickets are available by calling 330-458-2070 or can be purchased at the Canton Regional Chamber of Commerce.