Chowderfest, Big Bluesy combine for eventful weekend

sbirkenmeyer@vagazette.com

Two of CultureFix's premiere events, ChowderFest and the Big Bluesy blues festival, return Nov. 3-5 for three days of dining and dancing at a new High Street location.

“CultureFix is trying to create events that are just very high end musically and culinarily,” said Steve Rose, the nonprofit group’s founder and president. Although we may not find ourselves in a bigger city such as Richmond or Norfolk, Rose says he holds the organization’s events to high standards. “We want the experience that people have to be above and beyond what they have in other areas.”

ChowderFest returns for its sixth year of chowder-centric cuisine with new vendors, including Revolution Golf and Grille and Spice Palace Indian Restaurant, offering a unique take on the dish.

“It’s nice to see new attending vendors,” Rose said.

The event features close to 12 stationed vendors each year; this year, the list includes the Fat Canary, the Catering Company, Berret’s, the Amber Ox, Craft 31, Culture Cafe, Opus 9 Steakhouse and others.

Since its inception in 2012, the food event has brought in 500-600 people each year. BJ Griffin and Galaxy Groove will also return with live music for the evening.

“They were a real hit last year,” Rose said. “People loved them.”

Blues and beyond

The Big Bluesy fills out the rest of the weekend. The festival debuted on its own in September 2016, highlighting local and regional favorites such as the Bobby BlackHat Band, the Billy Joe Trio, In Layman Terms and others. Combining it with Chowderfest, and the addition of a tent, aims to keep the audience comfortable and entertained throughout both days.

“Same as last year, both days, from the time the music starts at 11 o’clock in the morning, it will go on all throughout the day,” Rose said.

Bobby “BlackHat” Walters helped coordinate the musical lineup both years, and he’s returning to the stage this year to emcee. He said the team starts looking for acts a year in advance, working out a combination of performers who complement each other.

“This area has some phenomenal musicians,” he said, adding that they’re bringing in artists from the Richmond area to add variety. “We’ve got a cool combination this year.”

The Saturday lineup features the Michael Clark Band, the Billy Joe Trio, Andrew Shield and Jackie Scott and the Housewreckers, the headlining band that Walters called a “standout.”

Beyond the blues, the music spans old American standards and classics, Broadway hits and more.

“It’s not just an all-blues event,” Walters said. “We try to bring in some acts that are a little bit different, a little bit unique.”

A new twist this year, the festival’s Sunday focus is on bluegrass. Performers include the Dharma Bombs, Chisman Creek Band, Runaway String Band and the Raw Beets.

“We’re excited to add that,” Rose said.

Solo acts will take the stage to fill gaps between bigger bands to keep the party rolling. Walters also said he’ll take the stage alongside some of the musicians, and the audience can look forward to other unexpected collaborations as well.

The main point of the event, he said, is simply to spend some time with family, friends and like-minded folks in the community.

“You can come let your hair down,” he said. “You can dance. You just come and have a good time.”

Say hello to High Street

Both events are making the move from Jamestown Beach Event Park to a more central location on High Street off of Richmond Road.

“It’ll be a great thing,” Walters said. “Last year’s location was just a little bit removed from the general population.”

Nearby restaurants Revolution Golf and Grille and Plaza Azteca will provide food throughout the Big Bluesy. Local beers and wines will also be on tap. Walters hopes the new location encourages passersby to see what the buzz is about.

“Once you hear the music, it draws you in,” he said. “When it’s good music, folks just want to get a part of it.”

Walters credits CultureFix’s Steve Rose, Jennifer Raines and Shirley Vermillion with exponentially expanding entertainment options in the area.

“Because of it, folks are starting to really understand and expect that we bring quality music to the area,” he said. “Every year, we try to build upon that.”

Want to go?

Chowderfest cooks up 6-10 p.m. Nov. 3. The Big Bluesy plays 11 a.m. to 10:30 p.m. Nov. 4 and 11 a.m. to 7 p.m. Nov. 5. Both events are at the Shops at High Street, 1430 Richmond Road.

Chowderfest tickets are $36, including unlimited chowder tasting and two drink tickets. Saturday Big Bluesy tickets are $25; Sunday’s are $20. A weekend pass for both events is available for $55.

For more information and to purchase tickets, visit culture-fix.org/events.

Birkenmeyer can be reached by phone at 757-790-3029.

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